On any given day, thousands of California children wake up as foster youth, separated from their biological families under court order.
Six times as many wake up in a car, on a borrowed couch of a relative or friend, or on a street. During the 2018-19 school year, California officially reported 33,563 foster youth attended public schools—0.5% of all California students. Another 207,677 students were officially identified as homeless—3.4% of all California students. In Orange County alone, there were 1,639 foster and 25,418 homeless youth.
Despite the statistics, the educational impacts of both foster and homeless youth remain largely invisible to the public. Yet, homelessness, particularly, impacts all sectors of Orange County, from Irvine Unified with 0.2% of its students identified as homeless, to Santa Ana Unified with a staggering 11.9% of homeless students. In the shadow of Disneyland, 9% of Anaheim Elementary students are homeless; 6.2% of Capistrano Unified students are homeless. Children living without a home are an everyday, yet easily overlooked, reality in Orange County.
National statistics underscore that the stakes are high:
• The likelihood of foster youth being absent from school are twice that of other students and 34% of 17-18 year olds in care have experienced 5+ school changes.
• The percentage of foster youth who graduate from high school and enter and attend college is far less than other students: 20%.
• 87% of California’s foster youth failed to meet Mathematics standards, compared to 61% of students in general while over 80% failed to meet English Language Arts standards, compared with 50% of the general student population.
•Homeless students are 87% more likely to drop out of school than their stably housed peers. Without a diploma, youth are 4.5 times more likely to experience adult homelessness.
In the face of such, education, faith-based, legislative and judicial representatives are gathering today for a Foster and Homeless Youth Summit designed for dialogue, development, and implementation of responses and tools to empower these youth, their biological and foster resource families, and inter-governmental agencies to make tangible the promise of education as the key to the American Dream — despite their unique life circumstances and challenges…