For children involved in the child welfare system, schools become just another agency involved in that child’s life, and teachers become just another adult involved in that child’s case. A child in foster care, for example, likely has a team of social workers, case managers, lawyers, judges, guardians, and foster parents all involved in his or her life. Many also have therapists, advocates, and volunteers from community agencies stepping in to lend a hand.
In the two years I’ve volunteered as an advocate for youth in foster care through Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of agencies and adults that come forward when a child is facing a crisis. I’ve been overwhelmed both by the services and structures that are available to support these kids, but also by the sheer number of people and places to navigate. And as a former teacher, I’ve been struck by the lack of communication and coordination between schools and the rest of the agencies.
In my role as an advocate, I get to meet with a youth’s biological parents and relatives, foster family, teachers, medical professionals, social workers, attorneys, and anyone else on her case in order to make recommendations to the judge about the child’s placement.
The lack of communication across agencies is evident as I talk to these various parties. Teachers are too often unaware of therapy, mentoring, or other support structures the child’s social services team has put in place. Similarly, the child’s team is too often unaware of behavioral or emotional supports in place in the child’s classrooms, or of work that the child is doing with a school psychologist, social worker, and/or counselor.
Two challenges emerge from this: Continue reading