- How many children are in out-of-home care in Wisconsin?
- Why are children placed in out-of-home care?
- Where do children typically go after exiting out-of-home care?
- How can school districts and child welfare agencies communicate more effectively?
- What are the requirements for transportation to allow a student in out-of-home care to remain in her/his school of origin?
How many children are in out-of-home care each year? How long do children stay in out-of-home care?
School districts and child welfare agencies each operate under a primary group of specific statutes and rules. It is not reasonable for each person in one agency to understand all of the required procedures of the other system. However, there are recommended actions that both school districts and child welfare agencies may take to facilitate better communication.
- Each agency must appoint one individual to serve as a Point of Contact. This individual's role and responsibilities include frequent, non-case specific contact with the other agency to communicate concerns and questions from their colleagues about the other organization's policies, actions, and related issues. In some communities an interagency task force, or workgroup, may be warranted.
- On case-specific questions, school districts and child welfare agencies may establish a procedure for clarifying specific concerns. The organizations’ respective Points of Contact may be helpful in this regard.
- Administrators in each agency are highly encouraged to support the development of in-service training for their staff on the role and function of the other system. Each system may be able to help the other by providing speakers, training materials, and other mechanisms.
Use of a single individual as a Point of Contact with the schools or child welfare agencies has many advantages. This individual is familiar with the day-to-day operation of the other agency and can communicate any change in laws, regulations, or policies that affect the interagency cooperation. The Points of Contact can clarify misunderstandings and facilitate both educational and child welfare goals. Use of a Point of Contact is required by both the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Children and Families regarding out-of-home care, given the complexity of the topic of out-of-home care. Pupil services staff, particularly school social workers, are uniquely suited to fulfill this role for schools; however, each school district has the authority to make that decision.
Please see the DPI webpage regarding Points of Contact: https://dpi.wi.gov/foster-care/foster-care-point-of-contact
Yes. Under ESSA, there is a presumption that the child wll remain in the school of origin. This presumption can be overcome by a determination, made jointly between the LEA and CWA, that it would be in the child's best interest to enroll in the school of residence. It is also important to keep in mind that the removal of a child from his or her family is an intrusive and traumatic action. It should be the goal of the child welfare agency to minimize the many disruptions out-of-home care placement causes in a child's life, including educational disruptions.
Please see the Best Interest section of this website, specifically the factors that should be employed in making the best interest determination.
What are the requirements for transportation to allow a student in out-of-home care to remain in her/his school of origin?
Federal law speaks to the sharing of costs that are “additional” and which result from the child residing in one school district (school of residence) and attending school in another district (i.e., school of origin, which is the school in which the child is enrolled or was last enrolled at the time of placement into out-of-home care). The federal Guidance defines “additional costs” in the following manner:
Additional costs incurred in providing transportation to the school of origin should reflect the difference between what an LEA otherwise would spend to transport a student to his or her assigned school and the cost of transporting a child in foster care to his or her school of origin. For example, if the LEA provides transportation through an established bus route, there is no additional cost. If the LEA provides transportation only for the child in foster care (e.g., through a private vehicle or transportation company), the difference between the transportation costs and the usual transportation costs can be considered additional.
The cost of transportation may not be a factor in determining best interest (Best Interest and Educational Stability). Once the educational placement decision (remaining in the school of origin or enrolling in the school of residence) has been made the appropriate transportation must begin immediately. The law does indicate that the transportation should be provided in a cost-effective manner, and there are various creative ways that this could occur:
- By foster parents (through the foster care payment).
- By group home staff as an Extraordinary Payment.
- By volunteers as individuals or through social organizations.
- Existing public school bus routes (including, for example, a foster parent driving the child to meet a bus for the school of origin along existing route).
- Public transportation (based on safety, disability, age, etc.).
- Taxis or other private transportation services (based on safety, disability, age, etc.; perhaps with a reduced-cost service contract).
- Walking within a reasonable walk zone (based on safety, disability, age, etc.).
While the development and implementation of transportation procedures are the responsibilities of the LEAs and the local child welfare agency, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) recommend that if the LEA and the child welfare agency cannot come to an agreement, the additional cost for transportation should be shared equally.