Sample Paper on Academics Achievement and in Foster Care Students

Academics Achievement and Challenges in Foster Care Students

Over the years, the foster care systems haveconsistently offered ahome to minors who are separated from their biological parents for varying reasons. In the United States, for example, the Children’s Bureau estimates that 402,000 children are in foster care placement on any given day (Children’s Rights, 2014). Averagely, the Bureau states that a child remains in foster placement for nearly two years, with approximately eight percent of the children remaining in the system for over five years. According to the American Children’s Rights organization, minors who are placed on the foster care system suffer several challenges as compared to their peers who are under their biological parent’s care (2014).For instance, children under foster care system may experience grief and anxiety as a result of separation from families. Some are also abused by the foster caregivers while others suffer from the psychological trauma of being moved from one foster placement to another. As a result of various difficulties experienced in the foster care system, themajority of the children records poor academic performance than their peers in normal families. Various scholars have studied the academic achievement and challenges experienced by children in the foster care system; this paper reviews some of the recent literature on thesubject.

From the previous studies, it is evident that children in foster care perform poorly than their peers in normal families. In a recent survey, for example, Berger, Cancian, Han, Noyes, and Rios-Salas analyzed the relationship between the children’s academic achievement and the foster care placement history (2015). Notably, Berger et al. observed a sample of children before, during, and after living in an out-of-home placement. The study involved over 500,000 students, nearly 200,000 of who had been placed in an out-of –home care. The data was obtained from the statewide secretarial database in the State of Wisconsin. From the data collected, Berger et al. analyzed the children’s academics outcome before, during, and after the placement. They also compared the children’s educational achievements with those of the normal students.Their critical analysis revealed a negative correlation between the foster care placement and academic achievements. Particularly, Berger et al., found that children in out-of-home place scored at least 0.6 points below the average. Conclusively, the study revealed that children who are placed in foster careperforms consistently poorly in mathematics and reading skills even years after the placement (Berger et al., 2015).

Similar to Berger et al. (2015), Zetlin, MacLeod, and Kimm (2012) also evaluated the educational challenges faced by children placed under foster care programs. In their study, Zetlin focused on the ease of learning among the children in a classroom context. Notably, Zetlin and others examined the difficulties that teachers, both in normal and special education units, experience while teaching learners from foster families. Zetlin et al. hypothesized that teachers, especially the newly enrolled first and second-year intern teachers face difficulties in adapting the curriculum to fit the foster student’s needs. They, thus, sent 215 questionnaires to the intern teachers from the University of California to confirm their hypothesis. The questionnaires inquiredabout different aspects that helped in assessing the teachers’ experience while teaching foster students. Of the 215 questionnaires distributed, 91 were adequately responded and used for further analysis.

From a sample of a sample of 140 special education teachers and 75 general trainers, Zetlin and others obtained adequate information regarding the teacher’s experience with foster students. According to the responses gathered, themajority of teachers lamented on some specific challenges that set foster students apart from their peers. For instance, the special education teachers pointed out learning difficulties and emotional challenges as the major characters that distinguished foster care learners in a classroom setting. Additionally, foster students in special units performed poorly in basic skills than their peers in normal families. On the other hand, the general education teachers observed that foster children had a week academic background and often lagged behind their peers in grade level performances. Additionally, the general education teachers pointed that foster children were hyperactive and exhibited various behavioral issues. They also appeared pre-occupied and unsettled in theclassroom, paying little attention to class works. Additionally, both categories of teachers reported that there was little collaboration and parent’s input from the parents of the foster children than the rest. Consequently, teachers encountered difficulties in teaching the foster children, further weakening the groups’ academic performance.

Both Berger et al. (2015) and Zetlin et al. (2011) investigated the academic challenges experienced by foster students in their elementary, middle and high school years. However, other scholars have explored the trend of the former foster children’s academic performance in post-secondary and college education. One of these scholars is Angelique Day, who assessed the rate of access, retention, and graduation from post-secondary programs by the foster care youths. In her dissertation published by the Western Michigan University, Day investigated the college education attainment rate of foster care population (2011). In her investigation, Day explored the challenges in the transition from high school to acollegeeducation that is experienced by foster care young adults, as compared to their peers in normal families. She also examined the rate at which the two groups dropped out of college before completion. From her findings, youths who were brought up in foster families had a 20% chance of dropping out of college, while their peers in normal families recorded a 13% rate of college drop-outs. Therefore, Day’s investigation reveals that children from foster placements doexperience not only academic challenges in early academic grades but also in later college studies (2011).

In an advancement to Day (2011) and similar studies,Unrau, Font, and Rawls (2012) investigated the readiness to join college after high school of foster youths as compared to the average freshman population in the United States.Unrau et al.’s study used the self-reportassessment of individual’s readiness to engage in college education completed by college freshmen who graduated from high school in years 2009 and 2010. The participants included 81 university freshmen who spent most of their childhood under foster care system and had aged out of the placement prior to joining college. From the freshmen’s self-evaluation, Unrau et al. found that students who spent most of their childhood under foster care were less well prepared to engage in college programs than the national freshman population. Further, Unrau et al. found that the uneasiness to engage in college education among the foster youths was not restrained to freshman year only, but persisted in even in subsequent years, leading to poor academic performance among the group(2012). Therefore, Unrau et al. (2011) agree with previous studies, such as Day (2011) that children placed in foster care records poor academic performance that the other kids who are brought up in different family settings.

While majority of scholars compare the academic outcomes of the foster care children with their peers in normal households, a few scholars have assessed the educational benefits and drawbacks of the foster care with respects to other forms of substitute care. However, studies have demonstrated that children who are raised in foster care are academically challenged than those placed in other family substitute options such as adoption. A good example is Vinnerljung and Hjern (2011) who compared the cognitive skills, self-independence and academic achievements of children young adults who grew up in foster care and adoptive families. In a comprehensive analysis, Vinnerljung and Hjern studied the cognitive, self-support and education attainment among 3100 foster care youths and 900 adoptees. They also incorporated a total of 900,000 majority population, drawn from youths raised in normal families, so as to attain a concise comparison in the study. Using the data from the Swedish National Register, Vinnerljung and Hjern applied linear and Cox regression models to compare the performance of foster care, adoptees, and normal youth’s population in various parameters. Notably, the dual researcher found that the foster attention and adoptees performed relatively lower than the normal population in education, cognitive skills and self-support parameters. Further, it was evident from their study that the foster care youths performed even poorer than the adoptees.Even though children in substitute care recorded poor performance that the normal population, Vinnerljung and Hjern (2011) concluded that foster care faces severe challenges than the adoptees, resulting in unfavorable outcomes among the former foster care youths.

Clearly, poor school performance is a common challenge among the children placed in foster care programs. Further, scholars have demonstrated that this challenge exposes the children to other risk factors such as different psychosocial problems in a child’s future life. According to a study by Berlin, Vinnerljung, and Hjern (2011), poor academic performance was found to be a sufficient risk factor for drugs and substance abuse,suicide attempts, psychiatric diagnosis, criminal engagement, arrests and incarceration. In this study, Berlin et al. used data from the nationwide register of Sweden for ten-year birth cohorts of 1972-1981. Their analysis focusedon young adults who were placed in long-term foster care during their childhood until age 17. Berlin et al. compared the psychosocial outcomes of their population of interest with their peers who were raised in normal families. They found that young adults who remained in long-term foster families were had six to eleven folds more chance of reporting a psychosocial problem than their peers. However, Berlin et al. established that impressive academic performance reduced the risk of the psychosocial problems by 38-52%. Therefore, poor school grades werean important risk factor for psychosocial problems in former foster care populations (Berlin et al. 2011). Further, Berlin et al. explained that poor school performance resulted in discontinuation of education, which in turn led to low employability among the foster youths. As a consequence, former foster care population record high rates of joblessness and low financial capability. They are, thus, exposed to different psychosocial challenges than their peers in thenormal population.

Even though various scholars have demonstrated a correlation between foster care and poor academic outcomes, concerned individuals established significant advantages of the out-of-home programs to some vulnerable children and youths. For instance, Warburton P., Warburton N., Sweetman, and Hertzman (2014) established distinct positive impacts of enrolling adolescent into a foster care program. Notably, Warburton et al. found that placing the at-risk male teenagers in some foster care programs reduce their chances of engaging in criminal activities and consequent convictions. It also increases the youth’s income assistance that consequently improves their lives. However, Warburton et al.’s findings agreed with the previously reviewed study in terms of education in matters of education attainment. Even though Warburton et al. did not explore whether foster students perform poorly than the normal population, they established that students placed in out-of-home care may take longer time to complete high school education than their peers(2014). However, delayed high school graduation suggests that the foster care adolescents may be experiencingseveree educational challenges than their peers in normal families.

In conclusion, it is apparent that children placed in foster care record low academic achievement than the rest of the population, owing to various challenges attributed to foster care programs. Additionally, poor educational performance exposes individuals to various psychosocial problems, which ruins the future life of foster care alumni.Despite the challenges experienced in foster care programs,  the system is important as it provide homes to thousands of children who are separated from their parents due to factors such as economic challenges andsome unavoidable circumstances such as death of a parent. For this reason, it is prudent for researchers to evaluate ways of minimizing the challenges experienced by foster children so as to boost their academic achievements


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Warburton, W. P., Warburton, R. N., Sweetman, A. & Hertzman, C. (2014). The impact of placing adolescent males into foster care on education, income assistance, and convictions. Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienned’économique47(1), 35-69. Retrieved from

Zetlin, A., MacLeod, E. & Kimm, C. (2012). Beginning teacher challenges instructing students who are in foster care. Remedial and Special Education, 33(1), 4-13.Retrieved from