NYC Council, Advocates Urge DOE to Support Students in Foster Care

Families and their advocates on Wednesday called on New York City to step up support for students in foster care — and the Department of Education to make good on long-deferred promises to thousands of traumatized children.

During a press conference outside City Hall, speakers including council members Rita Joseph and Gale Brewer — who were foster parents themselves — called on the DOE to honor its earlier commitment to establishing an office to support such students.

“This pledge of critical support to these students remains on hold,” said Joseph, the chair of the city council’s education committee.

“There isn’t a single DOE employee that focuses solely on foster care,” she said.

A city task force recommended back in the spring of 2018 that the DOE establish a dedicated office to support children in foster care, according to a report by the board of education, seen by The Post.

The DOE committed last winter to hiring full-time staff for the new department, including half the team by January and the rest by June.

But supporters said this week only two out of 11 positions for the bureau have been advertised. As of Wednesday, education officials said four positions were being advertised internally, although only one was geared towards helping only foster children.

Gale Brewer, President of the Borough of Manhattan
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also spoke at the rally.
John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

“To be standing here today in 2022 without this office is beyond awful,” Brewer said. “We must commit to fully staffing this department.”

After the press conference, several activists testified about the hurdles these children face during the City Council’s first-ever oversight hearing of the DOE and nursing students.

Advocates said the specialized DOE department could help improve miserable outcomes for those children who are disproportionately dropping out.

The average student in foster care misses school for a month and a half each year. Of those aged 16 and over, 43% miss more than half of their school days, they found.

Children in foster care have a 43% four-year high school graduation rate, according to state data, compared to 81% of all children in New York City public schools.

People speak at the rally.
The DOE last winter committed to hiring full-time staff for an office dedicated to supporting children in foster care.
John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

More than 20% of them have to repeat a class, compared to 6% overall, the data shows.

Erika Palmer, a lawyer with Advocates for Children, said after foster child “Daniel,” a pseudonym used to protect his privacy, was threatened with a knife by his mother, he got into trouble at school, leading to his suspension have.

Daniel was eventually allowed back into the building, “but by that point the damage was done,” Palmer said — his attendance suffered, he was late and even hospitalized.

“We need to make sure that school is a place where students in care feel safe and supported, and not a place where they feel insecure, unwanted and abandoned,” she said.

Activists also said the DOE had not provided state-mandated transportation to school for nursing students — a claim the city firmly denied.

They called for guaranteed bus service for students so that if they are placed in foster care or move to a new foster home mid-year, they won’t have to change schools and lose a source of stability.

According to 2019-20 data in the committee’s report, about one in five students in the city had to transfer schools after their first placement in foster care.

Federal laws require that schools remain enrolled in foster children and provide transportation after moving or immediately enroll in new schools if it is in their best interests to do so.

Joseph said after her youngest foster son was placed in her care, he was given a MetroCard – but there were no bus routes to his school.

She eventually got the then 7-year-old boy to enroll in the school where she taught so his commute would work. An older child she once raised had to commute an hour to school, she noted. Joseph later adopted both children.

“These are barriers that we can easily remove,” she said. “I can’t stress this enough — that what we can do for our kids isn’t rocket science.” NYC Council, Advocates Urge DOE to Support Students in Foster Care


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