The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic significantly disrupted education systems in the United States as evidenced by school closures, the rapid implementation of online learning, physical distancing policies, and restrictions on extracurricular activities. Youth in foster care are a vulnerable population in need of school-based services and supports to ensure positive educational outcomes.
This qualitative interview study assessed the pandemic’s impact on the educational experiences of foster youth in the United States from the perspectives of their caseworkers. Participant caseworkers discussed how the pandemic affected the academic progress and social/emotional development of youth in foster care and highlighted some challenges of online learning. They also described how the pandemic impacted classroom management, communication and relationships, and special education services. Overall, caseworkers believed many of the educational challenges caused by the pandemic would not have long-term implications, and they highlighted several positive outcomes resulting from the changes in school operations. Results suggest that caseworkers can mitigate some of the short-term negative effects by ensuring these students have reliable access to technology and that screenings and referrals for therapeutic services are completed in a timely manner.