Through its recently developed Transition Services program, Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) is providing new support to students in foster care across Kansas.
A partnership with the Department for Children and Families (DCF) and the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) has helped JAG-K reach out in a novel way to students in foster care, helping them get plugged in at school, on track to graduate, and prepared for careers and post-secondary educational opportunities.
There are approximately 7,000 youth in the Kansas foster care system. Just 31% of students who age out of the Kansas foster care system graduate.
According to national data:
- Each time a student in foster care changes schools, he/she loses four to six months of academic progress
- Students in foster care score 16-20 percentile points below their peers in state standardized tests
- Just 3% of youth who have been in foster care attend post-secondary education
JAG-K’s Transition Services is a multi-phase project to help increase successful outcomes for youth in the custody of the Secretary of DCF. When possible, these students participate in the traditional JAG-K program at a high school. Because students in foster care often change schools, however, this isn’t always possible. When a traditional JAG-K class is not available to them, students in Transition Services participate in a modified program.
“These students tend to be in an unstable situation. They are moving around a lot,” said Rebecca Lowe, Director of Transition Services. “With every move comes class changes and problems with transcripts and credit transfers.
“We want to follow the students whenever they move throughout the state. It’s very important that the students feel supported and they know they can have success, when this might be really difficult for them under normal circumstances.”
JAG-K, KSDE and DCF formed the Transition Services program because JAG-K had proven so successful with students in foster care. While the graduation rate for Kansas students in foster care is just 68% (31% for those who age out of the system), those who are involved in a traditional JAG-K graduate at 95%.
“The graduation rate for students in foster care in Kansas is really low,” Lowe said. “Our goal is to increase that rate, because that’s what we do with all our students. We have been successful in helping students with barriers graduate.”
For students in foster care who are able to participate in a traditional JAG-K setting, Lowe and other Transition Services staff provide support. They inform school Career Specialist on the services available to students in foster care, and educate them on the unique needs of such students.
When an identified student does not have access to a traditional JAG-K class, Transition Services ensures that their credits transfer and they remain on track to graduate. The staff helps the students access the many programs and trainings available through JAG-K.