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 Fostering Academic Success

Norma Chanudomchok says she’s excited every morning to be able to come to work and help ensure a brighter future for foster youth.

She’s one of 10 educational liaisons working on San Diego County Office of Education’s Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services unit.

“It’s very rewarding work,” Chanudomchok said. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

The educational liaisons are based in the County of San Diego Child Welfare Services offices, spending their days working with social workers, schools, caregivers, and attorneys to ensure that education of youth in foster care is being considered when decisions are made and that all educational needs are being met.

Chanudomchok joined SDCOE in 1999 as a temporary secretary in the Safe Schools program after moving to San Diego with her husband and twin sons. The family had been living in Thailand for many years for her husband’s business, and they returned to the United States for their sons to attend college.

She soon became a full-time program secretary in the Foster Youth services unit and went to work on building contacts to improve communications between agencies that support and serve foster youth.

“We came up with an interagency agreement that allows for the sharing of information, so that everyone could support our kids,” she said. “So if a youth was changing schools, a social worker could call the school and ask for information.”

Chanudomchok works with older teens in the Extended Foster Care Program, which serves foster youth starting at age 17. She focuses her students on graduating from high school and considering their higher-education options.

“It’s working with them to figure out their best options, showing them what’s available, and asking, ‘What’s best for you?’” she said. “We go through the pros and cons.”

Chanudomchok provides information and resources related to college, career, and vocational opportunities, and the financial aid options to reach those goals. She works side by side with students and social workers to help them apply to college and for financial aid and scholarships. She also makes sure that the outgoing students will get the support they need and works with a team of supporters to help them evaluate their connections, strengths, concerns, and plans.

“That transition piece is very important to them,” she said. “They’re really preparing to go off into that adult world.”