Protecting Youth From Foster Care from Identity Theft and Fraud



This document will explain the issue of identity theft and fraud when youth in foster care are the victims.  The population, youth in foster care, is particularly vulnerable to this type of criminal activity, because of the way in which the U.S. foster care system uses a foster child’s personal information, such as their Social Security number, as an identifier and the fact that youth in foster care are exposed to many more people that have access to this information.

Specifically, the focus will be on a portion of the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act that aims to protect youth in foster care from exiting the system burdened by someone else’s debt and with damaged credit.  Included is an analysis of how this legislation was created, how it helps the population of foster youth, how effective it is, and if is it the best solution to the problem.


Overview of the issue

Foster youth are incredibly vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.  Because they are under the care of government, they should be protected as much as possible with appropriate policies that govern how they are treated within the foster care system.  As foster youth are moving throughout the foster care system, their social security number is used as their identifier.  This policy creates deep problems for many members of the foster youth population, by exposing them to criminal activity against them.  Every social worker, foster parent, group home staff member, and family member has access to this information.  Any one of them can open credit cards in the child’s name and rack up debt without the child finding out until after they turn 18 and age out of the foster care system and are trying to open up their own line of credit.  Then, once they learn that their credit is damaged and they have fraudulent charges and debt attributed to them.  Foster youth need to go through the process of fixing their credit before they can establish themselves as adults in society.  While re-establishing their credit, everything else in their life is pushed back, including getting a car covered by insurance, applying for financial aid to get into school, etc.  When biological parents fail to take care of their children, it is the responsibility of the government to designate a safe and nurturing environment for them to grow up in.  In creating a system where identity theft and fraud can happen to these vulnerable youth so easily, the government is failing children and allowing unnecessary burden to set back their lives.

All people deserve consumer protection rights.  The actual perpetrator should be held accountable for their crimes, not the victim.  But what ends up happening in American society is that because there is a lot of bureaucracy involved in proving the crime, the victim of identity theft or fraud spends an average of 330 hours and pays an average of $850 in expenses to repair damage to their credit. For a youth aging out of the foster care system, without familial or adult mentor for guidance or financial help, this is a huge roadblock to achievement.  As victims of fraud or identity theft with bad credit, young persons would be nearly unable to get loans for apartments, to apply for and secure financial aid in order to attend college, or to buy cars and purchase car insurance (a necessity in some suburban or rural areas).  While others have a network of support that includes family, many youth in foster care don’t have these relationships on which they can rely.  They then end up homeless or living in situations where they can’t establish a line of credit.

As of 2011, an estimated 1,530 youth were in foster care within district 15, though it is the smallest district in the U.S.  This group is under the care of the city’s child welfare system, the NYC Administration for Child Services (ACS). In District 15, there are many organizations that work with youth in foster care. Association of Black Social Workers, CAP4Kids Children’s Advocacy Project for New York City, Catholic Guardian Society, Catholic Charities-Archdiocese, Harlem Dowling Ujima, The Children’s Aid Society, Children’s Rights, Children’s Aid Society Foster, Harlem Dowling West Side Center for Children and Family Services, Child Welfare Organizing Project, Harlem Children’s Zone, United Families of East Harlem, Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families, Foster Parent Advocacy Foundation Inc, Washington Heights Family Preservation Program, National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) at Hunter College School of Social Work.  The network is quite extensive, and previous District 15 representative, Charles Rangel, worked with many of these groups in order to provide increased support and services to youth in foster care.

Protecting and caring for our youth in foster care is a bi-partisan issue. Rangel has worked with Republicans in the past on issues involving the child welfare system.  The Democratic and Republican parties have shown they can work together and produce legislation that will make the foster care system better.  In 2008, Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act was passed.  The bill promotes permanent families and was supported by many, regardless of political party.  This shows that both parties are open to change, as long as the legislation is presented in the right way.


The Legislative Process

Foster youth are often not able to advocate for themselves, as minors and with no easy way to organize.  Foster youth organizations all over America have voiced their need for legislation helping them when they become trapped because of these crimes of fraud and identity theft perpetrated against them. They find themselves unable to move forward and end up wasting time and money as they try and repair their credit.  In some cases, their identity is stolen by someone they know, like a family member, and they do not want to accuse them of identity theft or fraud and press charges against them, so they end up paying for someone else’s debt in order to move on with their lives.  Because of the prevalence of this issue, many states have tried to pass legislation and have had no trouble finding foster youth to testify at a hearing that have been in this exact same situation.

Congressman Jim Langevin, democratic representative from Rhode Island, put forth legislation in 2011 that would help protect foster youth from leaving the foster care system with damaged credit due to another’s actions, as well as prepare them with some tools that would help them become independent financially.  Congressman Langevin has spent a lot of effort on the issues of foster care.  When Langevin was younger, his parents ran a foster home.  He takes pride in his initiatives to improve the experience for children in the foster care system within Rhode Island.  His position on the House Armed Services Committee, where he chairs the Strategic Forces Subcomittee gives him some power, but not on issues of child welfare.  He also serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Committee on the Budget. He has made himself an expert on a variety of issues, including cybersecurity and respite care and health reform. It can be said that working with youth in foster care is a more personal issue to him, and this bill was his way of advocating for the population nationally.  His work on this legislation won him a First Focus Campaign for Children award “Defender for Children,” for his advocacy and policy work.  This award acknowledges the work of the top 100 congressmen that do work for children.

The bill was supported by a research report created by Firstar and the Child Advocacy Institute (CAI), The Fleecing of Foster Children.  First star works to establish best practices and better outcomes that benefit children in child protective services, dependency courts and foster care systems across the U.S. “First Star balances education, policy and research with public awareness to heighten visibility and to deepen knowledge about the plight of society’s most vulnerable children – those who are abused and neglected” (First Star, 2012).  The Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI), co-author of the research document, was founded at the nonprofit University of San Diego School of Law in 1989, is an academic, research, and advocacy law firm. “CAI represents the interests and rights of children and youth in impact litigation, legislative and regulatory advocacy, research and public education projects, and public service programs. CAI’s academic component trains law students and attorneys to be effective child advocates. Active at both the state and federal levels, CAI’s advocacy program seeks to improve the status, health and well-being of children and youth in all areas of their lives, with special emphasis on improving the child protection and foster care systems and enhancing resources that are available to youth aging out of foster care and homeless youth” (CAI, 2012).  Child advocates would be especially affected by this law, because in cases of fraud and identity theft, a child advocate would have to be utilized to file criminal charges, prove the criminal activity, and fix the damaged credit.  These agencies were able to work together to perform original research on the topic of identity theft and fraud to educate the public about the prevalence of identity theft and fraud in foster youth.  Their research is intended to inform policy, which it was able to do, in the case of Congressman Langevin’s bill.

The full bill, supported by this research, was introduced on September 15, 2011.  The Foster Youth Financial Security Act of 2011 was given the number H.R. 2953.  It includes four major provisions. 1) Provide credit reports for children before they age out of the foster care system at 18.  2) Establish Individual Development Accounts, which are matched-savings accounts intended to be used to buy assets and set a foster child up for buying necessary large-budget items for living independently.  3) Require state evaluations for certain programs that are intended to help foster youth transition out of the system. 4) Eliminate the use of Social Security numbers as an identifier for a foster child.  This bill was introduced in the Committee on Ways and Means with three co-sponsors: Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Pete Stark (D-CA).

Congressman Langevin worked closely with Stark, a member of the Ways and Means committee to advocate for this issue.  The bill in its entirety was not going to be passed, so they pushed to get part 1, regarding acquiring credit reports, of the original bill H.R. 2953 into the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which was also presented to the Ways and Means Committee by Representative Geoff Davis (R-KY), and was  passed in 2011.  Geoff Davis, a solid Republican, is no longer a Congressman, citing family health issues as the reason he resigned from his post in July 2012. Davis was Chairman of its Subcommittee on Human Resources, which oversees certain welfare programs, including child care, child and family services, child support, foster care, adoption, and aspects of unemployment benefits.  Davis was in a more powerful position than either Langevin or Stark, which may have helped his bill pertaining to foster youth get passed more easily.

The bill, pertaining to improving the foster care system, added a part in Section 106 titled: Provisions Relating to Foster Care and Adoption part b subtitled: Foster Youth ID Theft.  This is a requirement for each caseworker to obtain a credit report for any of their clients for each year between the ages of 16 and exiting the system.  In addition to that, they must also provide assistance to the youth in fixing any fraudulent charges BEFORE they exit the system, including obtaining a court-appointed advocate for counsel.

FOSTER YOUTH ID THEFT.—Section 475(5) of such Act (42

U.S.C. 675(5)) is amended—

(1) by striking ‘‘and’’ at the end of subparagraph (G);

(2) by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (H)

and inserting ‘‘; and’’; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:

‘‘(I) each child in foster care under the responsibility

of the State who has attained 16 years of age receives

without cost a copy of any consumer report (as defined

in section 603(d) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act) pertaining to the child each year until the child is discharged

from care, and receives assistance (including, when feasible,

from any court-appointed advocate for the child) in interpreting and resolving any inaccuracies in the report.’’


Though it is a very small section of the final bill, each caseworker must comply starting in 2012 and it will protect many youth being unfairly held back in life due to other peoples’ criminal activity.  The caseworker is well equipped to carry this job out.  A caseworker retains a mostly permanent relationship with the foster youth while they are in the foster care system, even as they change placements over the years.

The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act was passed in the House with one amendment to a different part of the bill and passed in the Senate, S. 1542, without amendment co-sponsored by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Representatives Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas).

The bipartisan legislation reauthorized child and family service programs under Title IV-B of the Social Security Act and renewed Title IV-E state child welfare waiver authority for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The largest program created from Title IV-B was the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF), which was created in 1993 by an amendment to the Social Security Act, PSSF was reauthorized in 1997 and again in 2001 under the Adoption and Safe Families Act. PSSF supports a variety of services for families with children and is one of the few sources of federal funds directed toward the prevention of problems that bring families to the attention of the child welfare system (Georgia Dept. of Human Services, 2005). PSSF and the other programs in Title IV-B parts one and two expired on September 30, 2011.  This bill was signed and made into Public Law No: 112-34 on September 30, 2011.

This bill was only passed due to the bi-partisan support of the two parties, the same way the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act was passed in 2008.  The original legislation that Langevin put forth was only sponsored by four democratic congressmen, which may have stalled its progress.  By working with the Republican Party on a broader bill that was up for reauthorization, there was a better chance of getting the policy mandating credit checks for youth 16 and up in the foster care system.
Policies that were in place previously that address the problem

Several states have enacted similar laws previously.  For example, Connecticut passed legislation requiring credit checks for all youth 16 and older in the foster care system, and reporting those findings to the office of the Chief State’s Attorney and the foster youth, foster parent, caseworker, and legal representative (CAI & FirstStar, 2011).  The law is quite comprehensive, but does not require the state to help the youth get out of the problem in any way after that. The provision in the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act extends further and requires a fix to the youth’s credit before the child exits the system. That last step in fixing a youth’s credit before they exit the system is what is most effective in helping foster youth. They are given a better opportunity to successfully transition out of the system, making them on my level ground with others of their age.

The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act covers most consumers, but has nothing that protects the specific needs of children in foster care. No credit reports are being done on minors, so there is no chance to catch the fraudulent activity until it’s too late.  This legislation is needed to protect the vulnerable population while they are still in the care of the government. The government must act as parents to those in the foster care system, and must protect children from being used and abused, even if it’s by a financial institution.  The foster youth is not to blame for the situation, and it is unfair that being a victim of fraud of identity theft can ruin their chances at a better future by way of gaining an education or living debt-free.


Why this law is important

Youth transitioning out of the foster care system are facing so many issues.  At the root of it, they need to become financially self-sufficient, start working and making enough to live on their own; paying for rent, groceries, utilities, and insurance.  This is basically impossible for an 18 year old while in school, which is a main reason why only 3% of youth in foster care complete a 4-year degree.  The median age of initial self-sufficiency for the average American youth is 26, with the median amount parents spend on their children each year after they turn 18 being $50,000.  It is unfair that foster youth are expected to live without financial assistance at the age of 18, when so many others are coming from a different place. The child welfare system perpetuates a cycle of poverty.  Though many look to continuing their education, it seems unfeasible to them because they are funneled into a position where they need to take on loans to pay for a higher education, but also need to work long hours at minimum-wage jobs for their basic necessities. Without good credit, one cannot receive the federal financial aid necessary to attend college.  This is a group that also must attend school without the financial support many people in America get from their families.

Statistically, youth who age out of the foster care system have much lower achievement rates than the average American.  As stated previously, only 3% of foster youth are able to attain their Bachelor’s Degree.  This lack of education lowers their earning potential, raising the probability that they will stay in low-earning jobs for the rest of their lives.  By age 24, less than half of foster care alumni were employed in 2011.  This is including even the lowest-paying, part-time jobs. Adding the 9% that cannot join the workforce due to disability or incarceration, many spend part of their lives as unemployed and must rely on the government for welfare.  Also at age 24, 37% of foster youth alumni have experienced homelessness (which includes crashing at a friend’s or relative’s home for a temporary amount of time).  These poor outcomes become costly for states.  One analysis estimated that the cost of each annual cohort of youth aging out of the foster care system is approximately $5.7 billion; these costs comes in the form of lost earnings (and thus lost revenues), criminal justice system expenditures, and unplanned pregnancy expenses such as government cash assistance and health programs (CAI & FirstStar, 2011).

Many youth in foster care have zero concept of financial literacy.  Living in group homes and institutions, one does not see an adult paying the bills, filling out tax forms, or other mundane tasks necessary for living independently. When a youth finds that they’ve been a victim of fraud and are carrying someone else’s debt, this problem is greatly magnified.  Youth try to navigate a financial system that they’ve never experienced without aid, so it becomes necessary to hire a legal consultant, which is often too expensive for someone in this situation.  Having a youth stuck in this process while making the transition out of foster care is fundamentally unfair.  It hinders them from attaining independence and growing developmentally and achieving what they would like to get out of life, whether it is a higher education degree, a better-paying job, or a lifestyle where they are able to get the home and vehicle that they want.


Opposition to the bill

Individual child welfare agencies have not fallen in line behind this portion of the passed bill, because it would require their workers to conduct the credit checks.  Many doubt that they feasibly have the resources to follow through.  In Connecticut, where they passed a bill in 2010  that would require credit checks for youth in foster care, the Commissioner of Department of Children and Families, Susan I. Hamilton, testified: “The Department of Children and Families (DCF) appreciates the intent behind HB 5196 . . . but has concerns that the obligations imposed on the Department by the bill may not be achievable, particularly within available resources.”  This concern should be laid to rest with the use of Title IV-B funds that the bill is tied to.

Some oppose the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act on the grounds that Child Protective Services (CPS) has too much power, and is a government entity that meddles in families’ personal business.  CPS has a bad reputation in America as an unknown force that takes away children from their families if they perceive any wrong-doing, without parental consent.  However, this bill, while widening the parameters of what CPS can do, prioritizes family reunification.  Also expanding are the services to children already within the foster care system, which does little to affect families outside of the system.
Is it the best solution to the problem?

       This federal policy is more effective than any state policy in place.  It works to correct a problem that occurs before the youth tries to use their credit and learns that they’re been a victim of fraud or identity theft.

A way to insure that foster youth will be protected from fraud and identity theft more effectively is to amend the policy that is at the cause of the problem.  Foster youth identifying information is accessible way too many people.  An alternative to using the Social Security number as an identifier, is to number youth as they do in the adoption system and keep the number consistent throughout their time in the foster care system.  Also, limiting the number of people that will have access to the social security number, which will be difficult as the information belongs to a minor and is necessary for many different programs that foster youth need to be a part of.  It would be a huge overhaul of various systems to no longer need a person’s social security number to become a part of a program.  A workaround may be to find one person in a foster youth’s life that will be responsible for this information.  This would require all necessary paperwork that requires a Social Security number would go through this one person.            Limiting the number of people that have access to a youth’s Social Security number may be unachievable, but adding a clause to the federal law that uses a different number as an identifier while a foster youth is in the system would lower the number of cases of fraud and identity theft, lowering the amount of money the government will pay in fixing damaged credit of foster youth victims.



The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act deals with the issue of foster youth leaving the system with unknown debt caused fraud and identity theft in an effective manner in the context of the current foster care system.  The bill helps free foster youth that would otherwise be burdened by debt that would keep them from achieving positive outcomes in the future.

As a bi-partisan issue, Congresswoman Sanchez will have the opportunity to work with Republican representatives and build relationships across party lines.  This could be helpful when working on more dividing projects when bi-partisan support is necessary.  Rangel was an active advocate for foster youth, and continuing that legacy, including the work he did with many agencies in the district, may be beneficial work for the community.

The Ways and Means committee is very influential. As a budgeting committee, a seat here would allow Congresswoman Sanchez influence on where federal funds would go.  Rangel was also a member of this committee, perhaps continuing relationships built by him could be useful in Congresswoman Sanchez’ interests.

















AP. (26 November 2012). Langevin hosts foster care listening tour. Globe Newspaper Company.

            Providence, RI. Retrieved from:




Children’s Advocacy Institute & First Star. (2011). The fleecing of foster children: How we

confiscate their assets and undermine their financial security. Children’s Advocacy Institute of the University of San Diego Law School.  San Diego, CA.


Committee on Ways and Means. (2012). Chairman Dave Camp. Committee on Ways and Means.

            Washington. D.C.


Georgia Department of Human Services. (2005).  About PSSF. Promoting Safe and Stable

            Families Program. Retrieved from


NYC Administration for Children’s Services. (2011). NYC 2011 community snapshots.

Statistics and Links. New York City, NY.



Langevin For Congress. (2012). About. Jim Langevin For Congress. Warwick, RI.


Thomas. (2011). Bill summary and status 112th congress (2011-1012) H.R. 2883.

The Library of Congress.  Retrieved from



A Program Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Turnaround’s Model at Implementing and Operating Clear and Consistent Protocols within Schools

NOTE* Due to inability to insert graphs, the results analysis and appendices have been removed


Question: Does implementing school protocols help school staff feel better prepared to manage students with mental health/behavioral problems?

Hypothesis: No, protocols in themselves cannot be effective if school staff do not have the resources to operationalize the protocols well.

Turnaround for Children utilizes an entire school transformation model to improve poorly performing public schools in New York City and Washington D.C.  One aspect of this model requires the school to define clear school-wide protocols to manage student behavior.  When clear protocols are operationalized, a more positive school climate can be achieved (Cohen, McCabe, Michelli, & Pickeral, 2009). Students better understand how they should behave and what the consequences are when they do not follow the rules, and teachers are better aware of how they should manage problem behaviors. Problem behaviors are often linked to behavioral/mental health issues and diagnosis and require appropriate interventions (Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA, 2008).  Clear protocols also lead to earlier identification of those students that require extra support for these issues (SAMHSA, 2011). Earlier identification means the students are better served and can increase capacity and learning at school.

Because of the importance that having clear protocols to manage student behavior has, it is necessary to follow-through and make sure that these protocols are being operationalized consistently. The existence of these protocols may have no meaning if they are not being used appropriately. Issues with the operation of school-wide protocols may include a lack of resources.  For example, student support workers (ie: school social workers and guidance counselors) are necessary in supporting teachers when a child is disrupting a class and the teacher does not have the ability to attend to the needs of the one student.  Often, schools do not employ enough student support workers to adequately provide services to all the students that need it within the school (NASW Center for Workforce Studies, 2010). Other times, teachers are not able to attend trainings that explain school protocols to refer students to mental health services.  Administrators need to take these issues into consideration in order to promote positive climate in their schools.

Turnaround for Children (TFC) has gathered data via a school staff survey in order to evaluate how their model works within schools, and if school staff feel any improvements while undergoing the transformation process. This survey was collected via, sent to all known staff at each of the schools TFC works with in New York City and Washington D.C.

In order to answer my research question, I focused on those questions from the school staff survey that operationalize the presence and implementation of consistent and clear protocols (also known as the Input) and the questions that operationalize the operations within the school that are consistent with the protocols (also known as the Output), measured against how many years the school has been using the Turnaround model, the size of the school, and the level of the school.

Using the answers to the above questions, I have conducted statistical testing using SPSS statistical analyzing software.  Using t-tests and Anova significance testing I can compare means that will show the difference between how school staff feel about their schools’ protocols, how the protocols are being operationalized, and how school staff feel about their own ability to manage behavioral/mental health problems.

Data and Methods

Data was collected by survey (via Survey Monkey) from 26 different public schools across New York City and Washington D.C. The surveys included 27 questions for all school staff members to complete (School Staff Survey, Appendix A).  If the survey-taker identified their role as teacher, they were asked to complete a supplemental questionnaire pertaining to their experience in the classroom.  Each question is answered on a four point Likert-type scale for Never, Occasionally, Usually, Always; or a 10 point Likert-type scale where respondents are asked to rate how they feel from Very Poor to Excellent.  The intent of the survey is to evaluate how effective the Turnaround model is at improving the functioning of the school.  Not every survey question pertains to the variables in this study, so only pertinent data will be analyzed to answer the research question.

The independent variable in this study is the “Input” of school-wide expectations and protocols.  Turnaround for Children trains their field staff to go into their partner schools and to introduce these protocols as a tool to manage student misbehavior. These protocols are based on research conducted by the agency and are consistent across each school, with variations depending on the type of school (elementary, middle, middle/high, or high school) and the needs of the individual school. The dependent variable, the “Output”, is how efficiently these protocols are implemented within the schools; if the school staff feel confident and comfortable using the protocols to manage student misbehavior.  Indices were created using survey questions that operationalize these concepts.

In order to determine which questions from the School Staff Survey were going to be used as indices for the two variables, a factor analysis was conducted in SPSS (Appendix B, Goldstein[1]). The factor analysis pulled out 12 questions as creating indices that hang together well, 7 in the Input index, and 5 in the Output (See Descriptive Statistics in Appendix C). The Input consists of the following questions: There are clear protocols defining responses to student behavior? Administrators respond consistently to student problem behavior? Student expectations are taught to all consistently? There are  clear school-wide expectations for student behavior? Staff consistently reinforce school-wide aspirations for positive behavior for all students? There are clear aspirations for positive behavior? There are clear protocols resulting in office referrals? These seven questions test together with a Cronbach’s Alpha of .902. The Output consists of these questions: Follow-Up information about students referred is given? Referring staff are supported to fulfill role in student intervention plans? Student referrals to behavioral support systems are easy to complete? Referring staff know role in student intervention plans? Do staff meet to discuss social, emotional, and mental health needs of students? These four questions test together with a Cronbach’s Alpha of .873.

When combined, these indices create variables with significantly different means, proven by conducting a t-test in SPSS with the result of p<.001.



Based on the data collected this year, we see that there is a small, but significant, decrease of school staff satisfaction when viewing the clarity of protocols taught to them at the beginning of the year, and the way these protocols are consistently used throughout the year. This can be caused by any number of reasons, lack of follow-through by school staff, not every staff member was well-educated on their role within the protocol system, a lack of urgency taught around the need to remain consistent throughout the year, or no discourse when the system breaks down.  The most significant differences in means are between small and large schools and between the first and second year of engagement.  These differences may lead to different protocols needing to be established in schools based on the size of their schools or a different approach to schools based on their year of engagement.

In order to change the current Turnaround model in an effective and meaningful way to improve these scores for the future and lessen the discrepancy between how satisfied school staff are with the establishment of protocols and how well these protocols are operationalized, a study has to be done.  Qualitative interviews with staff members asking questions that have been developed based on the results of this analysis would be beneficial in knowing why school staff feel this way and what should be done to change it.





Center for Mental Health in Schools in UCLA. (2008). Conduct and behavior problems:

intervention and resources for school aged youth. University of California Los Angeles.

            Los Angeles, CA.


Cohen, J., McCabe, E., Michelli, N., & Pickerel, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy,

practice, and teacher education. Teacher’s College, Columbia University. 3:1. 180-213.


National Association of Social Workers for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice. (2010).

Social workers in schools: Occupational profile. NASW. Washington, D.C.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2011). Identifying mental health

and substance abuse problems of children and adolescents: A guide for child-serving

organizations.  Office of Child, Adolescent, and Family Branch, Substance Abuse and

            Mental Health Services Administration. Rockville, MD.


[1] Leah Goldstein, LMSW, supervised this statistical test.

Job Searching- The Pain

I have recently graduated from graduate school and have been on the hunt for work. A few things about the journey: It’s terrifying, exhausting, disheartening, and stressful. It is absolutely the only thing that I can talk about and the only thing that I can think about. Most of this anxiety comes from myself, about how I feel as though I’m letting down my family and embarrassed I am about having to move back home and not knowing what the next step is in my life. Also the frustration comes from an oncoming sense of doom, with a deadline for when I have to start paying back slowly approaching. Finally, I just don’t like it, not having a job to be productive and happy.

After applying to over 100 jobs, moving back home, and failing several job interviews, I need to take a step back and see what I have learned and what I need to change.


Here are some mistakes that I can definitively say that I have made throughout the process.

1) Editing my cover letters- Due to my limited professional experience, I do not feel any real need to update my resume for each job that I apply to. But, I DO try to tailor my cover letter for each job description. I have found on several occasions, after submitting these cover letters, typos within the cover letter. This can range anywhere from misspelled words, to having the wrong position title written in part of the letter. ROOKIE MISTAKE, MEGAN. I wouldn’t even hire someone that showed this kind of sloppiness. SO, even though it’s basic, and I am practically an adult now-EDIT AND PROOFREAD EVERYTHING.

2) Even after all of the work, I have gotten very few inquiries for an in-person interview. But, for the few I have been on, I have learned some things. First of all, have the job description memorized (figuratively) and have an elevator pitch ready for how you have the skills to accomplish the job duties. I have had a panic attack when a prospective employer asked me how I would do the work, with no preamble, and I had to scramble to best answer the question with no prep. It was obvious.

3) Reach a balance between professionalism and seeming friendly and confident.  I have had job interviews on both ends of the spectrum. One interview, I acted way too comfortable and friendly, and talked way too much about my boyfriend. Keep that to yourself! Nobody wants to hire an oversharer- you seem like you totally lack the social skills necessary to handle a work office environment. On the other hand, I walked into another interview where I completely didn’t click with the interviewer from the get-go. I was completely prepared to answer all the normal questions asked during an interview, but the interviewer was expecting a more informal conversation. This lead to some very awkward silences and made me look-again-like I was socially inept. Confidence, small-talk, and the ability to sell yourself are all needed to make a good impression.

4) Networking-I don’t know how to do it. There has been a statistic floating around, saying that 80% of open positions are hired through a personal contact. But every time I try and use a contact to help me out, nothing comes of it. Not a single one of my interviews occurred through a recommendation of someone I know. Maybe this is my biggest problem.




I have an interview coming up next week. I large portion of this is a written assessment, to test my skills.  Throughout my entire life, I have always been something of a social butterfly, but the interviewing process makes me feel tongue-tied and unable to read social cues. I actually relish the idea of having a test to show these people that I actually have the skills to do the job well, even if I can be somewhat awkward during the interview process.

I will try and use what I have learned to make a good impression, and possibly finally land a job that I want to do!

Gifted and Talented

G&T, as it’s called here in New York City, is a more intensive school intended for students K-12 that have the capabilities of learning at a higher level than the average public school provides.  These schools are a part of the extensive “choice” program available for New York City students, for families that do not want to send their child to the school that they had been zoned in. Entrance to these schools is extremely competitive, as it is with other “choice” schools, such as charters and un-zoned schools.

To be eligible for G&T, the student has to take a standardized test for the program, and depending on the number of spots, only the top students are accepted. Usually, this is those students that fall into the 99th percentile.  Furthermore, G&T starts at Kindergarten and a standardized test has been created for these children (around 3 or 4) to be able to be enrolled in the program, and test prep courses have been created by enterprising individuals that have seen the need come up.  These preparatory courses cost hundreds and thousands or dollars and do not guarantee entry.

Lower-income families do not have the same resources to prepare their children at such a young age to perform well in a standardized test.  Resources like money, for the prep courses, time to work with their student at home, or even knowledge of what could be covered on the exam to help prepare them. This added to the fact that many higher-income families are looking to the G&T schools as an alternative to more expensive private schools since the downturn in the economy, means that slots for those that live in zones that have poorly performing schools have a lower chance of getting a spot.

According to a new AFT poll, many parents feel that education policy so far has been lacking in effectiveness. 61% of parents would rather the DOE be allocating funds and resources to local schools, instead of sending many to all the alternative “choice” schools. It would make life a lot easier, especially for lower-income families, and also guarantee a quality education to all NYC students, no matter which school they end up in.

Many argue that a smart student will succeed anywhere. However, I believe that there are many qualities necessary to succeed in one of New York City’s most poorly performing schools, not only intellect. The argument that a smart student can succeed anywhere is most reasonable when a college student attends NYU instead of their first choice of Columbia University.  Both are great schools and will help their graduates go on to do great things. However, when we are talking about public schools in some of NYC’s worst neighborhoods, some schools simply cannot provide their students with the college preparedness that they will need.  With this argument, I believe that those students from the lowest income families and from districts with the lowest performing schools are more in need of the choices that are being provided.

AEA Evaluation Conference 2013!

A paper that I contributed to was selected to be presented at the AEA Evaluation Conference, 2013.

Here is our abstract!

Measuring School Capacity for Student Support: Collaborating With Program Staff to Develop a Targeted Measure With Utility for Field Practice


Leah Goldstein, Turnaround for Children, Megan Foster, Columbia University, Jennifer Mariaschin-Rudin, Turnaround for Children, Joan Stamler, Turnaround for Children,

Abstract: Turnaround for Children, Inc., a New York City based educational nonprofit, has developed an alternative approach to building mental and behavioral health capacity in schools. In order to measure the development of the systems and functions needed to increase school capacity for student support, a school staff-report survey was created and piloted. Collaboration between internal evaluators, program implementation staff, other evaluators exploring school mental health capacity and input from school support workers was essential for constructing the content and language of the survey items in order to most accurately reflect staff perception. This paper will describe the process of crafting the survey items based on multiple stakeholder perspectives, preliminary psychometric information about the survey, and its utility for practitioners working with and within school-based student support systems.


Diversity in Schools-Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action, as a policy, intends to address the need to give underrepresented populations access to higher education. However, in practice, it does not always achieve that goal.  Americans, as a whole, are becoming less amenable to a racial Affirmative Action policy, and more supportive of an economic Affirmative Action policy. As minority people are gaining prestige and power (see: President Obama, Oprah Winfrey) people are seeing that access to education is  more completely denied to people of low socio-economic status than it is to people of color.  However, what the general public does not see as a real issue “anymore” is the real lack of racial diversity in schools.  Our K-12 schools are still extremely racially segregated, even in higher-performing schools, and this seems to be a product of self-selection, though it can be addressed through policy.

The New York Times article (link below) perfectly illustrates the self-selecting segregation that is occurring in New York City public schools.

It becomes a moral issue about whether to use race as factor in admissions, because this can be seen as a kind of reverse discrimination.  Diversity can be achieved in other ways.

The United States is a country where everyone has the right to education K-12, though it needs to work on making good education more accessible to all.  Making a school more racially and economically diverse would benefit both those underrepresented populations as well as the majority population, teaching all students how to work with those that are different them themselves, an important skill in today’s multi-cultural U.S. and globalized world (Good Schools, 2013).  New York City is uniquely able to have schools with students from many different races, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds due to the diversity of the city, as well as the school choice system.  But it does not occur, mostly because of self-selection.  Policy can be used to change this.

Kahlenberg presents different universities that have implemented alternative acceptance policies to Affirmative Action that are not based on race, but still raise the amount of diversity within a school.  “If universities can achieve racial diversity without racial preferences, then that is the preferred course to take” (Kahlenberg, 2012). Using strategies such a strategic financial aid plans, recruitment in under-represented high schools, and using students combined academic achievement with the obstacles this students had to face to measure a students merit have all positively affected diversity rates in universities.

Though Affirmative Action is not having the intended effects, there are still policies available that will increase the diversity of a school in a positive way, that is fair for students.





Great Schools (2013). How important is cultural diversity in your school?

Kahlenberg, R. (2012). A better affirmative action: State universities that created alternatives to racial preferences. The Century Foundation.

Suspensions in New York City: The Zero-Tolerance Policy


In New York City, the definition of suspension includes a dismissal from school of up to one year. Expulsion only occurs if students are over 17 years of age at the beginning of the school year.

The number of suspensions in New York City public schools has greatly increased since the implementation of the “zero tolerance policy” in 1999. The theory behind the zero tolerance policy is that if students that disrupt classrooms are punished harshly, it will deter others from misbehaving.  Suspension is used most often in order to keep the misbehaving student from disrupting the other students that continue to behave well and want to learn. The New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) mandates a number of behaviors in which the minimum punishment is suspension.  It is only in September of 2010 that the DOE has cut down on the number of offenses that would result in a punishment of suspension (NYC DOE, 2010).

It is easy to see the manifestation of the zero tolerance policy in New York City, as many schools have metal detectors and security personnel. School Safety Officers have the power to search and seize students and their belongings.  However, they do not have the power to suspend students, though they do often provide witness at student suspension hearings.  School Safety Officers undergo six weeks of training and are taught the same tactics as New York Police Department (NYPD) street police, but have little to no training on child and adolescent development (New York Civil Liberties Union [NYCLU], 2011).

Types of Suspensions

There are 5 types of suspensions for students in New York City (NYCDOE, 2012):

1) Removal From A Classroom by a Teacher: 1-4 day suspension. The student is sent to another learning setting within the school.  This type of suspension is only recorded at the school-level, so the DOE cannot measure or report on how often this happens, and its effects.

 2) Principal’s Suspension: 1-5 day suspension. The student must be provided with the schoolwork and homework they are missing.

3)  Continued Suspension: “Superintendent’s suspension” 6-10 days. The student is assigned a location for learning outside of the school.

4) Extended Suspension: 30-60 days. The student is assigned a location for learning outside of the school.

5) Full Year Suspension: The student is assigned a location for learning outside of the school.

Who Gets Suspended?

Suspensions disproportionately affect African-American and special needs students.  Special needs students are four times as likely to be suspended and African-American students make up 33% or the student population, but 53% of the suspended population in the past 10 years (NYCLU, 2011). Harsh disciplinary approaches lead to a poor school climate which manifests in lower test scores (American Psychological Association, 2008).  Strict disciplinary approaches have the side-effect of punishing many students harshly for subjectively bad behavior (i.e.: foul language, inappropriate essays, tempers tantrums).

Consequences & Policy Changes

For the past 10 years, with the installation of the Zero Tolerance Policy under the Bloomberg administration, the rate of suspensions has increased greatly, leading to an abundance of research to be conducted examining this topic.

A few key research findings include:

1)    The increase in suspensions has also lead to an increase of students incurring multiple suspensions in a single year.  In 1999, 23% of students suspended served multiple suspensions during the school year (NYCLU, 2011).

2)    Taking students out of the structured environment of school disrupts education and escalates poor behavior, making it more difficult to succeed (Cregor & Hewitt, 2011).  Because of this, suspensions have become a predictor for future misbehavior and more suspensions (NYCLU, 2011).

3)    The National Center for Education Statistics (Snyder & Dillow, 2008) reported that “A student who is repeatedly suspended in the eighth, ninth, and tenth grades is likely to be so far behind by 17 that they feel their only option is to drop out”.

There is no evidence to support that zero-tolerance policies work. However, sufficient evidence was found to support that zero tolerance policies create poorer school climates, the city decided it needed to change to a friendlier and more efficient approach. These findings have led to some recent changes in the city’s 2012 Discipline Code, including:

1)    Restorative approaches, such as parent meetings, peer mediation, and collaborative negotiation.

2)    Alternative disciplinary measures other than the tough action of suspensions. These alternative measures are placed under a heading titled “progressive discipline” which stresses the fact that moments of misbehavior can become teaching moments, and that suspension is not the only way to stop misbehavior.

3)    Increased focus on making sure students are given the academic support they need while on suspension.

These changes in the Citywide Standards may translate themselves into school policies that rely less heavily on suspension as a primary punishment, thereby addressing student behavior more effectively.

Several initiatives have already called for a reduction in suspensions. For example, the Dignity in Schools coalition works with parents, teachers, students, and community organizations that advocates for student and civil rights.  This coalition firmly believes that the high number of suspensions is denying students access to their civil right to education.  Their approach to change is to systematically use alternative guidance measures and limit the number of incidents that would cause suspensions (Dignity in Schools Campaign, 2011).


American Psychological Association. (2008). Are zero tolerance policies effective in

schools? American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force.

Arts, A., Bahl, T., Foster, T., Miller, J., Ofer, U., Phenix, D., Sheehan, N.,& Thomas, H. (2011).  Education interrupted. The New York Civil Liberties Union.  New York, NY:US

Cregor, M. & Hewitt, D. (2011) Dismantling the school to prison pipeline. Poverty & Race. 20(1), 5-7. Dignity in School Campaign. (2011). Suspension rates in New York city schools still too high based on new data. Dignity in Schools. Retrieved from

New York City Department of Education. (2010). Citywide standards of intervention and discipline measures: The discipline code and bill of student rights and responsibilities, K-12.  New York, NY:US.

New York City Department of Education. (2012). Citywide standards of intervention and discipline measures: The discipline code and bill of student rights and responsibilities, K-12. New York, NY:US.

Snyder, T. & Dillow, S. (2008). Digest of education statistics 2008. The National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC:US.

Has school disciplining gone too far?

Has school disciplining gone too far?

Schools seem to finally be letting go of their zero-tolerance policies and loosening their criteria for restraining children, but the shift is not occurring fast enough. This article outlines the ridiculous ways in which children are still be punished by criminalizing behaviors that occur in schools.

Research has proven over and over that punitive and harsh discipline measures do not work well in correcting student behavior and actually are more damaging to the individual student and overall school climate which effects every student and teacher.

Alternatives discipline measures need to be implemented now.

School Choice, NYC

I am from a very small town in a very rural state. We did not have any choice in which public school we attended, and did not apply to any schools until college.  Even then, college was clearly a option not chosen by all. Coming to New York City, the concept of “school choice” had to be explained to me.  It took me a long time to even learn that charter schools are in fact public schools that are privately run. Because of how new the concept of school choice was to me, I did not feel I could have an opinion until very recently, and I have come to learn many things regarding the different perspectives on school choice.

School Choice is not a long-term solution.   Charter schools are able to be innovative in a way that regular public schools cannot be, using funds in a way that the founder sees fit to invest in different teaching techniques, different types of school operations, new technology for the school staff and students to use, and the hiring of different types of school staff. Because of this, many charter schools have been very successful in bringing up their students’ academic achievement, while others have not fared as well. The Department of Education should be using lessons learned from charter school successes and failures to implement best practices in public schools.

School choice also burdens families with making the decision of where to apply and which schools to attend. It widens the achievement gap, by rewarding those families with more time and resources because they are the families whose students are going to the best schools. A student should be guaranteed a quality education no matter what school they attend.

So many schools in New York City are failing, and it has become necessary to establish immediate alternatives so that current students are able to learn and achieve academic success at the same levels as others in their grades across the country.  I cannot discredit the work the charter schools have done.  But at the heart of the matter, all students should be receiving a quality education without having to apply to exclusive schools, where there is a chance they may not be accepted. Students that are not accepted and enrolled into the top NYC public schools should not have to suffer from a poor educational system. The NYC school choice system has become dependent on the idea that their are better options available for children, when in reality, an investment has to be made in those that are performing poorly to bring them up to par.  Charter schools and school choice should not be necessary in order to gain a good education.