Educational Services Unit (EdSU)
The Educational Services Unit (EdSU) was established shortly after Santa Clara County was selected to participate in the California Connected by 25 Initiative (CC25I). To address the K-12 Education focus area of the Initiative, the EdSU established the CC25I Pre-K-12 and Beyond Education Workgroup. The Workgroup is comprised of approximately 40 professionals working directly and indirectly with this vulnerable population and is represented by school districts, child advocacy groups, social workers, children’s attorneys, County Counsel, and various other stakeholders involved with the welfare and education of foster youth. The mission of the Workgroup is to create and improve partnerships with local school districts and community organizations to improve educational outcomes for foster youth. Goals include informing the community of educational initiatives and to receive feedback from the community about improving existing programs and resources.
The EdSU oversees or collaborates with the following programs, projects, initiatives, and committees:
Education Rights Project
The Educational Rights Project (ERP) has existed since 1999 and was the brainchild of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. ERP is a collaboration between the Juvenile Probation Department, educational consultants through Morrissey/Compton Education Center, Inc., legal advocates through Legal Advocates for Children and Youth, County Counsel, and the Department. The mission of ERP is to ensure that dependents of the Court are enrolled in and attending school, and receiving a free and appropriate educational program. The focus of ERP centers primarily on special education identification and advocacy, compliance of Assembly Bill 490 and related laws specific to youth in foster care, educational rights, and discipline (suspension/expulsion). ERP also provides training these topics to social workers, foster parents, group home staff, judges, attorneys, school personnel, and various other stakeholders involved in the welfare and education of foster youth. In 2009, ERP received over 350 referrals.
Youth Education Scholars (YES) Program
The Silicon Valley Children’s Fund (SVCF) developed and finances the Youth Education Scholars (YES) program, which provides former foster youth with financial assistance to achieve the dream of a college education or vocational training. YES scholarship funding supplements other financial aid or scholarship funding and may be used for tuition, books, school supplies, housing, transportation, clothing, food and other education-related expenses. The goal of YES is to improve educational, vocational, and life outcomes for former/current foster youth who have demonstrated a personal commitment to education and the ability to achieve educational success. EdSU assists SVCF with program development, coordination, recruitment of potential scholars, application review, and the interview and selection process.
East Side Union High School District Project
The East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD) collaborates with the Department on a unique partnership currently known as the East Side Project. ESUHSD and the Department have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) whereby an MSW Intern is co-located at East Side’s district office one day per week, and is able to access student records. The Intern is responsible for reviewing transcripts for every student who is a dependent of the court to ensure that they are on-track to graduate and are prepared to enter institutions of higher learning. This program is slated to grow to 10 interns in the 2010-11 academic year, serving all high school students in Santa Clara County.
Educational Data Improvement
The EdSU has developed and implemented policies to ensure that educational information is 100% in the statewide CWS/CMS database for foster youth placed in out-of-home care. This information includes school information, grade, and special education status, if applicable. With this information, DFCS is able to create programs and track children much more efficiently.
The EdSU also oversees the Educational Education Notification Process. The process ensures that youths’ academic records are transferred within 24 hours of changing schools. It also ensures that youth are immediately enrolled into school and they receive partial credit, if applicable. Beginning in January 2010, the EdSU will utilized this process to ensure that high school juniors and seniors are screened for Assembly Bill 167 (2010). The EdSU is responsible for ensuring this process occurs for every youth in care.
Higher Education Luncheon
The Luncheon is hosted by presiding Juvenile Court Judge Katherine Lucero and is collaboration between the Connect, Motivate, Educate (CME) Society and the Department. The Luncheon occurs annually on San José State University’s campus and is open to all 10th, 11th, and 12th graders who are interested in higher (post-secondary) education. Topics include high school graduation requirements, grants, scholarships, and vocational opportunities. Beginning in 2010, the Luncheon will expand to youth in grades 6-12 and will include the involvement of local and state youth advocacy groups and more community partners and stakeholders.
Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Pilot Project
DFCS has teamed Santa Clara County Office of Education Foster Youth Services (FYS) and Santa Clara County’s AVID Director to create a Pilot Project to recruit and support students in foster care in AVID programs throughout Santa Clara County. Santa Clara County was only one of four counties asked by the Walter S. Johnson Foundation to participate in the Project. AVID is a fourth- through twelfth-grade system to prepare students in the academic middle for four-year college eligibility. These are largely low-income students who are capable of completing a college-prep curriculum but are falling short of their potential. The core component is the AVID elective, which supports students as they tackle the most rigorous classes. AVID’s teaching strategies, curriculum, and trainings are used not only in the AVID elective class, but by subject-area teachers school-wide.
Middle School Education Court
The creation of the Middle School Education Court (MSEC), a collaboration between SVCF, FYS, Juvenile Court, County Counsel, LACY, Child Advocates, and DFCS, has been underway since June 2009 and is set to launch in March 2010. The MSEC is a pilot program whereby 40 middle school-aged foster youth will have a thorough review of their academic records and will be given recommendations to ensure their academic success. Participating youth could be referred for remedial services, tutoring, or even enrichment and college preparatory programs. The hallmark of the MSEC is the structured format (or “Template Language”) that will be used in every Statutory Court Report, which will include the following: attendance records, grades, standardized test scores, previous school placements and special education status, to name a few. The hope is to tailor the Template Language to age and grade and integrate in all Statutory Court Reports. The EdSU will be responsible for coordinating virtually all aspects of the MSEC.