EdPASS ensuring brighter future for foster children

By Jacob Lammers
ESC Communications

Through one-on-one attention, the ESC’s EdPASS program has ensured that more than 900 foster children do not fall through the cracks.

In addition to providing stability and a guiding hand, EdPASS education specialists help these middle and high school students maintain their focus on education. Because of that guidance, EdPASS seniors have more than a 92 percent graduation rate compared to a 50 percent graduation rate nationally among foster children.

“Because of their circumstances and the disruptions in their lives, these are kids who struggle on very high levels to achieve academic success,” said Edwin England, EdPASS coordinator.

“We know if we can successfully shepherd each child through high school on to post-secondary, that translates into a brighter future.”

Through a $1.4 million grant from Franklin County Children Services, EdPASS employs 17 education specialists who support students in more than 100 locations throughout the county such as Maryhaven, Pomegranate and Buckeye Ranch.

Damon Kimbrough has worked in the EdPASS program for the last five years and works with about 50-60 students in a given school year. Kimbrough meets with his students to evaluate their academic needs and develops a plan to help them achieve those goals.

“We’re like a teacher – we’re always there for them,” Kimbrough said. “Our main focus is academics. I really believe if every kid had an education specialist, graduation rates would go up.”

Starting this year, EdPASS will begin post-secondary planning with students such as tours of local colleges and career tech institutions, leadership training and coordination with college-bound mentors.

“Life doesn’t end at high school for almost anything you want to pursue,” England said. “Education encompasses all kinds of learning, and we want them to be good at it so they can reach their dream job.”

Eventually, EdPASS would like to track former students – with their permission – through the Ohio Board of Regents to evaluate their success. “The hope is to create a higher retention and graduation rate in higher education,” England said.

Even though foster children are one of the highest risk youth groups, there are plenty of agencies and organizations that lend their support, said EdPASS Education Specialist Jo Longstreth-Beach, who works with students at Columbus Scioto High School. Foster parents, family, caseworkers and educators are all invested in the child’s future, but education specialists specifically fill the role of a mentor.

Often, education specialists will connect students to public services or simply lend an ear and their time, Longstreth-Beach said.

“Everybody deserves a chance to be a productive citizen,” Longstreth-Beach said. “I don’t want them to fall through the cracks.”

In addition to an education specialist that they see once a week, students have access to 15 credentialed tutors. Students receive an average of 2,500 hours of one-on-one tutoring each year, England said.

“Child welfare is something we at the ESC take very seriously. They really are our kids,” England said. “Education specialists consider it sacred work – it’s an honor and a privilege to help these students get a leg up on life. I’m really proud to be part of this.”