Projects: Educational Neglect

In half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia, a parent who does not ensure that his or her child attends school regularly can be charged with educational neglect and referred to child protective services. Most of these cases in New York State involve teenagers, even though experts and current research agree that the child protective system is not well equipped to address teenage absenteeism. Vera is working with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to study and improve the government’s response to these cases, with support from Casey Family Programs.

Current Work

  • In October 2010, Vera released Getting Teenagers Back to School: Rethinking New York State's Response to Chronic Absence, a policy brief looking at New York State’s practices responding to chronically absent teenagers, particularly reporting and investigating a teen’s parent or guardian to the child protective system for allegations of educational neglect.
  • In December 2009, Vera released Rethinking Educational Neglect for Teenagers: New Strategies for New York State, which describes how the child protective system addresses educational neglect for teenagers and proposes strategies for improving the state’s response.
  • Project staff presented their findings at a statewide symposium to develop ideas for new policies and laws related to educational neglect. The symposium, convened by OCFS, brought together more than 90 participants, including family court judges, education and probation officials, social service commissioners, and service providers.
  • In partnership with state and New York City officials, Vera staff are conducting further research aimed at implementing new strategies and developing alternative approaches to educational neglect for teenagers.

Why This Work Is Important
Educational neglect cases consume a growing portion of the child protective system’s limited resources. Between 2004 and 2008, the number of children reported for educational neglect increased by 34 percent statewide. In 2008, educational neglect had been alleged for one in every 10 children (28,401) whose parents were investigated for abuse or neglect. More than 60 percent (17,369) of these children were teenagers.

A central purpose of child protective system investigations into allegations of educational neglect is to determine whether absence from school is a symptom of abuse or neglect that threatens the child’s safety. Educational neglect reports involving teenagers generally do not present risks of future abuse, neglect, or other safety concerns. They do, however, reveal other issues which the child protective system is not well-equipped to address. These include complex educational needs, conflict between parents and teens, homelessness, and mental illness. This project has identified a strong need for more appropriate, cost-effective responses for chronically truant teenagers that can produce better outcomes for them and their families.

For more information, contact senior planning analyst Jessica Gunderson.

Getting teenagers back to school: rethinking New York State's response to chronic absence
National statistics on chronic absenteeism show that the problem peaks in adolescence, yet most existing responses are contrary to what adolescent development and school engagement research tell us and generally have little effect in getting teens to return to school. This policy brief looks at New...
Rethinking educational neglect for teenagers: new strategies for New York State
Under New York State law, a parent or guardian who does not ensure that his or her child attends school regularly can be found to have neglected the child. From 2004 to 2008, educational neglect allegations increased by 34 percent statewide. Most of these allegations involved children ages 13 to 17...