Students in Foster Care
“Foster Care” means substitute care for children placed by the Department of Human Services or a tribal child welfare agency away from their parents and for whom the department of agency has placement and care responsibility, including placements in foster homes, foster homes of relatives, group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, childcare institutions and pre-adoptive homes.
Educational stability is a key component in a foster care student’s success. At the federal and state level, laws have been passed that require local and state child welfare and education agencies to fully and faithfully understand and implement legislation focusing on continuity and stability in a foster care student’s education. Links to each statute or rule are provided for additional information.
The Rights of Foster Care Students:
Every Student Succeed Act (effective July 1, 2016)
Allowing students in foster care to remain in the school district /school of origin even when the foster home placement changes.
Requiring schools to immediately enroll students in foster care after a school move.
Requiring foster care point of contact in every state education agency as well as each school district.
Requiring plans for school district/school of origin transportation to maintain a foster student attendance in the school district/school of origin.
Tracking achievement and graduation data for students in foster care.
Fostering Connections: Joint Guidance for School Stability of Children in Foster Care (October, 2008)
The Act emphasizes the importance of school stability as well as the need for collaboration between child welfare and education agencies. Assurances that the CWA and LEA work together to consider the best educational placement for a child entering foster care.
Educational records released without parent consent to a caseworker or other representative of a State or local welfare agency.
In Oregon, students are eligible for special education services through the end of the school year in which they turn 21 years old or until they graduate with a standard or modified diploma. All of these students and their parents are also entitled to many procedural protections, including prior written notice from the local educational agency of any changes to the child’s program and access to a hearing and appeal system when disputes arise.
Under IDEA, a team of knowledgeable persons, including the foster child’s parents, must make each child’s special education placement decision; this team may also include staff from a child welfare agency. It is important to note that the Juvenile Court does not make special education placement decisions.
While IDEA presumes that the first placement option considered for each student with a disability is the regular classroom with appropriate supplementary aids and services, there is no one size fits all approach. School districts must make available a range of placement options to meet the needs of students with disabilities for special education and related services, including regular classes, special classes, separate schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions.
IDEA requires that the educational placement of each eligible student with a disability, including students with disabilities in foster care, be determined at least annually, and be based on the student’s IEP in accordance with the child’s individual needs, and in the least restrictive environment (LRE)
It is important that students in foster care receive timely and expedited evaluations and eligibility determinations, as is the case for any student. In addition, foster students must have access to comparable services, including extended school year services
If a student is currently eligible for special education and an IEP has been developed, then the student’s current school district/school of origin continues to provide the services as written in the IEP. When a student is placed into DHS Child Welfare custody, by default the student would continue to attend the school district/school of origin, which would be the school the student is currently attending, and the location of the student’s current special education services.
When a Best Interest Finding is made by the Juvenile Court, the Best Interest Finding will result in the student attending the school district where the foster home is located. In this case, it will be the school district’s (resident school district) where the foster home is located responsibility to enroll the student and provide the services as outlined in the student’s IEP.
- The primary difference between an IEP and a 504 plan is the concept of specially designed instruction. To qualify for special education eligibility, the student must need specially designed instruction. IEPs contain goals that provide the framework for specially designed instruction. However, 504 plans do not contain goals. Rather, a 504 plan defines the supports and accommodations that a student needs to access the student’s educational program.
School District Foster Care Point of Contacts provide support by:
- Coordinating with corresponding ODHS Child Welfare on implementation of foster care provisions.
- Facilitate the transfer of records and immediate enrollment.
- Facilitate data sharing with ODHS Child Welfare, consistent with FERPA and other privacy protocols.
- Develop and coordinate school district/school of origin transportation procedures.
- Ensure students in foster care are enrolled in and regularly attending school.
The Pleasant Hill School District Foster Care Point of Contact, Devery Stoneberg, can be reached by phone at (541) 736-0498 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.