ECC Acomplishments During Its First Five Years: 2005-2010

In November 2004, recognizing the significant gap in academic performance between the County's foster and probation youth and other students, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors created the Education Coordinating Council to develop and implement a comprehensive blueprint for raising the educational achievement of system youth. During the Council's first five years, very significant progress was made in reaching this goal.


"Big Picture" Accomplishments:

  • The ECC elevated awareness throughout the county of the critical role that educational achievement plays in the well-being of system youth, and the particular importance of high academic expectations, rigorous educational planning, the availability of a collaborative support system, and school stability in contributing to that achievement. Without a solid education, the chances of foster and probation youth transitioning out of the system to successful adulthood are slim, given their usually poor access to any kind of financial or emotional safety net.

  • The ECC elevated the overall understanding of how important it is for those having major responsibility for the education of foster and probation students to work together in new and more effective ways.

  • The ECC used an extensive stakeholder outreach process to create Expecting More: A Blueprint for Raising the Educational Achievement of Foster and Probation Youth, which reports what youth and caregivers have to say, describes the challenge and what is known about meeting it, lays out the council's vision and goals, proposes a set of practical solutions in four education areas, and defines the roles and responsibilities of major stakeholders.

Blueprint Implementation Accomplishments:

Early Childhood Education

  • The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has now committed to enrolling 90% of its young children in early childhood education programs and has, so far, doubled the number of participating foster children in targeted areas.

  • The County's Office of Child Care established an innovative program (STEP) to assist hundreds of early care and education programs to increase the quality of their services, thereby increasing the availability of high-quality preschool programs throughout the County.

  • The Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) program waived enrollment fees for the foster and biological children of Los Angeles County's resource families.

  • The Policy Roundtable for Child Care developed and is overseeing a far-reaching policy framework that melds the child care/early education and the child welfare systems to better serve young foster children and improve school readiness.

Youth Development

  • The number of after-school academic mentoring and tutoring programs on elementary, middle, and high school campuses has been tripled in several school districts. Over 1,200 foster and probation students are now served by these programs.

  • The City of Los Angeles now gives enrollment priority to foster youth in City youth employment and job training programs.

  • The ECC and its member organizations hosted a very successful all-day Resource Fair for foster and probation youth and their caregivers and caseworkers. Over 700 people participated, as well as 82 exhibitors from mental health, advocacy and legal services, literacy, career preparation, child care, recreation, housing, and library programs. Youth were able to apply for driver's licenses, Social Security cards, and birth certificates on the spot, and attend educational seminars.

Data-Sharing

  • The ECC developed a FERPA-compliant mechanism that permits the sharing of school district educational information on foster and probation students with social workers, the Juvenile Court, and children's attorneys. This mechanism, which resolves a decade-long stalemate regarding the sharing of education records, also paves the way for the eventual sharing of data electronically.

  • The council created a simple tool for enrolling foster and probation youth in school within 72 hours, even without transcripts or records from previous schools, as mandated by AB 490.

  • The ECC conducted a series of first-ever data matches between DCFS, Probation, and a dozen school districts that let us know how foster and probation youth are faring academically in comparison with other students, and that allow progress to be tracked over time. These data matches also reveal the number of system youth attending each school in a district, making possible more optimal outreach, program planning, and location of services.

  • The departments of Children and Family Services, Mental Health, and Probation are now included in Los Angeles Unified School District's Directory Information List, enabling county caseworkers easier access to some specific types of educational information.

School-Based Support

  • The Board of Supervisors established the Comprehensive Education Reform Committee (CERC), which developed a set of 35 recommendations for significantly improving the educational services at juvenile halls and camps. Some of these recommendations are now being implemented, including the addition of a Director of School Services within the Probation Department, the development of multiple education pathways for camp youth, and an innovative, charter-school-like pilot school for students at Camps Scott and Scudder.

  • A successful collaboration between the Pomona Unified School District (PUSD) and the Probation Department is more effectively transitioning probation students from juvenile camps to PUSD high schools.

  • The Los Angeles Unified School District's receipt of a multi-year, $9 million Safe Schools/Healthy Students Federal grant is supporting a new wellness center for the 12,000 students in its Washington Preparatory High School complex (which has the highest number of foster and probation students of any school complex in the county) plus students at five local private schools in the surrounding community. A much-needed truancy prevention/alternate suspension program will open at the center in the fall of 2010.

Education Case Planning

  • The ECC developed a set of seven recommendations promoting school stability for system youth that are now being incorporated into casework practice.

  • The ECC assisted the First Supervisorial District in creating an Education Pilot Program that has outstationed DCFS social workers on the high school campuses of (now) four school districts to conduct comprehensive educational assessments and develop and implement team-generated education plans for all foster youth at these sites. Preliminary results calculated at the end of the school year 2009–2010 have already shown some promising trends: the GPA of participating students increased 25%; over 1,020 course credits were recovered, enabling some students to advance a full grade level; and 72% of program students graduated from high school. Of those who graduated, 87% would not have done so if not for intervention of the pilot project, and 76% enrolled in either a two- or four-year college (compared to the national average of 20% for foster youth).

  • DCFS now routinely includes an education component and education personnel in its team decision-making (TDM) case planning meetings. In addition, the Probation Department has begun using this same approach in its multi-disciplinary team case planning meetings.

  • The Juvenile Court developed an Education Checklist for its dependency and delinquency judges and referees to refer to when making disposition and placement decisions for foster and probation youth, and trained all court personnel on its use.