Young people who have experienced a substantiated case of abuse or neglect or who have been in a juvenile justice placement are significantly higher risk for dropping out of school before they graduate. In 2008, the City of Philadelphia identified several targeted strategies to reduce its high dropout rate, including strengthening cross-systems partnerships among city government, the human services community, and the school district to improve educational outcomes for system-involved young people.
Through her Stoneleigh Fellowship, Liza Rodriguez worked across systems to establish an Education Support Center in the City’s Department of Human Services (DHS). Liza reviewed relevant literature on systemic educational supports for children in the child welfare/juvenile justice systems; conducted interviews and focus groups with systems leaders, service providers, staff, and young people; and compiled an inventory of existing educational services throughout DHS. She was able to identify areas where existing educational services and resources could be better aligned and leveraged. After identifying best practice approaches and models that were a good fit for the Philadelphia context, Liza worked with the Mayor’s Office of Education, DHS, and the School District to develop the infrastructure and functions for the Education Support Center.