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Educational Stability for Students in Out-of-Home Care

COVID-19 and Educational Stability for Students in Out-of-Home Care (Foster Care)

Kyle Peaden (608-266-5404) and Julie Majerus (608-267-1281) are reachable by phone or email to assist with any questions or concerns. Thank you for all of your work in supporting students living in out-of-home care during this difficult time. There are multiple resources below, please reach out if we can assist in helping you find further tools or guidance.

Educational Stability During School Closures 
Please remember: if a student is placed in a foster home or other out-of-home care setting or has a change of placement during school closures, then a Best Interest Determination (BID) must be conducted to determine whether the student should enroll in the new school of residence. School closures due to COVID-19 might present unique factors not previously considered during a BID, such as the possibility that continued enrollment in the school of origin might be made easier if instruction is being provided virtually. It is recommended that the schools and child welfare agency conduct a BID upon the child’s placement into out-of-home care, and then review the BID for reconsideration once schools open again. This unprecedented situation presents a constantly changing dynamic, so changes in circumstances should be considered when making educational decisions for a student.

If, after a Best Interest Determination, it is determined the student should attend the new school of residence, then efforts should be made to ensure a smooth transition to the new school, whether this means helping the student transition to virtual instruction, or preparing the student for attending class once school resumes. More general information on the BID and school transitions can be found below.

Further Considerations for Educators and Child Welfare Staff Supporting Students in Out-of-Home Care

  • If you haven’t already, this is a good time for District Foster Care Points of Contact and Child Welfare Education Points of Contact to reconnect to identify needs, find resources, and develop strategies on how best to support students. It is important to keep the lines of communication open as situations change. Your local contacts can be found here.
  • School districts are finding ways to deliver meals to students even while schools are closed. Child welfare agencies and out-of-home care providers should check with the student’s local district to learn how to best connect students with meals.
  • Remember the child’s perspective when adhering to safer at home orders, which can be especially difficult for teens and youth. Some resources have been developed to help youth understand the importance of health guidelines, and further below you will find resources for talking to children during times of crisis.
    • A short video with “Tim and Moby” explaining what the coronavirus is and how to prevent its spread.
    •  A mini comic book from NPR answering kids questions about the coronavirus.
    • A zombie comic book from the CDC explaining emergency preparedness.

Learning During Extended School Closures: Resources for Students and their Foster Families, Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers
Maintaining connection with your student’s school will help to support a sense of stability, and continued academic progress. If you are looking for a stronger connection with your student’s school, please reach out and let them know your needs. The first step might be connecting through email or phone with a teacher. The school district website might also provide access to online resources or recommended out-of-school instruction provided by the district. If you can’t find contact information for your student’s teacher on the school’s website or otherwise, you can always reach out to the school principal or to your district’s Foster Care Point of Contact.

During times of stress it is important to focus on basic needs first. Take the time to ensure your family and student(s) are healthy and well. Look to the trauma-informed supports further below and reach out to your school counselor, child welfare advocate, or mental health professional for additional support. The following resources provide tools for supporting learning at home.

Trauma-Informed Support
Remember that it is especially hard for children to be away from their homes during this time, and to consider additional support needed for those students. The added instability during the pandemic is imposing limitations on the child welfare system. This might mean limited visits between parents or siblings in different households in order to adhere to health guidelines, or less placement options available for children in need of a safe home. Below are some resources for trauma-informed considerations and supporting the emotional well-being of all students:

Additional Resources

 

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and Child Welfare Agencies (CWAs) collaborate to ensure educational stability for students placed in out-of-home care in order to preserve their opportunities for improved well-being and success in school.

Educational stability means ensuring academic continuity (and a student’s right to remain in their school of origin), supporting meaningful relationships developed at school, and fostering a sense of belonging for students who often experience disruptions both at school and at home that can impact their academic experiences and outcomes.

When Does ESSA Apply?

A student living in out-of-home care means a student who has been placed in a residential setting outside of the student’s home by a county, state, or tribal child welfare agency. This can include shelter care; the home of a relative other than a parent; foster care; a group home; or a residential care center for children and youth. Schools must receive notice whenever a student is placed in out-of-home care, or when the student’s placement has been changed from one residential setting to another. If there are questions about whether a student has been placed in out-of-home care, the school should contact the state, county, or tribal child welfare agency involved.

The educational stability provisions under ESSA apply to students at all public schools, including preschools and public charter schools.

Educational Stability for Students in Out-of-Home Care Desk Guide

Requirements under ESSA for Educational Stability

Collaboration
LEAs and CWAs must work in partnership to facilitate the educational stability of students placed in out-of-home care. Ongoing communication and joint decision-making are key to helping ensure educational stability and school success.

School of Origin
To ensure educational stability, students placed in out-of-home care are presumed to remain in their school of origin (the school they were enrolled or most recently enrolled in at the time of placement).

Transportation
Once a student is placed in out-of-home care, transportation must be immediately provided, arranged, and funded to the school of origin for the duration of the student’s placement. LEAs should collaborate with the CWA to develop agreed upon procedures to ensure transportation.

Best Interest Determination
If there is consideration that it is not in the student’s best interest to remain in the school of origin, the LEAs and CWA must conduct a best interest determination review.

Immediate Enrollment
If it is determined to be in the best interest of a student placed in out-of-home care to enroll in their resident school, the LEA will immediately enroll the student even without documents normally required for enrollment.

Transfer of Records
If the student changes to the school of residence, that school must immediately request the transfer of academic and other records from the school of origin.

Sources

The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, Sections 1005 and 1006
Non Regulatory Guidance: Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care, U.S.D.E and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Jun. 23, 2016.
Wis. Stat. §§ 48.02(12r) and 938.02(12r)
Wis. Stat. §§ 48.64(1r) and 938.64(1r)

 

For questions about this information, contact Kyle Peaden (608) 266-5404, Julie Majerus (608) 267-1281