House lawmakers must approve a bill that would require Kansas to develop annual academic report cards on all children in foster care because few graduate from high school on time, a state legislator said.
Less than 40% of Kansas foster children who were seniors last year completed high school, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The state’s Department of Education and the Department for Children and Families do not track the academic performance of the more than 7,000 children in the foster care system.
Republican Senator Molly Baumgardner told House legislators Monday that too many foster children end up in correctional facilities when they should be going to college.
“I urge that you would support this particular bill because I think it’s going to help all of us,” said Baumgardner, of Louisburg. “They are our responsibility. I would suggest that they are our most vulnerable kids and I think we need to be able to step up and help them in any way that we can, but we can only do that if we know what we’re not really successful at.”
The bill, already passed in the Kansas Senate, mandates for the collection of academic records on each foster child, focusing on standardized test scores, graduation rates, suspensions and expulsions.
Ethan Belshe, a representative of the Department for Children and Families, testified to the House Education Committee in favor of the bill, but asked for the measure to be amended to detail the percentage of children involved in mental health programs such as the Mental Health Intervention Teen Pilot Program.
“We believe that this data will provide useful insights about the availability of mental health services to foster youth in our schools and we will also use this data to improve policy and practices,” Belshe said. “These are some of our most vulnerable youth and we want to make sure we’re getting them what they need.”
Rep. David Benson said he backs the measure but voiced concern about the state’s ability to keep up with children who frequently move to new homes and different schools.