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Read Mary's Story

Mary, a student in foster care, was diagnosed with dyslexia and needed appropriate educational services.

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Who We Serve

Students Involved in the Child Welfare System

Students Involved in the Child Welfare System

Advocates for Children of New York (AFC)’s Project Achieve focuses on children in or at risk of placement in foster care, making sure they have the opportunity to receive a quality education.  We provide education advocacy services to students experiencing difficulty in school, including free legal representation at school hearings. We offer free workshops for students, birth parents, foster parents and child welfare staff on how to navigate the complicated New York City public school system to support students’ educational achievement.  

AFC’s Project Achieve is the only NYC program that has extensive educational expertise and years of experience working with youth, birth parents, foster parents, foster care agency staff, family court representatives, mental health clinicians, and other providers to help students involved with the child welfare system access the services they need to attain academic success.

Our innovative model places AFC staff onsite at select child welfare agencies, where we conduct intake and build agency capacity to identify and safeguard the educational needs of the children they serve. 

Policy Work

We use our on-the-ground experience to push for reform to advance the educational needs of students impacted by the child welfare system.  Our current initiatives focus on improving school stability for students in foster care, supporting the educational needs of children with an incarcerated parent, and partnering with the Administration for Children’s Services, Department of Education, and other non-profits to ensure that all children in foster care with a disability have a special education advocate. View our policy priorities.

Guides & Resources

  • Education Concepts for Child Welfare Practitioners
    This brief summary of state and federal education law will help caseworkers, parents’ and children’s attorneys, CASAs, and other child welfare professionals understand compulsory attendance laws, educational decision-making for children in foster care, and accessing educational records when students are involved with the child welfare system.
  • Case Studies on Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care
    This pamphlet tells the stories of six students in New York City’s foster care system as they are forced to move from home to home and school to school.
  • The Importance of School Stability for Youth in Foster Care
    This fact sheet examines the problem of school mobility for students in foster care, including the harmful effects frequent school changes can have on students and schools. 
  • Tips for Working with Children of Incarcerated Parents
    Many education laws and policies can help support children with incarcerated parents.  This handout summarizes several that are especially relevant to school staff.  It also includes information on how to locate and communicate with parents in correctional facilities to involve them in their child’s education.
  • Know Your Rights to Special Education
    Special education can provide extra support to students who need it because of a learning problem or other disability, but sometimes special education harms students more than it helps.  This flyer explains how special education works so that youth can learn how to make the system work for them.
  • Knowledge is Power:  A Guide to the Educational Rights of New York City Students
    This brochure, designed especially for high-school-aged youth in foster care, explains students’ basic rights in school and describes alternative options for students who are struggling in traditional high schools.

  Did you know?

  • Nearly 15,000 of New York City’s children are in foster care, and over 22,000 live with families receiving services to prevent foster care placements.  These children and youth face multiple barriers to performing successfully in school.  They are much more likely than their peers to be held over, suspended, or have special education needs.
  • Frequent moves due to foster care placement and family crises often lead to multiple school disruptions, causing academic difficulties for students who are already struggling.  Without appropriate interventions, these students are more likely to drop out, or be pushed out, of school, and youth who age out of care are especially at risk of becoming unemployed, homeless, or entangled in the criminal justice system.

Workshops

AFC offers free workshops for youth and parents involved in the child welfare system.  We can present at Preparing Youth for Adulthood (PYA) workshops, birth and foster parent support groups, recertification trainings, MAPP trainings, and parenting classes. We also offer free training modules for child welfare professionals, including foster care and preventive caseworkers, parents’ attorneys, court staff, CASAs, and others who work with families involved in the child welfare system.  We are available to train school and school district staff on the unique educational needs of students in foster care, especially relating to surrogate parents and special education consent, school stability, and children with an incarcerated parent.

To schedule a workshop or training, contact Erika Palmer at 1-212-822-9504 or epalmer@advocatesforchildren.org.

Best Practices and Manuals

  • Meeting the Educational Needs of Students in the Child Welfare System: Lessons Learned from the Field
    Over the last decade, child welfare agencies and advocates have begun to recognize that the students they serve need access to greater educational opportunities, and that education is critically important to child wellbeing, permanency planning and a successful transition to adulthood. This report from Advocates for Children of New York offers insights and analysis from five years implementing Project Achieve, a program that places AFC staff on site at partner foster care and preventive services agencies in New York City. The report explains how Project Achieve works and examines its long-term impact on the children and families served by these agencies, the people who work there and the city’s child welfare system itself.
  • Educational Neglect: An Advocate’s Perspective
    About 20% of elementary school students in New York City miss one month or more of school every year.  The underlying causes of poor attendance are complex and require thoughtful solutions.  This article, written by AFC staff,  first published in December 2010 by the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, explores some of these issues.
  • Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care
    This article examines the impact of changing schools on students in foster care, discusses current laws, and describes strategies from around the country to address school mobility.  It was first presented at the Practicing Law Institute’s 10th Annual School Law Institute and published in Volume 26 of the Touro Law Review.
  • Guidelines and Procedures for the Assignment of Surrogate Parents
    For nearly four years, Advocates for Children has worked with the Department of Education, the Administration for Children's Services, and the Legal Aid Society to ensure that all children in foster care with a disability have an adult looking out for their special education needs. This manual, which describes policies for special education decision-making when students are in foster care, is the product of our collaboration.

Additional Websites

  • Casey Family Programs
    This website includes recent research, numerous policy reports, and a variety of tools for those working in foster care.
  • Chapin Hall
    Based at the University of Chicago, this research and policy center focuses on improving outcomes for children and communities. 
  • Fostering Connections Resource Center
    A gathering place of information, training and tools related to furthering the implementation of the Fostering Connections law, including those provisions related to school stability for children in care.
  • Legal Center for Foster Care and Education
    This national technical assistance center, housed at the American Bar Association, offers a variety of publications, research, and legal resources related to the educational needs of children in foster care.