The Education Subcommittee meets to discuss issues, programs and ideas geared towards the educational needs and success for children ages 0-18.
Fostering Opportunities (FOPS) is a collaborative program of Jefferson County Department of Human Services and Jeffco Public Schools to improve educational stability and outcomes for youth in foster care. It is a Colorado grown approach that was innovated because of the lack of off-the shelf evidence based interventions to support academic progress of students in foster care who experience frequent school moves. For two years, Jeffco Schools, Jefferson County Department of Human Services and a multi-disciplinary steering committee have worked to refine policies and practices to support youth involved in the child welfare system to improve the likelihood they would graduate with their same age peers from high school. The Colorado state graduation rate for youth in foster care for the class of 2015 is 29.3%, a significantly lower rate than the state graduation rate of 77.3% for the same cohort. Jeffco Schools and Jefferson County Human Services propose the on-time graduation rate of youth placed in foster care can be improved with deliberate cross agency collaborative strategies including training for staff, education and support for caregivers and direct case management and navigation support for youth in care. The FOPS program has served 27 Jefferson County students since fall 2015. Entering the 2015-16 year, FOPS set two main goals: 1) No less than 60% of participants will show an increase in academic performance and 2) No less than 25% of participants will show a decrease in behavioral concerns. Utilizing a rubric designed for FOPS to guide the conversation, the Specialist and teacher meet once a month to measure progress. At the end of the first year, both goals had been met. Final data showed 68% of participating students improved in at least one academic performance area (Attendance, Grades, Participation, Behavior & Engagement) and 68% of students showed improvement in their behaviors at school. In total, 78% of participants showed improvement in their academics, behaviors or both. FOPS set similar goals for the second year and at the completion of the 2016-17 school year, 89% of participating student’s demonstrated growth academically, behaviorally, or both. This project continues to identify and address individual needs, such as a student in need of special education services or adaptive accommodations in the classroom, to provide a few examples. Additionally, FOPS continuously identifies unmet needs on a macro level. This includes an upgrade to the county Notification of Placement system which is used to communicate a student’s involvement with the child welfare system to the school and initiate supports. A Best Interest Determination process was also developed in the Fall of the 2016-2017 school year to increase school stability and ensure the most appropriate educational placement for these students who have historically been impacted by multiple school moves. This project continues to identify areas of improvement for the school district, human services and partners in order to improve direct services and the larger system experience for youth in out-of-home care. As Jeffco has taken steps to implement the ESSA’s educational stability provisions ahead of federal timelines, we have the opportunity to learn how to align FOPS with this newly enacted legislation.