Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


Kele Stewart


This article explores the relationship between permanency, the dominant child welfare policy, and the educational needs of children in out-of-home care. The child welfare system has traditionally focused on finding children a permanent home. Education and other aspects of a child's well-being receive less attention. The failure to address children's educational needs is alarming given their poor academic performance. Studies show that compared to their peers from similar backgrounds, children in out-ofhome care perform below grade level, have lower test scores and high school completion rates, and have more disciplinary problems. These educational deficits contribute to challenges faced by former foster youth as adults. Former foster youth experience disproportionately high rates of unemployment, homelessness, and incarceration.

Permanency is the goal of placing each child with an enduring family. It has been the driving force in child welfare policy and practice. In contrast, only recently has the child welfare system begun to consider the educational needs of children in care. Well-being encompasses education and other indicators like physical and mental health. Well-being was added as a child welfare goal in 1997 with the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act. However, well-being has often become a secondary consideration in legislation and funding, child welfare agency practice and court decisions.

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