December 22, 2017 Practice Points

Tools to Assist You in Improving Education for Court-Involved Youth

By Sophie Prown

During the 2017 ABA Annual Meeting, the ABA House of Delegates enacted policy to adopt the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education (LCFCE) Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Children in Foster Care (LCFCE Blueprint) and the Legal Center for Youth Justice and Education (LCYJE) Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System (LCYJE Blueprint). These Blueprints are designed to support professionals in the education, juvenile justice, court, and child welfare systems to improve education for court-involved youth through practice, policy, and systemic alterations.

It is well known that educational success for children in foster care is an indicator of lifetime success overall. Advocates can use the LCFCE and LCYJE Blueprints in their practice to improve education outcomes for youth in foster care. At a high level, the LCFCE Blueprint has eight core goals advocates should focus on. The first is that, where possible, youth should be able to remain at their same school as a source of stability and as a tie to their home community. The second goal specifies, in the event of a school move, that schools and districts facilitate a smooth transition so that no academic time is lost to the student. The third goal states that young children begin school ready to learn by ensuring there are no physical or mental barriers to their success. The fourth goal focuses on the ability and encouragement of youth to engage completely with the school experience. Next, youth are supported to stay in school through truancy, dropout, and disciplinary action prevention measures. The sixth goal empowers youth to participate in their education, educational planning, and educational advocacy. To support the student in his or her educational empowerment, the seventh goal requests that an adult is invested in each youth’s academic career during and after out-of-home care. The final goal relates to the provision of supports leading up to, and during, postsecondary education.

Implementing the goals outlined in the LCFCE and LCYJE Blueprints will strengthen the ties between systems and advocates to jointly support the success of court-involved youth in school. Technical assistance for implementation is offered by both Blueprints. They can work within a jurisdiction to determine the assets and barriers that exist in order to formulate solutions for implementation. With the ABA’s endorsement comes a strong call to action for legal professionals to advocate for the incorporation of these policies and practices to support the educational success of court-involved youth.

Sophie Prown has her MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London Schools of Economics and volunteers with the ABA's Children's Rights Litigation Committee.

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