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Foster Youth in California Schools

Information, resources and educational outcomes for foster youth students.

Students in foster care represent one of the most vulnerable and academically at-risk student groups enrolled in California schools. The California Department of Education (CDE) monitors the educational outcomes for foster youth and partners with multiple state agencies and non-profit organizations to ensure these students receive the supports and services they need. This web page provides information and resources on the educational outcomes for foster youth. Select one of the tabs below to access information on the educational rights of foster youth among other resources and documents to learn more about the needs of these students and some of the different ways CDE is working to support counties, school districts, and schools to meet these needs.

State Level Educational Outcomes of Foster Youth

The outcomes for foster students, outlined below, are published annually. These outcomes and more can be accessed on DataQuest. DataQuest is the California Department of Education’s online, public reporting system that provides reports about California’s schools and school districts. To find out how to access reports specifically for foster youth on DataQuest, view these Instructions on Accessing Data(DOCX).

2018-2019 Percent of Students Chronically Absent

The graph below displays the 2018-2019 school year chronic absence rates for foster and non-foster students. Chronic absence rate is calculated as the percent of students who miss ten percent or more of the days they are expected to attend.

Bar chart showing chronic absence rate for foster as 28% and for non-foster as 12%.

2018-2019 Suspension Rate

The graph below displays the 2018-2019 school year suspension rates for foster and non-foster students. Suspension rate is calculated as the percent of all students who were suspended one or more times during the school year for an in-school or out-of-school suspension.

Bar chart showing suspension rate for foster as 15% and for non-foster as 3%.

Percent of Students Meeting or Exceeding Standards - 2018-2019 Smarter Balanced Assessment in English Language Arts

The graph below displays the 2018-2019 school year percent of students meeting or exceeding standards on the Smarter Balanced Assessment in English Language Arts for foster and non-foster students.

Bar chart showing percent of foster meeting or exceeding standards in English Language Arts as 24% and 51% for non-foster.

Percent of Students Meeting or Exceeding Standards - 2018-2019 Smarter Balanced Assessment in Mathematics

The graph below displays the 2018-2019 school year percent of students meeting or exceeding standards on the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Mathematics for foster and non-foster students.

Bar chart showing percent of foster meeting or exceeding standards in Mathematics as 15% and 40% for non-foster.

2018-2019 Four- Year Cohort Graduation Rate

The graph below displays the 2018-2019 school year four-year cohort graduation rates for foster and non-foster students. The four-year cohort graduation rate is calculated as the percent of students who graduate high school within four years from the time they enter ninth grade with a traditional high school diploma.

Bar chart showing graduation rate for foster as 56% and for non-foster as 85%.

State Level Accountability for Foster Youth

Foster youth performance at the state level on the California School Dashboard for the 2018-2019 school year can be seen below.

Visit the California School DashboardExternal link opens in new window or tab. to view statewide indicators. To find out how to access statewide indicators specifically for foster youth on the California School Dashboard, view these Instructions on Accessing Data(DOCX).

This is an image of the California School Dashboard logo with a color gauge starting on the left with red, orange, yellow, green, and then blue.

Chronic Absenteeism - 2019

Chronic absence rate is calculated as the percent of students who miss ten percent or more of the days they are expected to attend. The chronic absence gauge for foster youth is pointing to red. Foster youth were 20.1% chronically absent which increased 1.6% from the previous school year. This percent is based on 30,481 foster youth.

The color gauge starts from left to right and reads as follows: Red – Orange – Yellow – Green – Blue. The chronic absence gauge for foster youth has an arrow pointing to red.

 

Suspension Rate - 2019

Suspension rate is calculated as the percent of all students who were suspended one or more times during the school year for an in-school or out-of-school suspension. The suspension gauge for foster youth is pointing to orange. In the 2018-2019 school year 14.6 % of foster youth were suspended at least once. This rate declined by 0.6% from the previous school year and is based on 47,001 foster youth.

The color gauge starts from left to right and reads as follows: Red – Orange – Yellow – Green – Blue. The Suspension gauge for foster youth has an arrow pointing to orange.

English Language Arts - 2019

The academic assessment outcomes for foster youth on the 2019 California School Dashboard for English Language Arts is based on 19,677 foster youth. The 2019 English Language Arts gauge for foster youth is pointing to orange. In the 2018-2019 school year, foster youth scored an average 72.2 points below standard. This number increased 5.4 points from the previous school year.

The color gauge starts from left to right and reads as follows: Red – Orange – Yellow – Green – Blue. The ELA gauge for foster youth has an arrow pointing to orange.

Mathematics - 2019

The academic assessment outcomes for foster youth on the 2019 California School Dashboard for Mathematics is based on 19,533 foster youth. The 2019 Mathematics gauge for foster youth is pointing to orange. In the 2018-2019 school year, foster youth scored an average 107.2 points below standard. This number increased 5.1 points from the previous school year.

The color gauge starts from left to right and reads as follows: Red – Orange – Yellow – Green – Blue. The Mathematics gauge for foster youth has an arrow pointing to orange.

Graduation - 2019

The graduation rate for the California School Dashboard is a combined one-year and four-year graduation rate. In the 2018-2019 school year 64.2% of foster youth graduated high school. This rate increased 4.2% from the previous school year and is based on 6,534 foster youth. More information on this graduation rate calculation can be found in the 2019 California School Dashboard Technical Guide(PDF).

The color gauge starts from left to right and reads as follows: Red – Orange – Yellow – Green – Blue. The Graduation gauge for foster youth has an arrow pointing to red.

Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program (FYSCP)

The FYSCP is a grant program for each county office of education to support interagency collaboration and capacity building, both at the system and individual student level, focused on improving educational outcomes for students in foster care.

Visit CDE's Foster Youth Services site for more information including an overview of the Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program, grantee information, and CDE contact information.

Visit Foster Youth Services Program Resources for links to many informational resources and agencies which support the FYSCP and the needs of foster youth.

Education Rights of Foster Youth

Foster youth have unique needs and specific educational rights to support these students’ success in California schools.

A summary of the California Education Codes pertaining to foster youth can be found on the California Department of Education’s website.

Download the two-page handout on Foster Youth Education Rights(PDF) for an overview of the education rights of foster.

Download the Foster Youth Education Law Fact Sheets created by the California Foster Youth Education Task Force (CFYETF) from the links below. These fact sheets are located on CFYETF's website and provide information on the needs and rights of foster youth in California schools.

California Foster Youth Education Law Fact Sheets in EnglishExternal link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

California Foster Youth Education Law Fact Sheets in SpanishExternal link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

Foster Youth as defined by California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)

Pursuant to EC Section 42238.01(b), the following children and youth are considered “foster youth” for purposes of the LCFF:

A child or youth who is the subject of a petition filed under Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) Section 300 (meaning a court has taken jurisdiction over a child and declared the child to be a dependent of the court due to the presence or risk of abuse or neglect).

A child or youth who is the subject of a petition filed under WIC Section 602 (meaning a court has taken jurisdiction over a child and declared the child to be a ward of the court due to the child’s violation of certain criminal laws) and has been ordered by a court to be removed from home pursuant to WIC Section 727 and placed in foster care as defined by WIC Section 727.4(d).

A youth between ages 18 and 21 who is enrolled in high school, is a non-minor dependent under the placement responsibility of child welfare, probation, or a tribal organization participating in an agreement pursuant to WIC Section 10553.1, and is participating in a transitional living case plan.

The California Legislative Information website contains the complete education code which defines the student groups for the LCFF, including foster youth.

California Education CodeExternal link opens in new window or tab. on Foster Youth Definition for LCFF

LCFF Priority 10 Foster Youth (County Offices of Education)

Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Priority 10 addresses coordination of services with county offices of education, welfare agencies, probation, and courts, responding to the needs of the juvenile court system to ensure appropriate educational placement and transfer of records.

Visit the LCFF Priority 10 Foster Youth page for links to resources and web pages from federal and other state agencies, programs, and initiatives focused on the needs of foster youth.

Visit the LCFF Frequently Asked Questions site for more information on foster youth in education.

California Legislation on Foster Youth

Assembly Bill 490 (2003)External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

This legislation was enacted in 2003 to address many of the barriers to equal educational opportunities for foster children and youth and expands and stipulates authority for school records of foster youth.

Assembly Bill 216 (2013)External link opens in new window or tab.

This legislation was enacted in 2013 to address high school graduation requirements for pupils in foster care.

Assembly Bill 403 (2015)External link opens in new window or tab.

This legislation enacted in 2015, also known as the Continuum of Care Reform bill, addresses foster care placement and foster care placement funding.

Assembly Bill 854 (2015)External link opens in new window or tab.

This legislation was enacted in 2015 to establish the Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program to coordinate and ensure that local educational agencies provide services to foster youth focused on positive educational outcomes.

Assembly Bill 2083 (2018)External link opens in new window or tab.

This legislation enacted in 2018, also known as the Foster youth: trauma-informed system of care bill, requires each county to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to describe the roles and responsibilities of certain entities that serve youth in foster care who have experienced severe trauma. The legislation also instructs the Secretary of California Health and Human Services and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish a joint interagency resolution team to implement and review aspects of the MOU.

More information on the education rights of foster youth can be found on the California Department of Education’s Foster Youth Services Program Resources.

Complete information on the educational rights of foster youth can be found on the California Legislative Information websiteExternal link opens in new window or tab..

California Department of Social Services

California legislation requires the California Department of Education, in collaboration with the California Department of Social Services, to share and, through a statewide match process, inform districts regarding which of their students are foster youth (either living at home receiving family maintenance services or in out-of-home placements) on a weekly basis so that these students can best be served and receive appropriate educational supports and services. This is done through a weekly statewide foster match process.

For more information on the foster youth data match process, download an graphic explaining the statewide Foster Match Process(PDF) between the California Department of Education and the California Department of Social Services.

Visit the California legislative information website for more information on Education Code 49085External link opens in new window or tab. which defines the data sharing requirements between the California Department of Education and the California Department of Social Services pursuant to education Code 49085.

Other Partnerships and Organizations

The California Department of Education partners with multiple state and non-profit organizations to collaborate on the support of foster youth in California Schools. Below are links to some of these agencies’ websites with information on foster youth.

California Foster Youth Education Task ForceExternal link opens in new window or tab.

California Department of Social ServicesExternal link opens in new window or tab.

Alliance for Children’s RightsExternal link opens in new window or tab.

California Child Welfare CouncilExternal link opens in new window or tab.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Which students are considered “foster youth” under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)?

Pursuant to EC Section 42238.01(b), the following children and youth are considered “foster youth” for purposes of the LCFF:

  • A child or youth who is the subject of a petition filed under Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) Section 300 (meaning a court has taken jurisdiction over a child and declared the child to be a dependent of the court due to the presence or risk of abuse or neglect). This includes both children who are living at home while a dependent of the court as well as children who the court has ordered to be removed into the care, custody and control of a social worker for placement outside the home.
  • A child or youth who is the subject of a petition filed under WIC Section 602 (meaning a court has taken jurisdiction over a child and declared the child to be a ward of the court due to the child’s violation of certain criminal laws) and has been ordered by a court to be removed from home pursuant to WIC Section 727 and placed in foster care as defined by WIC Section 727.4(d).
  • A youth between ages 18 and 21 who is enrolled in high school, is a non-minor dependent under the placement responsibility of child welfare, probation, or a tribal organization participating in an agreement pursuant to WIC Section 10553.1, and is participating in a transitional living case plan.

The full WIC listed above can be accessed on the California Legislative Information websiteExternal link opens in new window or tab..

Which students are not considered “foster youth” under the LCFF?

  • A child or youth who is in a “voluntary placement.” Voluntary placements are not subject to a petition filed under WIC Section 300.
  • A child or youth who is living with relatives or friends and who is not a dependent of the court (i.e., is not subject to a WIC Section 300 petition).
  • A child or youth who is a ward of the juvenile court pursuant to a petition filed under WIC Section 602 who is either living at home or has been ordered to be placed in a corrective or rehabilitative facility but has not been ordered to be removed from his or her home into a foster care placement pursuant to WIC Section 727.4(d).

The full WIC listed above can be accessed on the California Legislative Information websiteExternal link opens in new window or tab..

How are foster youth identified in the state educational data system?

The statewide foster match process matches California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) enrollment data to data from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) CWS/CMS (Child Welfare System/Case Management System) data system. CALPADS reports and extracts are available so that Local Education Agencies (LEAs) can know which of their students are identified as foster youth from this match. Foster identification data is updated in CALPADS on a weekly basis so that LEAs are able to continuously serve the appropriate population.

In addition to the statewide foster match process, LEAs may conduct local matches with their county welfare departments (CWDs), in which student enrollment data from their student information systems is matched with data in CWS/CMS. The CDSS and the CDE communicate to CWDs, County Offices of Education (COEs), and Local Education Agencies (LEAs), the categories of youth in CWS/CMS that should be used for local matching processes.

Since both the statewide match conducted between the CDE and CDSS and local matches conducted between LEAs and CWDs use foster data from the same source system, CWS/CMS, both the statewide and local matches should yield the same results. However, due to differences in matching logic or lag time in updating data systems, a local match may sometimes identify a student as a foster student who is not identified in the statewide match.

For more information, download an graphic explaining the statewide Foster Match Process(PDF) between the California Department of Education and the California Department of Social Services.

What information on foster youth do LEAs receive in the CALPADS foster reports?

LEA staff with appropriate security roles have access within CALPADS to the following information on foster youth:

  • Foster ID (10-digit)
  • Case Start Date
  • Case End Date
  • Case ID (19-digit)
  • Episode Start Date (the start of the foster placement)
  • Episode End Date (the end of the foster placement)
  • Social Worker Name and Phone Number
  • Court Appointed Educational Representative and Phone Number
  • An indication of whether the student is receiving family maintenance services (and thus is living at home)
  • County of jurisdiction
  • Whether parental rights are limited (Y/N)
  • Responsible Agency (Child Welfare or Probation)
Questions: Data Reporting Office | dro@cde.ca.gov | 916-327-0219 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, February 27, 2020
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