The Treehouse Educational Advocacy Program
About This Program
Target Population: Foster youth living in out of home care, Pre-K through 12th grades
For children/adolescents ages: 4 – 19
The Treehouse Educational Advocacy Program provides educational advocates who work with schools, social workers, relatives, foster families and foster youth to resolve difficult issues and remove barriers to foster youths’ school success. Advocates are co-located in child welfare offices around the state, which enables them to work directly with public child welfare social workers to include education in the daily case-planning of foster children. Educational Advocates:
- Help students access education-related support services, including special education.
- Prevent school changes when students’ home placements change.
- Pave the way for seamless transitions when school changes are unavoidable.
- Minimize the effects of disciplinary actions that keep students out of school.
- Assist high school youth in making up credits when necessary and identifying alternative high school programs to stay engaged and on track to graduate.
- Train caregivers, social workers and students themselves to advocate for students’ educational rights.
The goals of The Treehouse Educational Advocacy Program are:
- Youth will have an increased likelihood of accessing improved school-based services and supports for which they qualify
- Youth will experience enrollment continuity and stability
- Youth will experience a decrease in inappropriate use of suspensions and expulsions
- Youth will advance to the next grade and will have the appropriate credits to be on track for high school graduation
The essential components of The Treehouse Educational Advocacy Program include:
- Advocates co-located in offices with case carrying child welfare social workers
- Advocates are lay advocates, not legal advocates
- Utilization of a three-tiered level of service based on youth/family needs: Direct, Consultation and Information & Referral
- Focus is on education and education-related issues only
- Commitment to building capacity within caregiver, social worker, and youth to be the educational advocate, through coaching, informal training and formal classroom-style instruction
- Short-term intervention (expectation that cases will be open 6-9 months)
- Ability to use individualized interventions within a structured matrix of standard goals and interventions
- Holding high expectations of youth
- High commitment to consistent data collection and entry and ongoing evaluation
- Advocates assist the children by:
- Ensuring access to school-based services such as Special Education or 504 Plans
- Reducing and dismissing school imposed discipline and ensuring that preventative plans exist to support youth with social/emotional behavior needs
- Mitigating school moves for children and youth who move homes or reducing any enrollment and attendance delays if a school move is unavoidable
- Preventing youth from dropping out of school and assisting youth in identifying school placements that are a better fit
- Avoiding school retention and instead ensuring that youth move ahead grade to grade with the proper support, if needed
- Helping high school youth stay on track or get back on track in order to reach high school graduation
The Treehouse Educational Advocacy Program directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:
- Lack of access to school-based services such as Special Education or 504 plans, special social/emotional behavior needs in school, frequent school moves, higher likelihood to drop out of school, and higher likelihood to repeat a grade level
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:
This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Advocates work with all the adults in a child or youth’s life, particularly the caregivers and social workers, but also including Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem, mental health therapist, mentor, and, of course, school personnel. Advocates work to create education teams around youth and also to increase the capacity of the primary adult in the youth’s life (usually the caregiver) to be the educational advocate.Treehouse Educational Advocates provide coaching, guidance and informal training to this adult, usually caregivers, on educational policies, rights, responsibilities and how to navigate the youth’s specific educational situation. Treehouse Educational Advocates provide the majority of their interventions in this consultative manner, helping the primary adult in a youth’s life be the primary advocate.The training component of the program is entirely focused on building this capacity in the adults, and youth themselves, to uphold the educational advocacy responsibilities.
Interventions vary based on need and circumstances. An intervention with a family in the midst of educational crisis (expulsion, barrier to enrollment, high-needs youth navigating Special Education services) can comprise multiple hours and multiple contacts in one day or in one week. Frequency and duration of contacts are usually higher at the beginning of the case and then lessen as the need ends. Once the immediate educational issue upon referral has been resolved, the program recommends a minimum of one monthly contact with the youth and family until the case closes.
Most cases remain open for 6-9 months.
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Community Agency
- Foster/Kinship Care
This program does not include a homework component.
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
Advocates require office space and access in local child welfare agencies including a desk, computer, phone, and email.
Education and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
- Bachelor’s degree or commensurate experience in a related field, such as social work or education
- 2 or more years of professional experience with advocacy and with youth, preferably youth in out-of-home care
- Demonstrated understanding of federal and state education law, including special education
- Demonstrated ability to collaborate and coordinate services with community agencies in a professional manner.
- Demonstrated ability to establish and maintain successful working relationships with agency staff, youth, and volunteers
- Ability to successfully manage time and prioritize workload
- Demonstrated ability to work with individuals of diverse social, economical, and cultural backgrounds
- Ability and aptitude with Word, Excel, and database management programs
- Excellent written and oral communication skills
- Transportation and the ability to travel within a seventy-five mile radius of office site is required
Education and Training Resources
There is not a manual that describes how to implement this program ; but there is training available for this program.
Training is obtained:
Varies depending on agency being trained
Number of days/hours:
Varies depending on agency being trained
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for The Treehouse Educational Advocacy Program.
Pennucci, A. (2010). Education advocacy for foster youth in Washington State. (Document No. 10-04-3901). Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
Burley, M. (2011). Educational advocates for foster youth in Washington State: Program background and trends (Document No. 11-12-3903). Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: October 2013
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: June 2015
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2012