To support students in foster care, districts should look to develop a collaborative team that includes caregivers and former foster alumni, says Wendy B. Smith, distinguished continuing scholar in child welfare at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
“Foster care alumni have a lot of knowledge and expertise that’s different from the rest of us,” says Smith. Students are more likely to listen to someone who has been through the system, especially if it’s a person who has attended the same school.
Connecting with alumni can also help current students feel as though the school values their experiences.
LINK TO MAIN ARTICLE: Fostering success in and out of the classroom
“From having worked with a lot of these former students, I can tell you that they welcome being called upon to contribute,” says Smith. “That can make a big difference to a school and the students. The more a school is a place where a student in foster care feels safe and valued, the better their test scores are going to be. You can’t learn if you’re anxious and worried.”
Ray Bendici is deputy editor.