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Statewide Initiative Focuses on Foster Kids' Educational Needs

Everyone's a Teacher: That's the message of a statewide initiative giving foster kids a chance to succeed in school--hoping to give them a better opportunity to succeed in the real world.

Danielle Johnson-Small has been in more schools than she can count ... a foster kid most of her life. Now, studying to become a teacher at Tallahassee Community College, she's paying it forward and making sure kids that are currently in foster care have an easier time when it comes to education.

"Being an education major I see that there is a curriculum based on you know a day to day schedule, so children like consistency no matter what age or what grade," she says.

Danielle is taking part in a pilot program called 'Everybody's a Teacher', a statewide initiative that focuses on ensuring foster kids receive the same educational opportunities as their peers.

"Education is such a huge indicator for kids in foster care and what the rest of their life is going to look like, it doesn't only connect the well being of kids in foster care but it connects to their length of stay in foster care, it affects their behaviors," says Mary Cagle, director for children's legal services with DCF.

As of October 31st, there were more than 200 kids in out of home care in Leon County.

A survey by the Department of Children and Families found that 55 percent of 17 year olds in state care were below grade level, and 58 percent failed the FCAT.

Foster parents, educators and child welfare groups came together to offer solutions to improving educational outcomes to children in foster care.

"We want to support them, to be there for them, to have a champion just like you'd expect any child to have a parent or otherwise to help them be successful in the classroom, on the FCAT on the report card," says Mike Watkins, executive director for Big Bend Community Based Care Inc.

The group will pass along its solutions to each of the schools in the county and meet back up in a couple months to see how things have changed.

Posted: 6:10 PM Dec 1, 2010

Reporter: Stephanie Salvatore
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