The Academic Achievement Gap of Foster Children

It is common for foster and adopted children to struggle academically. In fact, it is almost expected. This should be no surprise to any experienced social worker or foster parent.


In the U.S., nearly every foster child receives an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school. An IEP is a program designed to improve a child’s academics through additional special services. For a lot of new foster/adoption parents, the term “special,” when it comes to education, is unsettling. When I first became a Family Adoption Specialist here at A Family For Every Child I associated IEP with learning disabilities. While conducting my first few child searches, I noticed that the majority of children in the foster care system have an IEP. This confused me. I thought, "Is there some psychological factor behind foster children and learning disabilities?; there is obviously a correlation between the two." So I dug in a little deeper to this idea. While some foster care children do in fact struggle with a learning disability (~30-40% of 500,000 in the U.S.), many simply struggle with adapting to their school environment.

Forty percent of all foster children have been in the foster care system for more than four years. With that many children being bounced to and from new homes and schools, it makes sense for so many foster children to have an IEP. In fact, I would almost be worried if a child/teen did not have an IEP. With that being said, there is a large academic achievement gap between foster care children who receive an IEP and those who do not. Regardless of their age, foster children need the appropriate educational support they need to flourish in life. Without it, they may not be equipt to follow their dreams, something of which an IEP assists with. For more information on IEPs and post-adoption education plans visit the following addresses: and Facts courtesy of United Cerebral Palsy and Children’s Rights