One of the immense benefits of this work is to watch talented school staff support our students. With every post, a siren is sounded for educational success stories of children in foster care. What follows is the tale of a student (A.B.) and Desert Mountain School in Deer Valley Unified School District.
The foster care provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state that children in foster care have the right to remain in the school they were attending before entering foster care, or in this case, the school they were attending before a placement change (school of origin). Even though, ESSA presumes that the best scenario for a child in foster care is to keep that school stability, the law also states that if it is in the best interest of a child in foster care to attend a new school, that new school school would have to immediately enroll that student, even without necessary paperwork.
Like most children in foster care, A.B. has had quite the wild ride. A.B. used to live in the far SE region of the Valley, but recently, has been placed in the far NW region of the Valley. After a thorough best interest determination process, it was decided that it is in the best interest of A.B. to attend a new school.
For undisclosed reasons, school is a very tense & stressful place for A.B. Many of A.B.’s most challenging behaviors occur during the school day. This process is unfortunately not new for A.B. So with much courage & resilience, A.B. embarked upon the journey of attending another new school, Desert Mountain School.
Per the law, Desert Mountain School immediately enrolled A.B. into school. On the first day of attendance, when A.B. stepped foot on campus, A.B. tried to run away. Instead of exacerbating this behavior, the school staff calmly corralled A.B. to safety. A.B. had plenty of time to cool down and regulate an elevated emotional state. Children in foster care statistically, have a higher rate of school suspensions, which lead to the loss of precious classroom time. Desert Mountain School was able to avoid such an outcome for A.B.
Under the leadership of the Principal, Nurse, School Psychologist, School Counselor, Special Education Strategist, Assistant Principal, and Speech Pathologist, the school’s commitment to understanding A.B.’s past trauma has lead to Desert Mountain School becoming a safe place to A.B.; where A.B. can start to learn, grow, and thrive. A.B. is being supported by the school in multiple ways. A.B. has a special pass to go to the library or see any of the previously mentioned caring adults on campus, whenever A.B. feels overwhelmed in class. The school has enlisted A.B.’s personal behavior coach to assist A.B. while on campus. Additionally, the Speech Pathologist has been willing to rearrange their schedule on several occasions to assist A.B. in times of stress. Even without the availability of all the resources that Desert Mountain School would like to employ, A.B. is slowing starting to integrate into the full school experience.
This story is far from complete. A.B. will probably require much more patience, support, and empathy to continue a path towards a successful educational future. While A.B.’s trauma is still preventing her from fully participating in class, the school is creating a support plan to transition her into the learning environment. With the help of Desert Mountain School, A.B. is well on the way.
As always, if you have any stories of educational success of children in foster care, please email them to [email protected]