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C5 Supporting Foster Youth Through The Provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) identifies foster youth as an at risk population, in need of special supports and accommodations to help them reach their potential through educational stability.

Indiana has developed a wonderfully collaborative process by which the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) and the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) work together with Local Education Agencies (LEA's) to support the unique needs of foster youth as students and help them grow towards their educational potential. In this workshop we will provide an overview and of ESSA, the requirements to provide Educational Stability for foster youth and how Indiana has implemented the Act.

Presenter Bios:

Melaina Gant is dedicated to ensuring the educational stability and success of DCS involved youth. Prior to bringing her enthusiasm for education to DCS, she taught first, second and third grade, as well as, a split classroom of second and third graders. She has been inducted into Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education and the Golden Key International Honor Society. Her Bachelor of Arts degree is from Purdue. She received her Master’s in Education with specializations in both Child Development and Family and Community Services from Ashford in 2013. She was originally hired as one of the Northeast Liaisons in 2012 and was promoted to the Education Services Director in September 2014. In January, 2017, Melaina received the appointment to serve as the Co-Chair of the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana: Education Outcomes Task Force and remains dedicated to this role in support of the educational achievements of all Indiana’s vulnerable youth. She has spoken at the Indiana Youth Institute’s Because Kids Count Conference, California’s Foster Youth Education Summit, Indiana Criminal Justice Association Annual Conference, Children’s Justice Act Conference, Children’s Policy and Law Initiative’s Positive School Discipline Institute, University of Indianapolis Impact of Trauma on Health and Academic Achievement Conference, Indiana Education for Homeless Children and Youth Conference and at Georgetown discussing various educational topics pertinent to foster and at-risk youth and highlighting the positive work the DCS Education Services team does to support the academic success of Indiana’s foster youth.
Jeff Wittman has a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Wittenberg University, and has spent the majority of the last 30 years serving in the community mental health and child welfare sector. In a field of high stress and burnout, Jeff feels blessed to be wired with the temperament and support system to allow for endurance and a continued passion for serving others. Work experiences range from inpatient mental health treatment to community based work, and many roles within that continuum of care. In addition, he has been privileged to have roles in direct care, leadership, and development, including being the state director of a therapeutic foster care agency. These different experiences have provided a broad perspective from which to view pertinent issues. Jeff strongly values collaboration and building consensus both within and across disciplines. His current role at the Indiana Department of Education as the School Social Work and Foster Youth Specialist, which began in April, 2017, allows him to utilize his strengths and a lifelong commitment to learning as a platform for educational support and change.



Jeff Wittman, BA & Melaina Gant, MEd