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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 related to foster youth in schools. Select one of the tabs below to access information on foster youth definitions or educational data and outcomes, among other resources, 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.

Foster Youth Definitions

Different definitions of children and youth in foster care are used in relation to programs, services, educational entitlements, and programmatic funding supporting foster youth in schools. These definitions can vary at both the state and federal levels. The foster youth definitions included here are a small subset of the information available in the foster youth definitions resource document created by the CDE.

The Foster Youth Definitions(XLSX) document was created to describe which of the different entitlements, supports, and services are afforded to each of the categories of foster youth. The Foster Youth Definitions document is for reference purposes only, may not be comprehensive, and is subject to change depending on federal and state statutes and regulations. The table below and the Foster Youth Definitions document will be updated as needed.

CATEGORY OF FOSTER YOUTH Included in LCFF Included in ESSA Included in CDSS' Definition of Care and Placement CA Foster Youth Educational Rights Available in CALPADS via Foster Match Process
OUT-OF-HOME Child Welfare
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
OUT-OF-HOME Probation
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
FAMILY MAINTENANCE
Yes Not Included Not Included Yes Yes
IN-HOME Probation
Not Included Not Included Not Included Yes Not Available
NON-MINOR DEPENDENTS Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
VOLUNTARY PLACEMENT AGREEMENTS
Not Included Yes Yes Not Included Not Available
TRIBAL FOSTER YOUTH (AB 1962) Yes Only for Title IV-E tribes N/A Not Included In CALPADS, but not via Foster Match process
EMERGENCY REMOVALS Not Included Does not differentiate between emergency removal and placement Yes Yes Yes (if in placement more than 7 days)

 

Identification of Foster Youth in the State Educational Data System

Foster youth are identified in schoosl through the statewide foster match process. This 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 in CALPADS with their county welfare departments (CWDs). In this process, student enrollment data from student information systems is matched with data in CWS/CMS. The CDSS and the CDE communicate to CWDs, County Offices of Education (COEs), and 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 the 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 on the foster youth data match process, download a graphic explaining the statewide Foster Match Process(PDF) between the CDE and the CDSS.

Foster youth under the jurisdiction of a tribal court are identified separately from the match process between the CDE and the CDSS. These foster youth are identified by LEAs and that information is submitted to CALPADS through a program record (code 193). The Tribal Foster Youth Guidance Document(DOCX) provides guidance to LEAs on identifying tribal foster youth and reporting that information to CALPADS.

The Foster Youth Definitions(XLSX) document provides reference information specific to the data collection and reporting related to foster youth. This document is for reference purposes only, may not be comprehensive, and is subject to change depending on federal and state statutes and regulations.

Information on Foster Youth in CALPADS Foster Reports

LEA staff with appropriate security roles have access to the CALPADS 5.7 Foster Youth Enrolled – Student List report which includes the following information on foster youth who have been identified through the CDE-CDSS weekly match process:

  • 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)

LEA staff with appropriate security roles have access to the CALPADS Fall 1 1.18 – FRPM / English Learner / Foster Youth – Student List report which indicates enrolled students who have been identified as a tribal foster youth by the LEA and reported to CALPADS.

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.

2019-2020 Four-Year Cohort Graduation Rate

The graph below displays the 2019-2020 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 58% and for non-foster as 85%.

Unduplicated Foster Youth Enrollment by School Type

The Unduplicated Foster Youth Enrollment by School Type information provided below includes an unduplicated count of students in foster care enrolled in each of the different types of public schools within California at the state level. A student is counted once in the enrollment by school type, regardless of whether the student was enrolled in more than one school within a specific school type.

Students are included in the enrollment by school type if they were in foster care at any point in the school year. A student is considered in foster care if they meet any of the foster youth definitions specified in the local control funding formula (Education Code Section 42238.01 [b]) at any time during the academic year (July 1 to June 30). These enrollment data do not reflect the number of times students enter or leave schools, nor do they indicate the number of students enrolled in schools.

2019-20 Unduplicated Statewide Foster Youth Enrollment by School Type
School Type Unduplicated Count Foster Enrollment
Alternative Schools of Choice 946
Continuation High Schools 2,116
County Community 1,224
District Community Day Schools 775
District Office 103
Elementary Schools in 1 School District 492
Elementary Schools 22,237
High Schools 11,901
High Schools in 1 School District 13
Intermediate/Middle Schools 6,551
Junior High Schools 252
Juvenile Court Schools 3,540
K-12 Schools 2,125
Mental Hospitals 2
Non-Public/Non-Sectarian Schools 1,161
Opportunity Schools 107
Preschool 4
Special Education Schools 751
State Special Schools 11
Youth Authority Facilities 11

Downloadable files, which include both state and county level data, can be accessed through the CDE Data and Statistics Student and School Data Files webpage at Foster Youth Enrollment by School Type Data Page.

More information on cumulative enrollment and downloadable cumulative enrollment data files can be accessed on the CDE Data and Statistics webpage at Cumulative Enrollment Data Page.

More information on the different school types in California’s public school system can be found on the CDE Data and Statistics webpage at Public Schools and Districts File Structure Page.

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 Dashboard External 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 the 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.

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)

The Foster Youth Definitions(XLSX) document provides reference information on the educational supports and entitlements for foster youth. This document is for reference purposes only, may not be comprehensive, and is subject to change depending on federal and state statutes and regulations.

California Legislation on Foster Youth

Senate Bill 860 (2020) External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

This legislation, enacted in 2020, requires Foster Youth Services Coordinating Programs to coordinate efforts to ensure, to the extent possible, the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the California Dream Act Application for foster youth pupils who are in grade 12.

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 website External link opens in new window or tab. .

 

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.

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 CDE and the CDSS.

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 CDE and the CDSS 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.

California CASA - Court Appointed Special Advocates for ChildrenExternal link opens in new window or tab.

California Youth ConnectionExternal link opens in new window or tab.

Children Now External link opens in new window or tab.

John Burton Advocates for Youth External link opens in new window or tab.

Questions: Data Reporting Office | dro@cde.ca.gov | 916-327-0219 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, May 12, 2021
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