These days, the state of the education system as we know it is often a topic of conversation, from budget changes to an overhaul on school choice and voucher programs. However, there are children whose lives are more in flux than most: those who are in the foster care system. So how are their educational interests protected, especially since they may also lack an overall sense of stability in their lives?
One law in particular, Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, aims to create solutions in what is often a challenging time for a student. There are specific provisions within the law that are designed to best support the child so they can succeed. Here are five examples of how the Act works to protect a foster child’s educational interests:
- Stability for the Child. The Act ensures that a child stays in the same school that he or she was enrolled in at the time of a transition into foster care. Typically, this applies to children who have been in foster care and who are placed into another home. That said, alternate arrangements may be made under the law (if transferring to another school is in the best interest of that child).
- Financial Coverage. It also addresses the financial ramifications of maintaining educational stability for the child. For instance, if a child must travel far in order to remain in the same school, there are a few ways to compensate for those costs. Examples include a money matching program to cover the cost of transporting a child to and from school, foster care maintenance payments that include funding for transportation, and even funding from the federal government to the states that provide these programs.
- Best Interests Trump Financial Issues. Generally, a foster care agency is responsible for determining if the child should remain in the same school. What might come as a surprise is that the agency also has the ability to determine what the criteria for that decision will be. However, cost cannot be considered when making the decision of where a child continues his or her education.
- It Takes a Village. While the agency is ultimately responsible for determining where a child in foster care will continue school, it is important to note that decision is not made unilaterally. The child’s attorney, parents, advocates, and the child should all have input to determine the best possible solution for that child.
- No Time to Waste. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stipulates that the decision of where a child will be enrolled in school must be made within 60 days of a child’s placement into foster care - regardless of whether they are being placed in the system for the first time or moved from one foster setting to another. Creating a comprehensive plan for the child quickly can reduce the stress that comes from a lack of structure, which ultimately harms the child and puts them at a disadvantage in school.
To learn more about the laws surrounding the educational interests of foster children, check out this important program. You can also read more about the educational struggles of children in foster care in this study.