School Engagement and Youth Who Run Away from Care
The Need for Cross-System Collaboration
This report explores the factors and systems that influence school engagement for youth in out-of-home care, particularly youth who run away from their placements.
In an effort to better understand individual and system factors that may impact the educational experiences and choices of youth in care, this paper presents the voices of a group of youth who ran away from their foster placements and the perspectives of adults who care for or work with these youth. Qualitative data from two earlier studies were re-analyzed in an effort to better understand the complex set of factors or systems--including individual, biological family and foster family experiences, and experiences within the larger child welfare and public education systems--that influence school engagement for youth in care, particularly youth who run away from their placements. Findings reveal missed opportunities in helping support the educational aspirations of a vulnerable group of youth--missed opportunities for foster parents and professionals, for the child welfare and education systems, and most importantly for the youth themselves. The adults need to overcome institutional impediments and secure appropriate support services and educational opportunities for the youth with whom they work. These supports and opportunities, coupled with highly motivated and committed adults, are key factors in increasing the likelihood that foster youth will have positive academic experiences and outcomes.