It is estimated that children in foster care change living placements on average two to three times while in care, and a third of older youth experience five or more school changes. Children lose four to six months of academic progress with each school change. Too often, credits earned at one school do not transfer or are not recognized towards graduation. These students are more likely to miss
school, be placed in inappropriate classes, and fail to receive the special education and remedial services they need, due in part to the absence of a consistent and involved educational decisionmaker.
To address these issues, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ensures school stability and immediate enrollment for all children in foster care. This fact sheet explains the important protections under this law and how these requirements are implemented in Pennsylvania.
Learn more here.
Every child of school age who is a resident of Pennsylvania has a right to public education. Making sure that your child enrolls and attends school is important for your child’s education and future. Moving through these four steps will help you enroll your child in a public school (including a charter school and cyber charter school) as soon as possible. Click here to learn how.
If a child is living with someone other than their parent, please see our school enrollment guide for a child living with someone other than their parents.
Special note: During the pandemic, nearly all districts began offering “online enrollment” and some districts will continue to use this option during this school year. Several districts may also continue to offer virtual learning for students, particularly students with disabilities for the 2021-2022 school year. Under a newly enacted law, Act 66, some students may be repeating a grade this school year. While the timeline for selecting this option has passed, some local educational agencies are extending the deadline for selecting to repeat a year or permitting students with disabilities who aged out at 21 to remain in school during the 2021-2022 school year.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s immunization regulations require parents or guardians of students enrolled in grades K-12 to have their children immunized against various diseases in order to protect the health and safety of all students. ELC has compiled a fact sheet to help families navigate these requirements.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has developed an enrollment complaint process to investigate whether a school district has illegally determined that a student is not a resident of the school district or is not otherwise entitled to attend school in the district. This process applies to all public schools, including charter schools and cyber charter schools.
Enrolling a child who is not experiencing homelessness or is in foster care: If a child is living with you and you are not with their parent, they have the right to attend school where you live if certain conditions are met. Most schools have their own form to determine whether the child living with you is eligible to enroll in the school catchment where you reside. Check with the school first to see if they have a specific form they want you to use. If not, you may be able to use this form to establish that the child living with you is eligible to enroll in the school catchment where you reside. Your school district’s form will be similar to this. Regardless of whether you use the school’s form or the sample form above, the document you will complete is an affidavit (sworn statement), which means that you are certifying that all information you provide on the form is correct. NOTE: You can face legal penalties if you knowingly complete an affidavit form using false information to enroll a child into school.
Children involved in the foster care system have the right to a free public education, like all public school students. These rights are not lost because of system involvement, and additional protections are in place to ensure access to a quality public education. Children and youth in the foster care system may need strong advocates because they are among the most educationally underserved of all student populations. As a result of multiple school changes and placement in on-grounds schools, students who are system-involved often fall through the cracks.
This fact sheet highlights important protections and addresses ways to support students to be successful.
To learn more, click here.