December 10th, 2017 marks the one year anniversary of the foster care provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This massive education legislation, among other things, promotes school stability for children in foster care. Foster care children remain in the school they attended prior to entering foster care, and only if it is in a foster child’s best interest would they change schools. In the cases when a foster child would be best served by enrolling in a new school, that school is required to do so immediately, even without any or all of the necessary paperwork.
To celebrate this anniversary, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) partnered with Christown Spectrum Mall in West Phoenix to participate in the Christown Cringle’s Workshop. ADE invited several foster group homes to the event. For the many that participated, they were met with a variety of entertaining options. Santa took pictures with the families. Professional artists were present to make caricatures of the children and adults. Children got to make ornaments for the mall’s tree and several other to be donated to community centers and homeless centers. The workshop elves painted faces. Joy and merriment completely took over the Christown Mall food court!
Perhaps, one of the many highlights of the event, was when ADE’s invited guests met Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Diane Douglas. Many of the children in attendance had never met an elected official before and thought it was something to brag about.
Superintendent Douglas smiled and talked with all of the children, encouraging them to prioritize their education. The children eagerly sat by the tree and faux fireplace (safety first!) while Superintendent Douglas read book after book to them. Reading to Arizona’s children has been a public activity Douglas has enjoyed several times around Arizona to promote literacy with ADE’s #Read20AZ literacy initiative.
One particular young man made quite an impression. Although he was just starting his high school education, he already planned where he would work in the coming years, displaying a maturity and sense of long-term thinking many don’t possess at his age. He congregated by ADE’s table and helped hand out pencils, bookmarks, treats, and educational materials. As one of the older boys, he is a great leader and role model to the younger children in his home and was also ready to help his home’s staff with the younger children when needed.
All in all, the event was a major success! Many of the children in the foster care system have great need for caring adults in their lives.
Many look for those who will take a moment to simply listen and interact with them. So to engage with these children for a few hours on a Sunday really reminds those in the education profession why they chose this path. It’s a way of giving back the enriches both ADE staff and the youth we serve.
As always, subscribe to the blog for future updates regarding ADE and foster care education. If you have a story of success for a foster student or a great program that is serving foster students, please submit them to [email protected]. ADE would love to celebrate triumphs in the foster care community!