August 1, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury 1999 Final Report: Education of Abused and Neglected Children
Background | Findings | Commendations | Recommendations
Background:

The San Mateo County Human Services Agency (HSA) operates the County Receiving Home (CRH) in which abandoned, abused and neglected children are placed by Children's Protective Services (CPS) social workers. The average period of time the children, ages eight to 18, stay at the CRH is between a few days to six months. Only a few children remain more than six months. Younger children, ages eight to 11, are typically placed directly into foster homes unless they have severe emotional problems, in which case they are lodged at the CRH. The maximum capacity at the shelter is 19 children, with an average of 12 residing at the CRH at any one time. After evaluation and counseling by the CPS social workers, most of the children are placed in foster homes.

The staff at the CRH cannot force the children to attend school even though the children are legally required to attend school. The staff at the CRH counsel, advise and tutor the children. About half of the children continue to attend their home schools. The teenagers can enroll in the nearby public high schools, but this has not been a successful option in the past. Many of the children had school attendance problems before being placed at the CRH. Because of the interruptions in their education, these students often have a hopeless outlook on their ability to earn enough credits for graduation.

In the past, children at the CRH attended class in a San Carlos school based upon the "one room school" model where all grade levels were taught by one teacher. A financial loss due to low average daily attendance caused the San Mateo County Office of Education to eliminate this facility, which in turn limited the educational opportunities of the children at the CRH. Currently, the HSA staff tutors the CRH children who do not attend school and helps those children attending school with their homework.

The CRH is located in the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD) which has responsibility for the education of high school children residing in its district. In the 1998-1999 school year, the SMUHSD and Hillsdale High School administration appointed a special education teacher to conduct classes at the CRH. Only children determined to have special education needs may attend these classes according to the State Education Code.

Findings:

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury toured the CRH and interviewed members of the staff and management. In early 1999, many problems continued to exist with most children not attending school. Some progress was noted, with a full-time special education teacher located at the CRH. The staff at the CRH stated this teacher made a substantial difference in the education and attitude of the special education students.

Continuation high schools are an alternative means of motivating students unlikely to graduate from a comprehensive high school. High school districts operate continuation schools, and school administrators identify select students who could benefit from the unique school. These schools offer students condensed course material and assignments, allowing them to earn credits toward graduation in a shorter period of time. Typically, continuation school students may have truancy, drug, alcohol, or behavior problems and lack credits for graduation. Prior to enrolling in the continuation school, such students have little hope of graduating from high school.

The Grand Jury suggested the continuation school concept to the CRH staff as a way for the children to attend school while residing temporarily at the CRH. The teenagers could continue to attend classes and receive credit for completed course work. While their lives and place of residence were disrupted, they could have stability in their education.

The staff at the CRH worked cooperatively with the District Superintendent of Schools and the Principal of Hillsdale High School to arrange for placement of the children at the District's continuation school, Peninsula High School. The staff reported the students attended classes regularly in the spring semester and were satisfied with the continuation school.

The special education teacher and the continuation school resolved only part of the problem of education of abused and neglected children at the CRH. There is still a need for a trained education counselor to assess the children's education needs and recommend proper school placement. A counselor is also needed to encourage attendance at school, to serve as a liaison between the CRH, the student's home school and any interim school, and to provide crisis counseling for these children who are often under extreme stress.

Commendations:

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury commends the Superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District and the Director of Special Education for placing a full-time special education teacher at the County Receiving Home.

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury commends the Superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District and the Principal of Hillsdale High School for facilitating the enrollment of the County Receiving Home students at the District's continuation high school, Peninsula High School, in the spring semester of 1999.

Recommendations:


Recommendation 38

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors direct the Director of the Human Services Agency to collaborate with the County Superintendent of Schools to provide a counselor at the County Receiving Home in the spring semester of 2000. This counselor should provide educational assessments, crisis counseling and the development of educational plans, as well as act as a liaison between the County Receiving Home and the students' home schools. Students from local colleges who need such work to complete their required internships are a possible source of counselors.


Recommendation 39

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools collaborate with the Director of Human Services to provide a counselor at the County Receiving Home in the spring semester of 2000.


Recommendation 40

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County 2000 Grand Jury monitors the education of the children and the status of the placement of an education counselor at the County Receiving Home.

 

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