Chronic Absence Case Studies

Daly City Youth Center (Daly City, California)

A student was referred to the Daly City Youth Center because she was missing a lot of school, saying that she was feeling “sort of sick to her stomach.” After a sensitive and thorough consultation at the Youth Center, a clinician found that she had no physical ailment, but was experiencing severe anxiety, even panic, related to schoolwork.

The Youth Center provided one-on-one counseling and medication, both of which helped the student overcome her debilitating anxiety. She continued to struggle academically, however, and was referred for special education testing; ultimately, she was diagnosed with a learning disability. Throughout this process, the Youth Center staff provided case management services and advocated for the student with high school staff. The student’s parents, who did not speak English, participated in family counseling, and health center staff supported them in becoming empowered advocates for their daughter’s education.

In a new class, with supports for her learning disability, the student began to attend school regularly and do better academically. She continued to work with a counselor and also participated in a rigorous career internship at a child care center, an experience that built up her self-esteem. And, when she graduated, she accepted a job at the child care center where she interned.

Shop 55 Wellness Center (Oakland, California)

Shop 55, Oakland High School’s combined school-based health center and afterschool program, uses a rigorous case management model. Three case managers support the afterschool program; they each work with 40 prioritized students, developing trusting relationships and coordinating a strategic blend of services. Last spring, when a ninth grader began cutting class and getting into fights, she was referred to one of these case managers. The case manager, who met with the student at least three times a week, helped her focus on school by supporting her in goal setting, organizing work, and completing assignments. The student also met with a conflict mediator, to help her learn to resolve disagreements peacefully, and accessed first aid and reproductive services through the health center. Shop 55 was “an all-in-one one-stop shop” for her, and she felt very comfortable there. Over time, the student’s attendance, which was tracked by her case manager, improved—especially after lunch when the student had previously cut class.

Stagg Healthy Start Center (Stockton, California)

Stagg Senior High School’s dropout rate has been higher than the district and state averages and the school is committed to raising attendance and graduation rates. The Healthy Start Center is a leader in the school’s fight against chronic absenteeism, with staff members playing a key role in keeping students engaged and attending class.

The director of the Healthy Start Center participates actively in Stagg’s School Attendance Review Team (SART), an interdisciplinary team that also includes an assistant principal, a parent volunteer coordinator, a child welfare specialist, and a bilingual outreach worker. Healthy Start staff follow-up with chronically absent students who have been identified by the school’s attendance office by holding regular meetings with students and reaching out directly to parents. The Healthy Start Center responds to student needs by providing medical and mental health care; staff also coordinate student groups, including a conflict mediation group, to re-engage students in a positive school community. Until the recent budget cuts, case managers provided individualized support to students and families.