Politics

Pilot program aims to keep LA foster kids in their schools

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said foster children are already dealing with instability at home, and should be kept in their home schools, if it benefits them.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said foster children are already dealing with instability at home, and should be kept in their home schools, if it benefits them.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Children entering foster care are often sent down a tough educational path, frequently changing schools as they move from foster home to foster home.

Los Angeles city and county officials are trying to tackle that problem with a new pilot program providing transportation options to foster kids so they can continue attending their home schools. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved $300,000 for the program Tuesday. The county Office of Education and Los Angeles Unified School District have collectively pitched in another $200,000.

"Educational outcomes for foster youth fall below their peers'," said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who authored the proposal. "Changing schools along with changing homes provides for further upheaval for kids who've already experienced trauma and loss."

Federal laws require states and child welfare agencies to try to keep kids in their home school when they enter foster care, so long as it's in their best interest. The pilot is aimed at helping L.A. County comply with that mandate. 

The program will offer a variety of transit options for those who need them: Metro TAP cards, reimbursements for caregivers who provide transit, and a "child-friendly" private car service for those with no other options.

Retired Judge Michael Nash, who runs L.A.'s Office of Child Protection, said the pilot's expected to start this month and run through December. After that, his office, along with the Department of Children and Family Services will put together a report on metrics, along with what worked and didn't. 

"I think we're going to get a lot of incredibly important data from this pilot program," said Supervisor Janice Hahn. Not only regarding foster care, and where kids are being placed in relation to their schools, but on transit needs in the county as well.