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The state of Utah has implemented Check & Connect statewide, specifically as an intervention service to support children in foster care. Implementation has been seamless because school districts already had mentors serving children in foster care. Check & Connect provided the evidence-based prevention model and programmatic guidelines they needed for this at-risk population of students. Districts are now providing similar services regardless of which district the students are in – critically important since the students are highly mobile.
When: The state of Utah began training in April of 2013 and expected full implementation from school districts during the 2013-2014 school year. This aggressive implementation timeline was only possible because they already had the infrastructure in the form of an existing mentoring program and an established funding source.
Scope: The state of Utah has about 1,600 school-age children in foster care. The majority of those children attend school in 19 school districts. Each of those districts employs enough Check & Connect mentors to meet the ratios outlined in the Check & Connect training manual.
The Utah State Office of Education works in partnership with the State Division of Child and Family Services to understand which school districts have the largest populations of children in foster care. In order for school districts to be eligible for funding, they need to meet a threshold of eligible children in their district. Nineteen of the fourty districts have demonstrated need and receive funding to provide Check & Connect.
Grade levels served: Mentors serve children from kindergarten to 12th grade.
Student population served: Children and youth in foster care.
Referral criteria: No referral required. If a child is in state care, they are automatically eligible for a Check & Connect mentor. A child's ability and success in school determines the level of intervention a mentor will provide. Foster parents or caseworkers can opt out of the program if they feel the child does not need services.
Implementation options: Some school districts have embraced Check & Connect in an innovative way, eliminating self-contained classrooms previously designated for students in foster care and instead providing those same students with a less restrictive setting and a platform for support and success. Implementation has been successful and smooth.
Use with existing initiatives: Our implementation has been relatively smooth because each school district had existing personnel; they just needed training. The Check & Connect mentors are hired as dedicated mentors — they do not have other responsibilities in their school districts outside of their role as mentors.
Funding: The Utah Legislature appropriates a line item of funding for educating youth in state care. This funding covers all educational programs for youth in juvenile justice facilities, classrooms in residential treatment centers, classrooms in alternative high schools, etc., and Check & Connect.