Fostering Connections Act Education Provisions and the NCJFCJ Education Checklist

Paula CampbellPaula Campbell, Permanency Planning for Children Department, NCJFCJ

Summary: The author outlines the key provisions of the Fostering Connections to Success Act that relate to educational stability.

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Research has shown that compared to the general school population, children in foster care have lower grade point averages, change schools more frequently, earn fewer credits toward graduation, and are more likely to be placed in special education programs. In response, Casey Family Programs, in collaboration with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ Permanency Planning for Children Department, developed a Judicial Checklist with key educational questions to be asked from the bench. The checklist has become a useful tool for juvenile and family court judges to use when assessing the effectiveness of current educational placements of the children who come before their courts, tracking their performance, and effecting improvements in their educational outcomes.

For youth in foster care, edu­cational success can be a positive counterweight to abuse, neglect, separation and impermanence. Positive school experiences enhance their well-being, help them make more successful tran­sitions to adulthood, and increase their chances for personal fulfillment and economic self-sufficiency, as well as their ability to con­tribute to society. Traditionally, school success for children and youth in foster care has not been a priority for the systems responsible for children in care. Fortunately, this seems to be changing with important local, state and national initiatives.

On October 7, 2008, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351, Fostering Connections Act) was signed into law. This law amends parts B and E of Title IV of the Social Security Act. Among its provisions to address the needs of children and youth in foster care, it seeks to promote education stability for foster children. Some of the key educational provisions of the act are outlined below.

Enrolling Children in School

Title IV-E plan requirement to assure that each child receiving a Title IV-E payment that has reached the age for compulsory school attendance is either:

  • A full-time elementary or secondary student
  • An authorized independent study program
  • Being home schooled consistent with the law of the state or jurisdiction

Alternatively, the Title IV-E agency must assure that the child has either completed secondary school or is incapable of attending school due to a documented medical condition.

For a child in foster care, the Title IV-E agency must regularly document and update the child’s incapability to attend school in the child’s case plan. The agency should update the status of the child’s medical condition whenever the case plan is updated.

Educational Stability

Educational stability case plan requirements include:

  • An assurance that the child’s initial placement takes into account the appropriateness of the current school and the proximity of that school to the placement
  • An assurance that the agency has coordinated with the local education agency to ensure the child can stay enrolled in their school despite the placement or
  • If the agency determines it isn’t in the child’s best interests to stay in the same school, an assurance that the child is immediately enrolled in a new school and that all the child’s educational records are provided to the new school

Although these assurances relate to the time of the child’s initial foster care placement, it is encouraged that an agency update the plan whenever a child changes schools.

Payments for School Transportation

As part of a child’s Title IV-E foster care maintenance payment, an agency has the discretion to:

  • Include the cost of reasonable travel for a child to remain in the same school he or she was attending prior to placement in foster care in a child’s Title IV-E foster care maintenance payment
  • Include these costs whether the child is in an initial or a subsequent placement
  • Determine what is considered reasonable travel (based on factors such as cost, distance and time)
  • Provide the payment to the child’s care provider or make a separate payment to the transportation provider

Transportation costs associated with the child’s attendance at his or her school of origin remain allowable administrative costs under Title IV-E.

For additional detailed information about the education provisions in the Fostering Connections Act and utilizing the NCJFCJ education checklist in your courtrooms, please see the following websites and publications.

 

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