The FosterEd Initiative, part of a nationwide program of the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law, is a partnership among the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department, Santa Cruz County Office of Education and the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Cruz, Juvenile Division.
According to the organization, there are about 245 school-aged children in the Santa Cruz County foster care system at a time.
The FosterEd Initiative was created to help those children stay in school and succeed in school by making sure someone is on their side, according to Felton resident Kim Corneille, one of three FosterEd educational liaisons in Santa Cruz.
“The main idea behind FosterEd is that we’re trying to make sure that every child in the child welfare system has at least one educational champion,” Corneille said, “someone who can advocate for their education.”
She said those champions are most often parents, relatives or others who know the children. They receive training, technical help and educational mentoring to keep the girls and boys on track.
She said FosterEd in Santa Cruz County has been funded as a two-year pilot program before expanding throughout California. The program is also operating in Arizona and Indiana.
“They were looking to spread this program somewhere in California,” Corneille said. “They chose Santa Cruz County because there’s such good communication between the existing agencies that help foster youth.”
Foster children are referred to the FosterEd staff by the juvenile division of Santa Cruz County Superior Court, which is headed by Judge Denine Guy, according to Corneille.
“We have a really supportive judge,” she said. “She really was supportive of this program being here.”
In a press release, Guy cited national statistics that paint a bleak future for those who find themselves in the child welfare system — lower test scores, lower graduation rates and high rates of homelessness and incarceration.
Part of the problem is “extreme unmet educational needs” from an early age, according to Guy.
“For example,” the judge stated in the release, “a family with two children, ages 8 and 10, came into my court recently — and neither of them had ever been in school.”
Once children are identified as candidates for FosterEd help, Corneille said, three local educational liaisons work closely with social workers to determine the best candidate to serve as each child’s educational champion. Then they help that person understand how to be a strong advocate for the child’s education.
“We’re trying to build the support in to strengthen the family,” she said.
The project is seeking volunteers to serve as educational mentors, Corneille said. Training will begin in April.
About 15 students between 5 and 21 years old are already enrolled in Santa Cruz.
The FosterEd Initiative in Santa Cruz and in Indiana and Arizona is funded with $1.75 million raised through public and private partnerships.
An information-sharing session for potential volunteer mentors is scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m. March 27, a Tuesday, at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, 400 Encinal St., in Santa Cruz.
For information: Kim Corneille, firstname.lastname@example.org or 763-8997.
To comment, email reporter Joe Shreve at email@example.com, call 438-2500 or post a comment at www.pressbanner.com.
AT A GLANCE
For information about the FosterEd Initiative, visit www.foster-ed.org.