Lawmakers work on bills to better help Michigan foster kids with education

Posted at 7:25 AM, Mar 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-03 15:11:50-05

(WXYZ) — There's a bill being drafted that aims to make sure that every school credit counts. The Michigan Department of Education is involved in that bill and the co-vice president of the state school board says what electronic transcript system advocates are asking for would take a large investment. Nonetheless, they are working towards systematic change and it will take time.

“Oh, this is sweet. This is what I want to see,” Ferris State University student Christopher Jaco said.

Jaco is fresh into his 20s and is studying business administration at Ferris State. He also attends trucking school all while working as a CNA.

“Everyone has a purpose in life and I believe my purpose is to get a degree, open a business, set an example for my family," he said.

Jaco says he's determined to establish a blueprint of stability and structure, two concepts foreign to him growing up in foster care and constantly switching homes and curriculums.

“I remember one time I went to three schools in one semester,” he said.

Jaco says he went to 12 different high schools and despite going to school his entire life, he learned as a senior he only had 7 credits and needed 18 to graduate.

“I wanted to drop out," he said.

Christian Randle’s experience is nearly identical to Jaco's. At 17, he discovered he would have to start over as a freshman because the state-approved residential homes he was placed in did not have an accredited school program, meaning his classes didn’t count.

But with the help of the Park West Foundation, Randle, Jaco, and other foster youth have shared their stories to lawmakers in Lansing, most of whom were unaware of the problem.

Foster teen's story, struggle with school sparks change for foster care education system

Their advocacy work started last February and more than 365 days later, not much has changed. Some things they've been fighting for include all electronic transcripts, that way student information won’t get lost in the shuffle and students themselves can clearly see how many credits they have. They are also asking that all school programs that they are enrolled in be credit-barring.

7 Action News reached out to the Michigan Department of Education... And MDHHS to see what progress is being made but neither group wanted to do an interview. MDHHS did email back saying they are not responsible for accrediting school programs, but they say they have created two new education analyst positions to help oversea the 10,000 children currently in Michigan foster care.