At any given moment, our nation’s social service agencies are caring for nearly 5 million children and youth. These kids show up in our schools while facing a host of challenges, including homelessness, foster care placement, incarceration, unmet mental and physical health needs, and other drivers of chronic instability. And many students are navigating several of these circumstances simultaneously. In addition to the immediate and obvious effects, traumatic life circumstances further destabilize students by fragmenting their education pathway. Lacking stability in school and a consistent education plan, students whose educations are significantly disrupted are more likely to achieve far below grade level, drop out of high school, be excluded from postsecondary and career training institutions, be unemployed or employed in insecure, low-skill, low-wage jobs, and enter (or return to) the criminal justice system.
As a mission-driven nonprofit, Bellwether combines its strategy and policy expertise to partner with public agencies at the state, county, and local level to improve both access to and quality of education programs for all young people who have experienced significant disruptions to their education pathways. As consultants, we support education agencies and their partners as they create plans to improve coherence within their systems, develop feasible financial plans to support care networks, and shift their organizational cultures toward greater integration. As policy analysts, we identify the statutory, administrative, and regulatory obstacles that inhibit the delivery of responsive services and rethink policy approaches that facilitate greater systems coordination.
The content below reflects our work on this issue: