Children in foster care face many unique challenges, including ones that impact their educational achievements. We’ll hear about a recent report on those challenges, and then Marcelino Canuas of the Cartwright School District will tell us more about issues facing children in foster care as they attempt to gain an education and efforts to help them. (one other guest pending)
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll look at effort to slow the spread of the Zika virus this summer. Also tonight, the challenges in educating Arizona foster children. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."
Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Arizona's unemployment rate ticked up a bit in April. Arizona's jobless rate was 5.5%, that's up a tenth of a percent from March. Five sectors added jobs, the same number lost jobs, with one remaining the same. Professional and business services added 6800 jobs while manufacturing lost 1700. The Zika virus has been detected in Arizona, with the monsoon a month off efforts are underway to slow the spread of the virus. Joining us is Bob Charles, chief of legislative affairs with the Arizona division of Occupational Safety and Health. Let's define terms here, what is the Zika virus?
Bob Charles: Right now the disease is going around, it's being transmitted by mosquitoes and particularly we've got here in Arizona the yellow fever mosquitoes. That's what would be transmitting this disease.
Ted Simons: These particular mosquitoes, are they different from the ankle biters and other mosquitoes we get every year?
Bob Charles: It is something we do get in Arizona every year. Coming up with the hot, warm weather, it's the typical mosquito around Arizona, not one that's new coming into the state.
Ted Simons: The virus is new and it has been detected in Arizona.
Bob Charles: There's one detection. The numbers tell a story that's good to look at. Nationwide about a week and a half ago CDC had numbers of about 500 nationally, 504. This week it's up to 544. The numbers are jumping. Our neighbor to the west, California has 40. They had 40 last week, 44 this week, Arizona has one.
Ted Simons: It's more than likely going to head here. Is it contagious?
Ted Simons: The only way is through sexual contact. That's why there's also the fear with pregnancy and that sort of stuff. What are the symptoms then of the Zika virus?
Bob Charles: Typically, nothing really, you're going to be less aware of than like the flu. You're going have potentially a rash, aching muscles, fever, and pink or red eyes.
Ted Simons: Is it dangerous?
Bob Charles: There's been a few confirmed cases of people being fatal for them. On average it's not dangerous to somebody who's healthy. It's dangerous to somebody who's carrying a child, for that child.
Ted Simons: That's the major concern in Central and South America where we're seeing this advisory for the most part right now.
Bob Charles: Correct. The CDC doesn't know exactly how often somebody is infected with Zika virus, how often is it that the child will have some difficulties. There is a connection between Zika and some of these illnesses.
Ted Simons: Can you be infected with the virus and not know it?
Bob Charles: That's a really good question, you can. Only one in five people that do become infected with Zika will show signs or symptoms.
Ted Simons: Interesting. You mentioned the microcephalic babies in South America. Again, Barr syndrome, are we looking at that?
Bob Charles: These mosquitoes carry that, as well. Another reason it's important.
Ted Simons: The risk of this spreading throughout Arizona, are there regions, areas of Arizona we're really watching out for? Obviously the time of the monsoon is a biggie.
Bob Charles: Yes, South heading North. It's going to be coming from the lower regions and head North. Going towards the monsoon season, the reason why, it's pretty basic. You have the rains coming in, the hot, warm weather. The water sits in a bucket that you have out back or in your trashcan. Mosquitoes come, they have the virus and mosquitoes don't travel far. If you can keep your home and workplace safe, that's why I'm here, to talk about the workplace, as well. If you can keep your workplace safe, you're probably going to be taken care of.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about what everyone should do, be it a business or a residence, to make sure that mosquitoes in general aren't there and especially these Zika carrying mosquitoes.
Bob Charles: In the workplace, let's talk about that. The most likely person to contract Zika is somebody who works outdoors. When you're working outdoors if that's your job, speak with your employer. They should be talking with employees right now, talking about clothing that's loose fitting but cool, covering up the skin and also using protectant. Important, something I didn't know before this stuff started coming out, was in order -- I mow my lawn every weekend, and in the hot and warm weather I want to make sure that I'm protected from the sun. Now at this point in time I also want to be protected from mosquitoes. It's important to note you put on your sunscreen first and then the repellent.
Ted Simons: Interesting. And the repellent has to carry DEET, right?
Bob Charles: If you look on the bottle there's a CDC seal at the level that is appropriate to protect. It's up 24% about of DEET.
Ted Simons: But you've got to put one on before the other.
Bob Charles: Put on your sun block first. Keep in mind also when you put repellent on it's going to lower the SPF value by a third. Make sure you put on the DEET repellent afterwards. There's stuff you can put on your clothing, which is great. Use it on your clothing but not on your skin.
Ted Simons: We're still concerned with West Nile virus here, too, right?
Bob Charles: Yes, but potentially again, these mosquitoes would be carrying that, as well.
Ted Simons: Our government agencies, municipalities, are these folks getting together and getting a plan in action? Or are we just kind of waiting and seeing?
Bob Charles: There's work with DHS and us to talk to employers and the workplace. DHS I know is doing some work as well. But there is not a statewide plan put together for it.
Ted Simons: There's always been a major concern around neighborhoods being fogged for this sort of thing. Will the Zika virus peak and go away? Will we have to deal with it every single summer like West Nile?
Bob Charles: We don't know yet. We look at the Olympics and people pushing to potentially move the Olympics. That sets up a scenario that really is not good. Everybody is coming into a location that's heavy for Zika and going back home to potentially spread it. We don't know yet.
Ted Simons: I guess the smart idea, everything you've done to protect yourself against West Nile and mosquitoes in general, keep doing it or maybe more so, with Zika on the way.
Bob Charles: There's no vaccine for the Zika.
Ted Simons: All right. Good information, good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Bob Charles: Thank you. Â¶Â¶ Â¶Â¶
Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of American Graduate looks at the education gap for children in foster care. A new study by the Arizona Community Foundation takes a comprehensive look at just how far Arizona foster children are falling behind. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Langston Fields take a look at a woman succeeding in spite of the odds.
Video: Kristan Glover is a student ambassador for the community college.
Kristan Gover: Just like always I'm reminding them that it is going to be a challenging but like exciting experience. There's going to be times when you want to cry because you have five papers due in one night. There are times when you ace a test and you're beyond excited because you worked so hard for that.
Video: If anyone can relate to the fears and insecurities these students face, it's Kristan. She spent 16 years in the foster system.
Kristan Gover: When you feel like you're on your own you don't do very good in school.
Video: She went to live with her grandparents as part of the kinship placement. At 16 she found herself in a group shelter where she struggled with high school.
Kristan Gover: No one was there to help you with your homework or to make sure you completed it.
Video: A few months later she was placed in a foster home. Slowly she was able to make breakthroughs. Kristan is one of 10,000 students in Arizona also placed in foster care. The challenges they face are enormous.
Vince Yanez: You can see the huge achievement gap just in terms of getting students from kindergarten all the way through the pipeline, when really just one in three of our foster students graduate from Arizona schools.
Video: Vince Yanez leads ACF's education and public policy department. He says the study highlighted seven key areas where improvement is needed.
Vince Yanez: Before the study there was no data on how foster youth performed in our Arizona schools. It just didn't exist, it was all anecdotal.
Video: The biggest challenge facing foster kids, they don't always have a permanent home. On average most foster kids change schools four to five times in a school year. That makes it difficult to track where a student is in her coursework. Kristan was lucky, she stayed at the same high school for all four years. Others, depending on their background, could face learning challenges. There simply aren't enough resources for foster children. And beyond that, another issue surprised Vince.
Video: So the foster system at DCS, that system's never really talked to our historical system at DCS. We can go to any school around the state. And the school doesn't really know who their foster kids are, which students they have that are in foster care.
Video: He says this study solves that issue. Now each Arizona school knows who the foster kids are and can offer them help. It's a first step into getting the system on track. Meanwhile, Kristan is on a good path now. She graduates in May and will transfer to Arizona State University. She wants to work with foster kids who have also been sex trafficked. She says giving up is not an option.
Kristan Gover: It's so easy to give up, I almost gave up a billion times. I realize the benefits of never giving up outweigh giving up by a billion times.
Ted Simons: Hear with more on the challenges and solutions for students in foster care is Kris Jacober, executive director of Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation, and Pete Hershberger, director of Fostered: Arizona. A pilot program that recently received funding to expand statewide.
Ted Simons: Why is this happening?
Kris Jacober: I'm a foster mom. Here's why it happens. Kids come, they don't know what was the last school they were in. Who were their teachers, what were they good at. In this little girl's case, by the time we figured out she needed other things, she had moved in with a relative in Prescott. So then the process starts all over again. So for kids in foster care who go from school to school to school, they don't necessarily carry their transcripts in their stuff.
Ted Simons: That seems to be a recurring issue here, foster kids that literally I think almost by definition can't seem to settle down. They don't have the opportunity to settle down.
Pete Hershberger: Right. All the systems that deal with foster children in Arizona are stressed. Child welfare, schools. And the way they deal with foster children is through their own programs. They don't coordinate with the foster children. Foster Ed program gets these state agencies to work together for the best interests of the child, to meet the educational needs of these foster children.
Ted Simons: Give us an example of how these agencies either don't work together or through Foster Ed wind up working together.
Pete Hershberger: We get them to communicate together through the teaming model that we have, to where on an educational team for a foster child, the DCS workers there, one or more people from the school are there, the behavioral health worker is there, our intermediate area, the educational champion is there, and other interested adults, possibly relatives, are on that team working together to meet the educational plan that meets the needs of the foster child.
Ted Simons: What have you seen as far as state efforts to get these kids better educated, settled down if you will, and to get everyone else on the same page to help the kid?
Kris Jacober: Well, you heard in that package that it has not been a priority for the Department of Child Safety. So with foster parents, we don't necessarily hear about education and how to make that work. So in our individual, everybody in our own situation, we try to figure out what does this child need. Do they need tutoring, would they benefit from extracurricular activities. What are supports for them to succeed in school. It offers a little relief that kids can stay in their home school maybe when they come into foster care. They can still be transported to their home school so that helps. But all the efforts are so shotgun and individual and depend on the individual placement of the children.
Ted Simons: Have they always been shotgun?
Kris Jacober: That I know of. And I lived in a group home, homework wasn't a priority, education maybe wasn't a priority. Right now a child's education and success depends on their placement.
Ted Simons: Are we narrowing the focus here a little bit? Or are we still shotgun?
Pete Hershberger: Yes, we are narrowing the program, foster Ed does that. Plus the recent rewrite of No Child Left Behind called every student succeeds, has provisions for foster care as staying in the school of origin. And the states are now going to have to dig aggregate data and report out on graduation rates and GPAs for foster children and homeless children. That alone in a few years is going to drive policy, because the invisible achievement gap report, we are not going to allow that to be invisible anymore with that reporting.
Ted Simons: You might not allow it to be invisible any more but it might wind up being invisible if you don't have champions at the state legislature. As you well know, being a former lawmaker. Do we have champions down there?
Pete Hershberger: We have champions as evidenced by the passage of House bill 2665 that authorized foster Ed to be statewide with a gap year. We are going take this program throughout the state. Representative John Allen is certainly a champion, he sponsored that bill. The Governor's office and the governor supported this proposal. So we do have champions on both sides of the aisle for addressing this issue.
Ted Simons: We heard your story with your foster child and your situation. What else are you hearing? What other stories are there out there? Recurring again instances of this is a problem, problem, always seems to be a problem.
Pete Hershberger: So Arizona Friends, we do a couple of things. We pay for things for kids in foster care that the state doesn't pay for. We pay for tutoring. We hear every day from parents who, you know, from foster parents, from grandmas, from whoever, who has custody of their grandchild or is a foster mom or whatever. They are two or three or four grade levels behind, they haven't gone to school in a year and a half. So as Pete said, until now and in that package it's been anecdotal. But now we know. A third of kids in foster care graduate from high school. That's abysmal. And so the hope is really that with this priority on a kid's education.
Ted Simons: Would you like to see more of a priority on the younger kids? I would imagine once that terrible merry-go-round gets started it's hard to stop it. Here's the thing, my experience and what is true in foster care. Foster care, you know, is generational. Mom was in foster care, grandma might have been in foster care. Someone has to stick their foot in the merry-go-round. To me that's education, the great equalizer. You know what, I foster kids zero to five. My job is to get them ready to go to school. And there again, there's some shotgun approach to early infant brain development and the stuff that has to happen for kids between zero and five to get them ready but we're moving down that path. We have to.
Pete Hershberger: That's a good point. We need prevention programs to return to Arizona. We've stopped funding prevention programs that keep kids out of the system, that help families at-risk families and at-risk kids. We desperately need those funds back.
Ted Simons: If there was a number one priority that you had at the top of the list, would that be it?
Pete Hershberger: Yes. I would want to keep kids out of the system. Help that system and help individual kids. Plus we're learn being systems change and that's the communication. In the package they mentioned letting schools know who their foster children are. Foster Ed developed that process to let schools know and we're working with the Department of Education to keep in a information safe and the protocols for that.
Ted Simons: Last question for you. The number one priority, what is it out there?
Kris Jacober: The number one priority --
Ted Simons: For educating foster kids. What would you want to see done by the movers and shakers?
Kris Jacober: You know what, I say this all the time. It's what you said, Pete. I would like to see somebody bite the bullet and say we are going make an investment on the front end. We're going to stop building prisons, stop kids who age out of school with one high school credit.
Ted Simons: Think that message is getting through?
Kris Jacober: You know, little by little.
Pete Hershberger: These kids end up ill equipped to be productive citizens. They end up homeless, in prisons or unemployed. Those are huge costs to the state and that's a message to our legislators.
Ted Simons: All right. We got the message, good to you have here.
Kris Jacober: Thank you very much. Thank you.
Video: We want to hear from you. Submit your questions, comments and concerns via email at "Arizona Horizon" at USA.EDU.
Ted Simons: As producer Allysa Adams found out, the job is homecoming for this unique comedian.
Video: It's not easy, just ask the students in this comedy class.
Corner Wareing: It's a daily, daily grind in view of a higher, higher thing. This is the most difficult class I've got going.
Video: The single microphone on a solitary stage can invoke some serious fear. Maysoon Zayid has been there.
Maysoon Zayid: It's about writing, knowing what to do when the audience doesn't laugh, being quick on your feet. Understanding the structure of a joke and how to put your jokes in order so you get to your funniest joke last. And you know how to build the set.
Video: Zayid's students are learning that and more under the watchful eye of this mother hen.
Maysoon Zayid: It was brave, you totally committed to it.
Video: She has a lot of years of stand-up comedy under her belt.
Video: But her earlest dreams started and ended right here in Tempe as a theater major at ASU.
Maysoon Zayid: My dream in life was to be on "general hospital." Sadly, my dream in life is still to be on "general hospital." When I turned on the TV I didn't see people who looked like me.
Video: She turned to comedy because the ranks felt more familiar.
Maysoon Zayid: When I looked, I saw people like Richard Pryor, I saw Carol Burnett, Rosie O'Donnell. I'll do comedy. I didn't know that I was going to love it.
Video: Now she brings that love of comedy to a different stage. Twice a week she coaches her students with an infectious laugh and some tough troops.
Maysoon Zayid: You had a rough start and we'll talk about that.
Julio Partida: She tells you exactly, exactly what you don't want to hear and what you want to hear. She's very open.
Maysoon Zayid: I didn't know when I became a comedian that I was ever going to be teaching anyone. I just wanted to become a comedian.
Video: Turns out she has always been a teacher of sorts. She has cerebral palsy and every strange stare or odd remark becomes an opportunity for her to educate. Comedy is one of her most effective teaching tools. Doing comedy and disability takes out of disability the fear and struggle. It allows people to understand, we're just like you. I have 99 problems and palsy is just one.
Video: Right now she's focused on helping these fledgling commedians through five minutes on pop culture.
Maysoon Zayid: They have to prepare a routine every week on such diverse topics as family, politics and ASU.
Maysoon Zayid: The goal is when they leave the class they will have an actual comedy set they could take to any open mic, to any audition.
Video: She wants them to take away more than momentary adulation.
Video: College was not easy for this btown skinned person from New Jersey as she calls herself.
Maysoon Zayid: I want them to understand that the world doesn't end with college. The stress is going to be forgotten within 18 months of graduating. Just kind of lighten up a little bit. I'm okay with crying as long as it's attached to laughter.
Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening. Captioning Performed By LNS Captioning www.LNScaptioning.com
In this segment:
Marcelino Canuas: Cartwright School District
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