The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) foster care provisions:
- Apply to all children in out-of-home care enrolled in public schools, including public preschools.
- Effective on December 10, 2016.
- Are based on comprehensive collaboration between LEAs and CWAs.
- Are predicated on the default position that a child should remain in his or her school of origin.
Pursuant to the requirements of federal law and guidance, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and child welfare agencies (CWAs) are required to collaborate in order to facilitate the educational stability of children placed in out-of-home care. These general responsibilities are defined below.
Roles and Responsibilities Specific to Foster Care Points of Contact (School District)
Foster Care Points of Contact (FCPOCs) facilitate district implementation and compliance with state and federal laws that apply to students in out-of-home care. They also collaborate with the local child welfare agency in addressing educational barriers that prevent these children from being identified, enrolled, attending, or succeeding in school. In addition, the FCPOC should be knowledgeable about the child and be able to provide feedback on significant relationships that the child may have formed with staff and peers and how changing schools would impact emotional well-being.
Other roles and responsibilities of the school district FCPOC may include:
- coordinate with child welfare agencies’ Points of Contact on the implementation of the ESSA foster care provisions
- serve as the primary point of contact for local child welfare staff
- understand the importance of maintaining the child in the school of origin and the negative impacts of changing schools
- lead the development of a process for making the best interest determination
- document the best interest determination
- manage best interest determination and transportation cost disputes
- facilitate the transfer of records and immediate enrollment
- facilitate data sharing with child welfare agencies (consistent with state and federal confidentiality provisions)
- develop and coordinate local written transportation procedures
- ensure that children are enrolled in and regularly attending school
- ensure that all school staff are sensitive to the complex needs of children in out-of-home care
- attend training and professional development opportunities to improve educational outcomes for children in out-of-home care
- provide professional development and training to school staff on the educational needs of children in out-of-home care as needed
- trouble-shoot issues identified within their agency by the child welfare agency that negatively impact services for children in out-of-home care
Responsibilities of Local Education Agency
- The LEA must identify a point of contact to be the liaison for the initiative who will:
- Facilitate implementation of and compliance with laws that apply to students in out-of-home care.
- Collaborate with the CWA in addressing educational barriers that prevent children in out-of-home care from being identified, enrolled, attending, or succeeding in school.
- The LEA, in collaboration with the CWA, must determine if it is in the best interest of the child to remain in the school of origin or enroll in the resident school district:
- Child remains in school of origin while determination is underway.
- Cost of transportation may not be considered in the determination.
- If the LEA, in collaboration with the CWA, determines that it is in the child’s best interest to enroll the child in the resident school district:
- The child will be immediately enrolled in the resident school, even if records are not available.
- The resident school will immediately request records from the school of origin.
- The school of origin will immediately send records to the resident school.
- The LEA will immediately review all available, relevant information provided by the CWA.
- The LEA, in collaboration with the CWA, must develop written procedures regarding transportation, to include:
- How transportation to the school of origin will be provided, arranged, and funded.
- The agency responsible for funding immediate transportation needs while a permanent plan is developed.
- A statement that transportation to the school of origin will begin immediately.
Specific Responsibilities of Child Welfare Agency (CWA)
- The CWA must address educational stability in the child’s permanency plan.
- CWA must assess the appropriateness of the current educational setting and the proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement into out-of-home care, in conjunction with other placement considerations.
- CWA must coordinate with the LEA to ensure the child remains in the school of origin.
- If not in child’s best interest to remain in school of origin, the CWA will immediately refer the child for enrollment in the resident school.
- The CWA should follow the information outlined in the caseworker desk guide.
Responsibilities of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and Department of Children and Families (DCF)
- The DPI and the DCF have collaborated and will continue to do so to ensure implementation of the new law. Together, the Departments collaborated on guidance on a number of aspects of the new law, including:
- best interest determination factors and worksheets,
- transportation processes and cost guidance,
- transportation plans, and
- model language for written transportation procedures.