2415.30  TITLE I – EDUCATIONAL STABILITY FOR

CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE

 

The Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), initiated protections for children in foster care that further enhanced the requirements of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act).  These provisions require school districts to work with child welfare agencies to ensure the educational stability of children in foster care.  New Jersey statutes support and implement Federal legislation and require New Jersey’s child welfare agencies and school districts to collaborate and to keep children placed in foster care in the same school when their living placements change if remaining in that school is in the child’s best interest.  The educational stability of children in foster care is the joint responsibility of both the educational and child welfare systems.

 

The Superintendent or designee shall be designated as the Board of Education’s point of contact person for all matters related to the educational stability for children in foster care.  The point of contact person for the school district shall not be the same person designated as the school district liaison for the education of homeless children.

 

For the purpose of this Policy, “child welfare agency” shall be the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.

 

For the purpose of this Policy, “foster care” means twenty-four hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents and for whom the child welfare agency has placement and care responsibility.  This includes, but is not limited to, placements in foster family homes, foster homes of relatives, group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, child care institutions, and pre-adoptive  homes.

 

For the purpose of this Policy, “school of origin” is the school district in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement in foster care or the school district of residence as per N.J.S.A. 30:4C-26 and N.J.S.A. 18A:7B-12.

 

A child in foster care shall remain in his/her school or origin if it is determined to be in the best interest of the child for the duration of time in foster care.

 

If a student attending the school district in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 18A:38-1 et seq. is placed in foster care, the school district contact person will collaborate with child welfare agencies to determine whether it is in the child’s best interest to remain in the school district taking into consideration all factors relating to the child’s best interest.  These factors shall include the appropriateness of the current educational setting and proximity of placement (ESEA Section 1111(g)(1)(E)(i)).  These factors may include, but are not limited to:

 

  1. Preferences of the child;

 

  1. Preferences of the child’s parent(s) or educational decision maker(s);

 

  1. The child’s attachment to the school, including meaningful relationships with staff and peers;

 

  1. The proximity of the resource family home to the child’s present school;

 

  1. The age and grade level of the child as it relates to the best-interest factors;

 

  1. The needs of the child, including social adjustment and well-being;

 

  1. The child’s performance, continuity of education, and engagement in the school the child presently attends;

 

  1. The child’s special education programming if the child is classified;

 

  1. The point of time in the school year;

 

  1. The child’s permanency goal and likelihood of reunification;

 

  1. The anticipated duration of the placement;

 

  1. Placement of the child’s sibling(s);

 

  1. Influence of the school climate on the child, including safety;

 

  1. The availability and quality of the services in the school to meet the child’s educational and socioemotional needs;

 

  1. History of school transfers and how they have impacted the child;

 

  1. How the length of the commute would impact the child, based on the child’s developmental stage;

 

  1. Whether the child is a student with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) who is receiving special education and related services or a student with a disability under Section 504 who is receiving special education or related aids and services and, if so, the availability of those required services in a school other than the school of origin; and

 

  1. Whether the child is an English language learner (ELL) and is receiving language services, and, if so, the availability of those required services in a school other than the school of origin, consistent with Title VI and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA).

 

The school district’s point of contact person will discuss these factors and will make every effort to gather meaningful input and participation from the relevant parties, including appropriate school personnel, in the best-interest determination.

 

Eligible students with disabilities retain their right to receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.  When making a best-interest determination regarding the educational placement of a student with a disability under IDEA and Section 504, the Board must ensure that all required special education and related services are provided in the least restrictive placement where the child’s unique needs, as described in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan, can be met.  The school district will identify and assess all potential ELL students and provide all ELL students, including ELL students in foster care, with a language assistance program that is educationally sound and proven successful.  When a best interest determination is made for an ELL student in foster care, the Board of Education will comply with its obligations under Title VI and the EEOA.

 

To the extent feasible, a child shall remain in his/her school of origin until a final best-interest determination is made.  The child welfare agency will notify the school district of origin of the child’s school placement after collaboration with the Board of Education’s point of contact person and after the child’s best-interest determination has been made.  If a change of school is recommended by the child welfare agency, the new school shall immediately contact the school of origin to obtain relevant academic and other records of the foster care child.  The financial responsibility for the payment of tuition for a foster care child placed outside the school district of origin and attending school outside the school district of origin shall be determined by the Commissioner of Education in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:7B-12 – Determination of District of Residence.

 

A foster care child who has been placed in this district and exits foster care during the school year will be permitted to continue in this school district for the remainder of the school year.

 

In the event there is a disagreement regarding school placement for a child in foster care, the school district will comply with the legal requirements for resolving the dispute.  A parent can appeal a best-interest determination whenever the child changes schools.

 

Children placed in foster care outside the school district of origin, attending a school in the district, will be provided transportation to and from school in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:27-6.1 et seq. and the Transportation Policy of that district.  The district of origin is financially responsible for transportation costs to and from school.

 

Children placed in foster care outside the school district of origin, but remaining in a school within the school district of origin, shall receive transportation to and from school on a “cost-efficient” manner and in accordance with Section 475(4)(A) of the Social Security Act for the duration of the time the child is in foster care.  The district of origin is financially responsible for transportation costs to and from school.

 

The cost of transportation shall not be considered when determining the best interest of the child.

 

Section 475(4)(A) of the Social Security Act provides guidance on “cost-effective” transportation as it relates to the cost of reasonable travel for foster care children placed outside the school district of origin to their school of origin indicating:  the child may be dropped off at a bus stop just within the school district of origin to be transported to a school in the district of origin; the school district may offer a public transportation option; the foster care parents or other families may be willing to drive the child to school in the school district of origin; the school district may utilize pre-existing bus routes or stops close to the out-of-district foster care placement that cross school district boundaries; or the foster care child may be eligible for transportation under other Federal or State requirements.

 

In the event there is a disagreement regarding transportation for a child in foster care, the school district will comply with the New Jersey Department of Education requirements for resolving the dispute.  The Board of Education shall provide or arrange for adequate and appropriate transportation for foster care children while any disputes are being resolved.

 

In all cases regarding student data and records, the Board of Education will comply with all statutory requirements to protect student privacy, including Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and all other privacy requirements under Federal laws, State statutes, and administrative codes.

 

N.J.S.A. 18A:7B-12

N.J.S.A. 30:4C-26

New Jersey Department of Education Memorandum dated October 4, 2016 –

Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care

United States Departments of Education and Health and Human Services – Non-

Regulatory Guidance – Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster

Care – June 23, 2016

 

Adopted:         February 2017