Resources: Students in Foster Care

Students in Foster Care

Fair School Funding

  • Strong public schools are important for creating a successful future for both individuals and whole communities. Formula proposals or state budgets affecting education funding should be evaluated based on the following ten criteria. Any proposal or budget that fails to meet these criteria will not serve the interests of all students, especially disadvantaged students, and should not be adopted.

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Students in Foster Care

Equal Access

  • Students who are in foster care have the legal right to remain in the school they attended prior to being placed in care or before their last change in foster care placement (group home, foster home, kinship care, and congregate/residential placement) also called the “school of origin.” Every time a student in care changes placement an individualized Best Interest Determination must be made on behalf of the child. Students who are in care should remain in their school of origin unless it is determined that staying in that school is not in their best interest or a court order says otherwise.  This right is called “school stability.”   

    This form issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) contains a list of questions that can be used to help make the decision about whether remaining in the same school is in the best interest of the student. Parents, students, attorneys for the child and others who support the family or child can be part of these important decisions. The child’s Educational Decision Maker (EDM) must be included in these meetings.   

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  • COVID-19 school closures have had an impact on students in foster care. ELC compiled this resource of 5 important things for students in foster care and their families to know.

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  • This webinar was hosted by the Education Law Center-PA and CASA Philadelphia as a training for court-appointed Educational Decision Makers (EDMs) who represent children in foster care to ensure their access to a quality public education. The presentation features an overview of an “EDM Toolkit” prepared by these agencies and includes education issues relating to enrollment, access to special education services, and school discipline.  The Toolkit helps Pennsylvania CASA programs train CASAs to serve as EDM volunteers and serves as an ongoing resource for EDMs to address questions and challenges that encounter in meeting the needs of children in foster care. The Toolkit includes checklists, suggestions, and resources to help EDMs ensure that students who are in foster care have school stability, access to needed services, and achieve academic success.

    Click here for the toolkit, here to view the webinar PowerPoint slides, and here to stream a recording of the webinar.

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  • This report by Children’s Rights and the Education Law Center-PA, entitled Unsafe and Uneducated: Indifference to Dangers in Pennsylvania’s Residential Child Welfare Facilities, raises serious concerns about the safety of Pennsylvania’s residential placements for youth in foster care – and about the quality of education provided there.

    In 2017, more than 3,700 youth in Pennsylvania foster care were in residential facilities, so that 47% of youth aged 14-21 in Pennsylvania foster care lived in these facilities, compared to 34% nationwide. Because of a lack of adequate oversight by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, these facilities expose children to harmful treatment, including verbal, physical, and sexual abuse and mistreatment from staff and other children.

    The report highlights that the “on-grounds” schools that most children in these residential facilities attend similarly lack proper oversight from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. These schools typically offer inferior education with curriculum far below grade level, largely ignoring the heightened learning needs of these students. Read our joint release summarizing the report.

    Read this December 2018 report.

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  • Court-appointed Educational Decision Makers (EDMs) can have an enormously positive impact on the educational outcomes of children and youth in dependency system. Together with school personnel, child welfare professionals, and others, they can work to ensure that students who are in dependent care have school stability, achieve academic success, and have access to needed services. This collection of “Tools” is intended to help Pennsylvania CASA programs train new EDM volunteers and to provide an ongoing resource for EDMs as questions and challenges arise in their work. The Toolkit provides checklists, suggestions, and resources to help EDMs address a range of education issues including enrollment, access to special education services, and school discipline.

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  • This toolkit, released in October 2016, is designed to help Pennsylvania youth with disabilities who are in the foster care or juvenile justice system to prepare for Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. Although this toolkit is aimed at youth in foster care or the juvenile justice system, who often lack engaged adults to advocate for them at IEP meetings, it can be used by any teenager receiving special education. The toolkit was collaboratively produced by Education Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, and Disability Rights Pennsylvania.

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  • ELC submitted these comments to the U.S. Department of Education in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register on May 31, 2016 regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Through these comments, we highlight the critical need for greater accountability of schools serving educationally at risk students, especially students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care, and youth involved in and reentering from the juvenile justice system.

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  • Submitted to the Pennsylvania State Board of Education in March, 2016, this testimony from ELC Senior Staff Attorney Maura McInerney responds to proposed revisions to Chapter 11 of the Public School Code. She suggests an amendment to §11.20 that would allow the immediate enrollment of children experiencing homelessness and children currently in foster care, with immunization records to be provided following that enrollment.

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  • 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 schools 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.

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Students in Foster Care

School to Prison Pipeline