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Michigan’s foster youth are losing out on quality education, NBC News report finds

A new NBC News report finds Michigan foster care institutions are failing to provide adequate education to many young people in their care.

In some cases, foster youth found that some education credits gained while in the state’s care didn’t transfer to public schools.

As a consequence, kids were set back years in classes and forced to repeat grade levels.

WKAR’s Megan Schellong spoke with NBC News national reporter Erin Einhorn, who interviewed 10 Michiganders that are either currently in or have been in, the state’s foster system about their educational concerns.

Interview Highlights

On how Michigan handles education of young people in foster care

So most foster youth in Michigan are in foster families, which means they go to regular schools, you know, along with other non-foster youth.

But the one consistent theme is that they all got out, whether or not they’d had a good experience with the education in these facilities or not, they got out and learned that their credits didn’t transfer or didn’t count. It can really, really throw them off the direction that they were moving in the positive direction.

On the changes Michigan’s foster youth are calling for

Simple things, like, the day they get out, they should be given their transcript.

Another change would be, you know, making sure that having those contracts be more specific about what appropriate educational services means. So, it can’t be like, you know, life skills classes, it has to be, you know, or even, you know, some kind of a system to make sure that kids and their workers are keeping track of the credits that they’re earning.

On the response from state lawmakers and educators

So far, not much. I mean, I talked to both the state health and human services agency and the education department, you know, for the story, and there’s a lot of, you know, “Oh, there’s not that much we can do.” Kind of, you know, throwing up of hands.

Interview Transcript

Megan Schellong: A new NBC News report finds Michigan foster care institutions are failing to provide adequate education to young people in their care.

In some cases, foster youth found that some education credits gained while in the state’s care didn’t transfer to public schools.

As a consequence, kids were set back years in classes and forced to repeat grade levels.

Reporter Erin Einhorn spoke with 10 Michiganders that are either currently in, or have been in, the state’s foster system about their educational concerns.

She joins me now to share her findings.

Erin, can you start us off and explain how Michigan’s current foster care system handles the education of its youth?

Erin Einhorn: So most foster youth in Michigan are in foster families, which means they go to regular schools, you know, along with other non-foster youth.

But my story in particular, was about youth who have been placed in facilities and institutions, residential facilities, either because the state couldn’t find a family to take them, or because they needed treatment for some kind of mental health or other similar issues.

But the one consistent theme is that they all got out, whether or not they’d had a good experience with the education in these facilities or not, they got out and learned that their credits didn’t transfer or didn’t count. It can really, really throw them off the direction that they were moving, in the positive direction.

Schellong: The state health department can’t require that credits earned in residential facilities count towards another school, so is this issue a matter of lack of oversight on the state’s part or is there something larger at play here?

Einhorn: I mean, these are the state’s children. So, these are children who are in the state’s custody and they’re attending, they’re placed in facilities by the state, that are licensed by the state, and paid by the state, that have contracts with the state.

So, it’s clearly the state who has an obligation here. The actual mechanism of that is a little bit more complicated.

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