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Though The Eyes




Children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care.  They have to attend new schools with new teachers and new classmates.  They have new homes with new parents.  They have to learn new procedures and figure out what is permissible and what is not.  They leave behind old relationships and have to develop new relationships with parents, teachers, and friends.  Is there any doubt that they need assistance, special attention, and people in their life who care?  Do we take the time to see things as they see them?  Do we look at things through their eyes and seek to offer assistance from their perspective?  Nexuskids, an interdisciplinary initiative on behalf of children and youth, strives to revamp services through the eyes of the child by connecting people who have a vested interest in their future.

Nexuskids is a collaborative initiative to engage agencies and organizations, both public and private, in an effort to promote healthy development, educational success, and job readiness skills for children and youth who have experienced abuse and neglect, who are at risk of maltreatment, and/or who may be at risk of juvenile delinquency or educational failure.  We know that foster children are highly likely to be one or two years behind in school and more likely to not graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers.  We know that foster children lose six months of emotional development each time they move and they move frequently.  It is not uncommon for a foster child to move four or five times while in elementary school. 


Nexuskids has implemented a pilot program in Sumter County to encourage increased support for school achievement by foster children.  The South Carolina Department of Social Services, the Department of Education, and the following agencies and organizations have partnered in this program:

·        Sumter Department of Social Services

·        South Carolina Foster Parents Association

·        Sumter Foster Parents Association

·        Sumter School District Two

·        Sumter School District Seventeen

·        Clemson Extension Services and its four-county Children, Youth and Families at Risk Initiative

·        Morris College

·        Sumter Jaycees

·        University of South Carolina at Sumter

·        Shaw Air Force Base



Educators, social service professionals, and foster parents agree that there is not enough information available on individual foster children.  A need exists to study the following issues for resolution: 1) confidentiality, 2) enrolling a foster child in school, 3) transfer of school records, 4) lack of a common understanding of educational law and policy, and 5) educational support for foster parents.

Barriers have been identified that prevent a foster child from achieving in school at a level that is commensurate with his/her grade level.  Foster children lack stability.  When a child moves to a new foster home, we should make every effort to keep the child in the same school, if at all possible.  Confidentiality can be a barrier.  Relevant information should be made available to schools so that greater understanding results in appropriate accommodations for the child.  Because of instability in their lives, foster children often have emotional problems that need attention.  We must provide the needed and appropriate support and services for foster children, e. g., mental health counseling.  More effective communication is needed between DSS and schools.  We need to plan meetings for social service professionals and educators to discuss the issues and develop strategies to provide better services for foster children. High expectations for all foster children are needed and appropriate.  We need to increase expectations for foster children and provide the resources and support that they need.  We need to encourage foster children to do their best work and reach their potential for academic achievement.

In an effort to provide assistance to help foster children improve their academic skills and become more successful students, Nexuskids has implemented a project involving the recruitment, training, and placement of Computer Buddies in foster homes in Sumter School Districts Two and Seventeen.  The Computer Buddies are community volunteers who are selected because of their commitment to helping foster children master computer skills that will help them in school and the workforce.  Computer Buddies assist the foster family with basic computer operations and encourage the foster child to use his/her computer for schoolwork and improving educational achievement.  In Sumter County, Computer Buddies have been recruited from the Sumter Jaycees, Shaw Air Force Base, local colleges, and the community.  Computer Buddies celebrate successes with the foster child.  The primary purpose of the Computer Buddies Program is to provide academic support and encouragement for the foster child. 


Nexuskids has organized an Advisory Task Force on Education and Foster Care for the purpose of resolving educational barriers that limit the academic achievement of foster children. Three committees (Ad Hoc Committee on Educational Surrogates, Ad Hoc Committee on the Educational Passport, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Training for Foster Parents) have been identified to resolve educational barriers associated with: 1) lack of ready transfer of school records for foster children when entering a new school, 2) poor interdisciplinary application of regulations regarding educational surrogates, and 3) lack of knowledge about what training is received and needed by foster parents on working with the schools.



The goal is to promote greater understanding and cooperation among the organizations and individuals working with foster children. The academic success of our foster children is of critical importance.  It impacts not only on the present, but the future—the opportunities that the foster child will have as an adult.

If you would like additional information about Nexuskids, a program of the The Center for Child and Family Studies College of Social Work 226 Bull Street Suite 130 University of South Carolina Columbia, SC 29208 please call Ms. Jutta K. Young at (803) 576-5578, or e-mail her at youngjk2@gwm.sc.edu


NOTE: Nexuskids and the DSS are now in the process of putting computers and computer buddies in the homes of school-age foster children throughout the state of SC. The Sumter County pilot was successful and plans are to now replicate that program statewide.



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Last modified: June 04, 2008