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Disaggregate: Individual with current or past child welfare involvement


Students in foster care

Why it matters

Students in foster care change schools more frequently than other students, tend to have higher rates of absenteeism, and experience trauma at higher rates. Students involved in foster care are significantly less likely to graduate high school than their peers, with graduation rates below 50 percent in some states compared to the national adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) of 86 percent. Youth who age out of foster care are employed at lower rates, earn less, and progress more slowly in the labor market than other youth. K–12 schools are required to disaggregate data by foster care status under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

What to know about measurement

Children in foster care are eligible for free Head Start, and some states have begun to link data between early childhood and child welfare data systems. K–12 systems are required to track whether students are in foster care, and some states have also begun to coordinate data linkages between education and child welfare agencies. College students with past experience in foster care are eligible for different types of state and federal financial aid assistance. For example, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) asks students to report whether they were in foster care or a dependent or ward of the court since turning 13.

Source frameworks

This disaggregate appeared in four source frameworks reviewed for this report: the National School Readiness Indicators Initiative, the Dimensions of Equity framework, the California Cradle-to-Career Data System, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting requirements.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

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