New Foster Education Program to provide higher level of service to children

Student writing in a notebook

Dec. 17, 2019 - Douglas Education Service District, Roseburg Public Schools, Douglas County Juvenile Services and other local partners are working to lay the ground work for an innovative program dedicated to the educational needs and well-being of some of Oregon’s most vulnerable youths.

The new Foster Education Program is expected to be up and running in the new year and will support foster children who are under the care of the Douglas County Juvenile Department. The county provides shelter, behavior rehabilitation, skill building and recreational activities; counseling and treatment programs and access to health and educational opportunities for up to 36 youths from around the state in three residential facilities. The high degree of care these youths require means that they are currently unable to be placed in foster homes or attend a regular classroom setting.

“Most of these children come from a wide range of traumatic backgrounds and are brought to Douglas County with an extremely high need for social-emotional and mental health supports,” said Douglas ESD Superintendent Michael Lasher. “We are so proud to be among the community partners that have stepped up to give these children the supports and care they need to not only survive but to thrive.”

The new Foster Education Program was made possible due to the concerted efforts of Douglas County, who organized the partners and drove the conversation to negotiate with the State of Oregon.  Now with the substantial resources from the Department of Human Services, it will allow Roseburg Public Schools and Douglas ESD to provide the higher level of services that these youths require and deserve.    

As it has been for many years, the students’ education will remain under the purview of Roseburg Public Schools, but moving forward Douglas ESD will be coordinating and managing the program. Phoenix School of Roseburg, which currently coordinates the educational services for the county, will continue to provide services until winter break.

“This partnership will provide these children much needed social, emotional, and mental health supports that will help them be better prepared to learn, grow, and become contributing members in their communities,” said Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cordon. “We are excited to partner with Douglas ESD for this program, as the ESD is uniquely positioned to offer the mix of care and education that these students need.”

Lasher said that traditionally, although state law stipulates that foster children living within a school district’s boundaries are the responsibility of that district, previously no additional resources have been provided by the state to address the youths’ unique needs.

“We are thankful that DHS has stepped up to provide more robust supports for these children, commensurate to their needs. We believe that ultimately, this model will prove not only more beneficial to the children, but more economically efficient for the state,” Lasher said.

“We are grateful that Phoenix School brought this issue to our attention and for Commissioner Tim Freeman for championing the effort to bring all the partners to the table to exact a workable solution,” commented Douglas County Juvenile Services Director, Aric Fromdahl.  “We look forward to working with Douglas ESD and the Roseburg School District as they complete and implement their new Foster Education Program.”

Douglas ESD is hiring teachers, instructional assistants and a behavioral interventionist for the new program, with seven new employees hired within the past two weeks. Classes will be held at Rose Alternative School.