“Education is the passport to success. That’s my motto for everything. If you prepare for it today, you’ll have a better tomorrow. And that’s why I do this work.”

That’s Ryan Richardson, one of 12 dedicated Education Support Center Colocation Liaisons who are based in Philadelphia schools to help support youth under the Department of Human Services’ care. 

“My decision to come to the Education Support Center had a lot to do with my personal values. One of my top five values is education. This is the reason why I choose to serve the children in Philadelphia County via the Office of Children and Families’ Education Support Center.”

Each Liaison supports dozens of youth at multiple schools, with Ryan servicing nearly 20 schools in West Philadelphia. Each and every child under DHS care is unique and requires individualized support to keep them on track to a happy, healthy future. The priority is to maintain students in their original school when at all possible.

That is where the Education Support Center (ESC) comes in. The ESC supports the educational needs of children and youth involved with DHS from kindergarten to post secondary options which can include trade school, employment and/or college. The ESC team works with the School District to prevent disruptions to a child’s education when they are placed in DHS care. Ryan also works with Community Umbrella Agencies, the Court system, and school leadership teams to ensure students are supported fully throughout their time under DHS care.

“To have a child taken out of their parents’ home, that’s a big trauma,” Ryan says. “I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen, and they can keep some part of their life consistent while other things are handled.”

Ryan has been with DHS for 14 years, getting his start working on new investigations that came in through the hotline. After five years in that role, he transferred to the Education Support Center to help kids stay connected to their schools and communities once they entered DHS Care. That switch was a testament to Ryan’s belief in the power of education. 

For Ryan, supporting youth in DHS care means going above and beyond to make sure that they can continue learning while they face difficult changes at home.

“If a child is removed from the home and, for whatever reason, placed in a home outside of their neighborhood, it’s so important that we work to make sure that student still has a way back to their school, for example. Their community is there, and the loss of that community, on top of the existing trauma, would be catastrophic to their future.”

Liaisons like Ryan also identify and remove educational barriers for children in the child welfare system. This can include addressing various barriers a student may face such as not reading on grade level, being at risk of becoming truant, getting to school safely and on time, or having access to school uniforms. For older youth, this support also includes help with the college application process and job training programs to set them up for future success after they leave DHS care. This year alone, ESC Liaisons have closed more than 3,400 requests for support.

Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services is the county child welfare and juvenile justice agency and is overseen by the Office of Children and Families. Their mission is to provide and promote safety, permanency, and well-being for children and youth at risk of abuse, neglect, and delinquency.

For more information on services, click here.