Where will my Foster or Adoptive child attend school?
Where Will My New Foster Child Attend School and My Rights
Understanding the strength you have as a foster parent to help your child.
When foster children are placed in the home, one of the most frequently asked questions is: where will my children attend school, and what are my rights? This is an excellent question with an answer involving many different education agencies, child welfare systems, and laws.
There is a joint guidance document entitled "Foster Connections and the Every Student Succeeds Act: Joint Guidance for School Stability of Children and Youth in Foster Care. " This document was developed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) to implement the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections).
The Title I, Part A provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ensure school stability for students in foster care. It is designed to guide residence placements of all children and youth in foster care who attend pre-K12 programs. Those programs must be administered by local school divisions governed by the Virginia Department of Education.
According to Fostering Connections and ESSA, the school setting is often the most stable environment for foster care students. To a reasonable extent, strong consideration should be given for the student to remain in their original school to reduce the number of school moves. Fostering Connections outlines the child welfare agencies' responsibilities to create a foster care service plan that emphasizes school stability.
ESSA requires school teachers, faculty, and staff to support the student's educational stability. The Local Department of Social Services (LDSS) and school divisions must work together to find the school placement that meets the child's best interest when their residence changes. This is called Best Interest Determination (BID). Every school division must have a designated foster care liaison to serve as a resource in facilitating BID in their school division.
When deciding on the best residence for a child in foster care, LDSS caseworkers must consider the student's current school's appropriateness and the distance from the new residence. When the LDSS caseworker determines the child's most appropriate residence, they will work with the foster care liaison to determine the student's best interest for school placement.
This coordination's main objective is to ensure educational stability for children in foster care, including students with disabilities served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The presumption is that the student will remain in the school where they are currently enrolled unless contrary to their best interest.
The School Placement Process is as follows:
- Residence Determination: The LDSS caseworker determines the most appropriate residence for the child. The LDSS caseworker convenes a Family Partnership Meeting before moving the child or youth to a new home. The purpose of the meeting is to engage the child, foster family, and community members to help achieve safety, a permanent family, and lifelong connections for the child or youth.
- School Placement Determination: The School Division foster care liaison and the LDSS caseworker jointly determine the student's best interest for school placement. There should be no gaps in providing an education to students in foster care, and students should remain enrolled in the school of origin while the BID process is completed. Students should be kept in their current school during the decision-making process.
- No BID is required when:
- The new residence is zoned for the current school,
- The student enters a Level C licensed residential placement, or
- A student returns from a residential placement or detention to the SAME Foster care placement.
- The distance between the school of origin and the new foster care placement is more than 100 miles.
Subsequent Actions: The LDSS or the school division provides transportation to remain in the current school or immediately enrolls the student in the new school of residence.
Federal law requiring educational stability for children and youth in foster care
- Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 [20 USC 6301]
- Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 [42 USC 1305]
- Social Security Act, Title IV, § 475 (1) (G) [42 USC 675]) Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA), [20 USC 1221] Virginia Regulations and Guidance
- Virginia Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities,