A new federal grant will help the Department of Social and
Rehabilitation Services improve the policies and practices for educating
children who are in the Kansas foster care network.
The $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services will fund a 17-month collaborative initiative between SRS, the
University of Kansas, and the Kansas State Department of Education. The purpose
of this initiative is to develop a stable educational environment for youth in
foster care. Its approach is to improve the sharing of information among the
agencies involved in their lives, specifically SRS and the schools they attend.
The goals are to reduce the number of times foster children have to change
schools, and improve their graduation rates.
“The kids in foster care face enough challenges without the
added burden of trying to navigate a complex educational system where their
records are hard to access,” said SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki. “We are going to
do everything we can to make communication among agencies more efficient to
ultimately benefit children who are in state care.”
The University of Kansas’ Institute for Educational Research
and Public Service (IERPS) and School of Social Welfare (KUSSW) will help SRS’
Children and Family Services Division and KSDE develop the infrastructure
necessary to increase interagency communication.
Improved communication and information sharing will help
create a more stable environment for youth in foster care ages 10 to 17 who
often go through two or more school transfers in a year. Once the new systems
are in place, there will be fewer school transfers and graduation rates are
expected to improve significantly. This will contribute greatly to the overall
wellbeing and stability of foster children.
Currently, the Topeka USD 501 school district, Northeast SRS
Region and TFI Family Services, in partnership with KU, are developing a
cross-system pilot program that will model how teachers and case workers will
use data to examine the causes of education instability that foster children
During the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers passed House
Substitute for Senate Bill 23, which allows foster children to graduate from
high school if they meet specific graduation requirements adopted by the State
Board of Education. Often times, foster children in high school have trouble
graduating on time because graduation requirements are different at each high
school they have attended.
Foster children who leave state care at 18 are eligible for
free tuition at state universities, community colleges and technical schools.