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2023 Session #3: Meeting the Educational Needs of Arizona’s Foster Youth – A Panel Discussion

February 9, 2023 9:00am-10:30am

African-American children are disproportionately represented in foster care systems across the country, as are students with disabilities. This panel session will discuss the educational challenges faced by children in foster care, as well as the laws that exist to protect them and the steps key players in Arizona are taking to improve educational outcomes for foster youth. The panel will include a representative from the Arizona Department of Child Safety, the Arizona Department of Education, nonprofit education advocacy group FosterEd Arizona, a former foster parent, and a special education attorney from the Arizona Center for Disability Law.

Presenters:

Czarina Valadez, South Region Program Specialist, Arizona Department of Child Safety

Czarina Valadez is employed by Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS), as the South Region Program Specialist. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Family Studies and Human Development from University of Arizona and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Arizona State University. One of her many roles is child welfare liaison for Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for Cochise, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties. She helps DCS staff work with local schools, advocating that foster youth remain in their school of origin when there has been a change in their living arrangement and when it is in their best interest. Czarina’s passion is ensuring foster youth are afforded the same opportunities as youth not in the child welfare system.

Joey Taylor, Foster Care Education Coordinator, Arizona Department of Education

Hailing from the hills of South Phoenix, Joey Taylor was formed, raised, and educated in Arizona. Joey has a diverse background that spans the halls of jail, the desks of exceptional students, and the homes of families in crisis. Currently serving as the Foster Care Education Coordinator for the Arizona Department of Education, Joey oversees every public school & charter to ensure the successful implementation of the educational rights of students in foster care. Joey strives tirelessly to support educators, child welfare workers, and caregivers to impact children in foster care and promote their bright educational future.

Ashely Dickerson, Maricopa County Senior Program Manager, FosterEd: Arizona

Ashely is the Maricopa County Senior Program Manager with FosterEd: Arizona, and a former FosterEd Arizona Education Liaison. She is a proud Arizona native and attended the University of Arizona where she studied the Social and Cultural Foundations in Public Education while focusing on Adolescent Development, Ed Policy and Africana Studies. Ashely has extensive experience both in and out of the traditional education field and has worked with various nonprofits including serving as an elementary school teacher, completing four terms as an AmeriCorps member in her community, and launching her own leadership and empowerment program for girls of color. Education campaigns and civic engagement are at the core of her efforts. She is passionate about creating an equitable and just education system in Arizona, which has led her to FosterEd: Arizona.

Jennie Hedges, foster/adoptive parent

Jennie Hedges (she/her) (pictured second from the right), originally from New Jersey, is a wife and mother of three living in Tucson, AZ. Jennie and her wife were kinship and foster parents for several years before closing their license following their daughter’s adoption in 2021. Jennie is also a Senior Program Manager with FosterEd Arizona and has worked within FosterEd since 2017. As a mother to three children who all have unique needs, Jennie joins our panel ready to talk about her family’s experiences navigating and supporting one another through the child welfare system, special education, and more.

Amanda Glass, Education Team Managing Attorney, Arizona Center for Disability Law

Amanda Glass is the Education Team Managing Attorney at the Arizona Center for Disability Law (DRAZ). Amanda began her legal career at DRAZ as an Equal Justice Works Fellow with a fellowship project focused on improving access to special education and mental health services for children affected by Arizona’s foster care system. Amanda has continued that work over the last four years in her subsequent roles at DRAZ as staff attorney and managing attorney. Amanda is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Prior to attending law school, Amanda earned her master’s degree in special education and spent two years as an elementary school special education teacher in Los Angeles through Teach for America.

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