REVAMPING SERVICES THROUGH THE EYES OF THE CHILD
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
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
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
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.