PBS explores programs that support foster youths’ educational success

One of the most important supports that helps students succeed in school is a deeply involved and caring adult. The more than 400,000 youth in foster care don’t always have that.

National statistics show that just 50 percent of foster youth finish high school by age 18, and only 20 percent of those go on to college. An even smaller percentage receive their bachelor’s degree.

Dr. David Sanders, Casey Family Programs executive vice president of Systems Improvement, recently spoke with PBS NewsHour about the challenges facing youth in foster care.

In its weekly series “Making the Grade,” PBS NewsHour reports on efforts in Pittsburgh to improve educational opportunities for foster youth.
Dr. David Sanders discusses challenges facing foster youth in the PBS NewsHour series “Making the Grade.”

“If you walked in as a social worker to a child’s home, it might be the very last time that that child ever sees their bedroom,” he said. “I think oftentimes we forget, to get into foster care, they were abused and neglected probably to a level that is quite significant to actually be removed from their families.”

Watch the video of the PBS NewsHour report here.

PBS NewsHour spent time looking at innovative programs, including educational liaisons and former foster youth mentors, that are helping to improve outcomes for young people in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Replicating that success isn’t easy, Dr. Sanders said.

“The turnover among child welfare leaders makes it very difficult to sustain progress. So even if somebody puts something in place, what often happens is that it’s dismantled as soon as somebody new comes in,” he said.

In addition to examining foster youth and education, PBS took an in-depth look at how Allegheny County and others are tackling the complex issue of child welfare and safety with data. See their special report, “Can big data save these children?