Students in foster care often face a difficult situation. They are often faced with the uncertainty of where their next home will be, and the uncertainty of how long they will be at their current residence, all with the overhanging question of when they can return to the care of their parent or parents. When it comes to terms of school, a child in foster care cannot be guaranteed that they will be placed with a foster family that also resides in their current district. Issues regarding the entitlements afforded to students who find themselves in foster care are important to know, and understanding the laws that govern schools regarding students in foster care are important for anyone who may be fostering a child in this situation.
Generally, students in foster care are permitted to attend the same school they attended prior to being placed in foster care (42 USC § 675 (1)(G); 18 NYCRR § 430.11 (c)(i); U.S Department of Education, U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Non-Regulatory Guidance: Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care (June 2016)). This is granted so that the child’s life is not disrupted and uprooted more than what is already occurring, however, if it is deemed that it is not in the child’s best interest to continue in the school where he or she currently resides, then the student will immediately be enrolled in a new school (18 NUCRR § 430.11(c)(1)(i); NYS Education Department, Field Memo #01-2012, Education Stability Guidance).
Children in foster care may experience difficulties getting to school after being placed in foster care, as their new foster home may be significantly farther away from their original home. In addition, a child’s foster parents may have other foster children, and cannot take them all to school at once. Amendments made into federal law, created by Every Student Succeeds Act, require school districts to both develop and implement clear written procedures to ensure that transportation services are offered, and maintained for children who are in foster care. These services must be provided, arranged, and funded by the school of origin for the entirety that the child remains in foster care (20 USC §§ 6311(g)(1)(E), 6312(c)(5); Department of Education and U.S Department of Health & Human Services, Non-Regulatory Guidance: Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care (June 2016).
In all, school districts aim to take extra measures so that children going through the difficulty of foster care maintain as much stability as possible in their educational careers. From providing transportation services, to allowing students to remain in their school of origin, school districts understand the difficulty, and must take extra steps to ensure the welfare of the student.
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