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Department of Children and Family Services,
Chicago Public Schools and State Board of Education
partner to improve education outcomes

Initiatives directed to support children in out-of-home care

Click here to view Chapin Hall study

Chicago, Ill., December 2, 2004 - Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Director Bryan Samuels announced a number of new initiatives and partnerships to improve educational outcomes for Illinois children and adolescents in out-of-home care in Chicago Public Schools. Samuels announced initiatives in partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). DCFS will work with the ISBE to improve educational outcomes statewide.

"Like a good parent, it's our responsibility to be sure that our youth have every chance to be successful in school. We will now move forward in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools, State Board of Education, and the community at large to put education in the forefront of our priorities in child welfare," said Samuels.

Chapin Hall Director Mark Courtney joined Samuels for the announcement. Courtney served as co-principal investigator for a recent study, "Educational Experiences of Children in Out-of-Home Care." The study results clearly indicate that many abused and neglected children placed in out-of-home care are already behind academically from the time they enter care and remain at risk for educational failure throughout their teen years. According to the study, DCFS wards are twice as likely as other CPS students in the same schools to be old for their grade and face heightened
risk for dropping out when compared with their non-ward peers.

"The trauma histories of these children prior to entering foster care, the disruption of their educations occasioned by out-of-home placement, school mobility, and poor communication between education and child welfare professionals all contribute to a discouraging educational trajectory for many of these children. This problem requires new approaches and better collaboration between the child welfare and education systems," said Courtney, who was also the co-principal investigator for the study.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan attended today's announcement to describe a series of initiatives agreed upon with DCFS officials. "Thousands of our students will benefit from this partnership with DCFS, and together we'll make sure that we do everything we can to provide a stable and supportive learning environment for these children."
Among the new initiatives with CPS, Samuels and Duncan announced an agreement to maintain and support a child's school of origin when that child's placement is disrupted and the child is temporarily placed in shelter care in the City of Chicago. This effort could significantly improve a child's academic and social experience while the child is transitioning to a new home.

The Chicago Public Schools have also agreed to use literacy interventions for DCFS youth in special education, and support that work with strong positive behavior models. These specific interventions will proactively assist children that have fallen below grade level because of trauma and mobility. CPS will also expedite the enrollment and IEP (Individual Education Plan) process for special education services for DCFS youth transitioning into residential treatment centers in Chicago and will ensure that qualified DCFS youth have access to tutoring supports funded by the No Child Left Behind Act.

"DCFS and CPS have been working together this past year already on a number of initiatives designed to support our youth, including efforts to enroll every Chicago DCFS youth in Head Start and to increase the number of youth attending the city's selective high schools. We appreciate the hard work and focus CPS is putting on our youth, and we are sure it will pay off," said Samuels.

Additional initiatives announced by Samuels include the first-ever "education passport" database which offers comprehensive student profiles to ease school-to-school transition for youth in out-of-home care. These passports will assist in academic planning for these students and outline specific academic and behavioral needs of children and adolescents in out-of-home care. Data collected from the passports will also help to provide a complete picture of the academic and behavioral needs of youth in out-of home-care for future planning by education and policy experts.

"Until now, DCFS has never centrally tracked a youth's attendance, the history of their schools of attendance, behavioral interventions and credits," said Samuels. "This effort, when complete, will give caseworkers, foster families and schools the academic information they need to better serve our youth."

Samuels and Ruiz also announced that DCFS has directed the statewide Local Area Networks (LANs) to re-focus their efforts on education outcomes for youth. With this new direction, LANs will target the reduction of suspensions and expulsions of children in care. An earlier Chapin Hall Center for Children study showed that DCFS youth experience school expulsions at twice the rate of their peers and suspensions at four times the rate of non-wards.

"We know how important education is to these youth," said ISBE Chairman Jesse Ruiz. "That's why the State Board has committed significant resources to this effort. More importantly, we look forward to working with DCFS to find new creative, innovative ways to bring about great educational outcomes and long-term success for these kids."

The Chicago Community Trust was also represented and remains committed to working collaboratively with state, local, and private entities to enhance life outcomes for all Chicago-area children. The Trust, which has supported DCFS programs, also helped establish and has consistently funded Chapin Hall and its research on children at risk, and has routinely partnered with Chicago Public Schools on enhancing educational opportunities for local children as part of the Trust's five year, $50 million education initiative.

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Diane Jackson
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services


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