Spotlight On Partnering to Support Educational Opportunities for Youth in Care

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October 2023 Spotlight On Header

Partnering to Support Educational Opportunities for Youth in Care


Education can open doors for young people engaged with child welfare systems and set them on a pathway for long-term success.1 Many youth and young people in and transitioning out of care need help accessing high-quality educational opportunities and achieving their academic goals. By finding ways to collaborate and bridge gaps in support, educators and child welfare leaders can better serve students and improve outcomes for youth and young adults exiting foster care. 


  • Youth and young adults in foster care are more likely to face educational instability because of school changes.2 School mobility has been shown to hurt student achievement and school completion.3,4 
  • Youth and young adults in foster care experience chronic absenteeism at twice the rate of their peers not in foster care and expulsion from school at three to four times the rate.5  
  • Only about 64 percent of young people in foster care complete high school by age 18 compared to 87 percent of their peers not in foster care.6   
  • Young people transitioning out of foster care face added barriers when pursuing a postsecondary education. For example, they are more likely to experience financial and housing insecurity and less likely to have established connections with supportive adults to lean on when the need arises.7 

Together, child welfare agencies, state education agencies, school districts, higher-education and vocational programs can better understand the needs of the youth and young adults in their care, explore strategic solutions, and develop appropriate resources to support successful transitions into adulthood. 

Strategies for Cross-Agency Collaboration

There are many ways jurisdictions can partner with other student-serving organizations to support student success. From creating open lines of communication and sharing data between agencies, to collaborating with community programs, academic institutions, trade and vocational schools, and private entitiesthe opportunities are plentiful.

John H. Chafee Foster Care for Successful Transition to Adulthood Program Resource List
  • Child welfare agencies can partner with young people to understand what services and supports can better help youth and young adults transition out of foster care and lead them toward independence. There are a variety of programs, services, and opportunities available for caseworkers to build their knowledge and support young adults transitioning out of care. One resource collection that can support caseworkers and young adults is the John H. Chafee Foster Care for Successful Transition to Adulthood Program Resource List. Case workers and agency leaders may also connect with peers, community members, and State Independent Living and Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Coordinators to learn from each other, share ideas, and collectively identify programs and services that assist young people in making successful transitions from foster care to independent living. 
  • While state education agencies are required under various federal laws (e.g., Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, etc.) to designate points of contact for specific child welfare needs and initiatives, this is just a first step in establishing open lines of communication between agencies. Child welfare leaders can initiate contacts with local education agencies and are encouraged to go beyond federal requirements to build connections and foster inter-agency relationships. Explore our Cross-System Collaboration resource collection for strategies and guidance on how to lay a foundation for effective collaboration.
  • The federal Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS) regulation requires bidirectional data sharing, where practicable (see this Technical Bulletin #8: Data Exchange Standards for more information on this requirement). This offers opportunities for child welfare agencies to develop data sharing agreements with their state or local education partners. Student level data (e.g., attendance, enrollment, and grades) could be provided directly to the agency through the CCWIS to assist case workers with supporting children’s educational achievement. Aggregate state level data can help leaders to better understand where youth and young adults in foster care are struggling and how they should prioritize additional services and resources for intervention. Hear how states like Kentucky, New York, and Wisconsin have leveraged CCWIS in this State Panel Discussion on Education Data Exchange hosted by the Children's Bureau 


The Capacity Building Center for States has several resources to help agencies collaborate across systems and support youth and young people in their education.  

Center Resources

Rethinking Service Array for Young People Transitioning From Child Welfare

Resources to Support Students Grades K12

Roadmap for Foster Care and K–12 Data Linkages

Resources to Support Student Transitions

Educational Supports for Youth in Foster Care

Related Organizations 

  • The Legal Center for Foster Care and Education is a project of the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law that hosts a variety of resources to help agencies transform systems and improve educational outcomes for children in foster care.  
  • The National Center for Youth Law helps students in foster care set, advocate for, and achieve their own educational goals while identifying opportunities for reform.  

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