Foster care can be a very destabilizing and disruptive experience for children of all ages. According to a study conducted by the American Institutes for Research, students in foster care experience higher rates of educational disruptions and lower academic achievement compared to their peers.
Extracurricular programming can help mitigate these challenges by offering adaptable learning platforms that cater to their fluctuating circumstances. A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation highlights that personalized learning approaches, made possible through programming, can significantly improve academic outcomes for vulnerable youth. Moreover, research published in the
Child Welfare League of America’s journal underscores how interventions can provide stability and continuity in education for students in foster care, positively impacting their overall well-being. By creating opportunities for these students to partake in consistent, engaging programming, we can create targeted solutions that empower these students to overcome adversities and build a brighter educational future.
That’s exactly what Activities Beyond the Classroom does for our students experiencing foster care. As part of a partnership called Kids in School Rule! (KISR!) between Cincinnati Public Schools, Hamilton County JFS, Hamilton County Juvenile Court, and the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, ABC proudly provides afterschool enrichment to the hundreds of students in our city experiencing foster care. We do this in an individualized model that engages each student in activities they are interested in, and ensures that participation in activities can continue even if children move between foster homes.
Across the 2022-2023 school year, ABC engaged over 440 students total through this program alone. We are incredibly proud to contribute to their enrichment, education, and wellbeing! We’re also very proud to share that, for the first time, KISR! services were also extended to students experiencing foster care placed in Northwest Local City School District; a much smaller district, ABC was able to support eleven of that district’s students with ongoing enrichment activities.
We’re also particularly proud that approximately 30 of our KISR! students got to participate in summer camps because of ABC’s involvement. This is especially important and impactful, as so much learning loss occurs during the summer months out of class. But studies have shown that even simple enrichment programs over the summer, including team sports and art classes, decrease the likelihood of learning loss.
Our work in engaging these students has also demonstrated positive impacts on classroom attendance, academic achievement, attitude/behavioral disruptions, and engagement. “When kids get to do something they care about, whether that thing is horseback riding or basketball or martial arts,” Deputy Director Rachel Stallings commented on the program, “it makes it a lot more likely that they’ll have care for the other parts of their day, like school work and healthy social interactions. It’s hard to give from an empty bucket. What ABC does is work to fill that student up with positive and engaging experiences, so they have more to draw on when they need it.”
“ABC focuses all our work on students experiencing high need,” shared Director of Advancement Carmen Lawrence-Bille, “but the KISR! program takes that to a whole new level. Foster care can be an incredibly high-stress and destabilizing experience for a young person, even in the best of foster homes. Anything we can do to make life more enjoyable, engaging, and stress-relieving for these kids is not just helpful, it is essential to their development and growth. The KISR! partnership allows us all to go the extra mile to support these kids and give them as many tools as possible to help them succeed.”
Thank you to the many partners that make this program possible! If you are interested in learning more about this program or would like to find a way to support our students in Cincinnati experiencing foster care, reach out today!