A Rocky Mountain PBS I-News investigation previously reeported that teens in the Colorado foster care system are more likely to have spent a night in jail than to graduate high school on time, a trend that is generally true for foster care youth across the nation.
The U. S. Senate passed legislation July 14 aimed at increasing foster care and homeless youth graduation rates, by mandating that high schools throughout the U.S. identify these kids and track their success through graduation.
“I have been following this, and I think it’s great,” said Tori Black, a former Colorado foster care youth and now a policy advocate, of the Senate measure. “The parts I really like about this piece of legislation include the mandated data collection. The graduation rate statistics we have currently are a joke.”
Most schools in Colorado do not track graduation rates specific to youth in foster care or for those who are homeless. The statistics are presently tracked by demographics that include age, race, ethnicity, gender and income level. The Senate measure passed Tuesday amends the Every Child Achieves Act, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
“We have a moral obligation not to leave any of our young people on the sidelines,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said in a press release. The amendment had bipartisan support, including that of U.S. senators Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
The goal of this amendment is to provide educators and others with important information to better address the needs of youth in foster care and those who are homeless. Black said fears that it doesn’t go far enough to provide support for these vulnerable teens.
“I think it is great but I worry that our foster youth will still fall through the cracks,” she said. “I think in order for this to work they need to address how we can support foster youth and how we can make sure foster kids have school stability.”
A study from the University of Northern Colorado, the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Department of Education found that only 28.7 percent of youth in foster care graduated in 2012, compared to 75.4 percent of all students in the state.