Educational Stability for Foster Care Youth in Pennsylvania
In December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). In regards to Foster Care, the focus of ESSA is to enhance collaboration and align education and child welfare systems to improve educational outcomes for foster care students. ESSA amends ESEA to include educational stability for foster care youth exclusively under Title 1, removing children “awaiting foster care placement” from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. ESSA aims to enhance collaboration between education and child welfare systems in each state to ensure educational stability for foster care youth.
On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a guidance to states, school districts and child welfare agencies on the new provisions in ESSA for supporting children in foster care. These provisions take effect in Pennsylvania on December 10, 2016.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Center for Schools and Communities (CSC) are working together to promote school stability and success for foster care youth.Educational Stability: Key ESSA Provisions
Of the approximately 400,000 children and youth in foster care, nearly 270,000 children in foster care are school-aged. ESSA provides all foster care youth with core protections of school stability and school success.
Children in foster care are some of our country’s, and Pennsylvania’s, most vulnerable students. Children in foster care often face steep challenges to school success, including high rates of mobility. Data reveals that foster youth are more likely than their peers to experience a host of barriers that lead to troubling outcomes, including low academic achievement, grade retention and lower high school graduation rates.
New foster care provisions found in ESSA promote greater stability for foster care youth so that they can continue their education without disruption, maintain important relationships with peers and adults, and have the opportunity to achieve college and career readiness.
The key ESSA provisions to ensure educational stability are:
- Dual-agency collaboration between education (LEAs) and child welfare partners (CCYAs);
- Making a Best Interest Determination (BID) for children in foster care who experience or are anticipated to experience a change in foster care placement;
- Ensuring immediate enrollment for children in foster care when a change in foster care placement is determined to be in the best interest of the student;
- Establishing and maintaining foster care points of contact at the state and local levels; and
- Ensuring that transportation is provided, arranged, and funded for the duration of a child’s time in foster care.