Saturday, September 30, 2023

Education Dept. releases new guidance to support children in foster care

This week the U.S. Department of Education is releasing resources to emphasize and support the needs of foster care students. In addition to new guidance, ED has launched a dedicated web page, Students in Foster Care, and issued a joint letter with the U.S. Department of Health Human Services to education authorities about increasing educational stability for children and youth in foster care.

The guidance released this week will make it easier for caseworkers, child welfare agencies and tribal organizations responsible for the placement and care of children and youth in foster care to have direct access to their education records. The guidance provides states with information to implement the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA), an amendment to The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It also details the amendment’s impact on the confidentiality provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The guidance will help states improve educational and developmental outcomes for students in foster care by providing authorized agencies with access to the records they need to meet the early intervention or educational needs of the students.

“This guidance is part of our efforts to raise awareness of the needs of this vulnerable student population. When a child is removed from their family and placed in out-of-home care the disruption is extraordinary. Many have to change schools once or sometimes several times,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “This guidance will help lessen the impact of these disruptions and help provide students in foster care with educational stability, by making their school records accessible to those in charge of their care. We also hope it will shine a light on the benefit of these students staying in their schools and within an education community that can support them through a difficult period.”

The USA amends FERPA in the following two ways:

  • First, it permits educational agencies and institutions to disclose students’ education records to authorized child welfare agency representatives and tribal organizations.
  • Second, the USA also allows educational agencies and institutions to disclose students’ education records to authorized child welfare agency representatives and tribal organizations following a judicial order, without requiring additional notice to the parent.

ED is working with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide new resources to support educators and child welfare professionals in their work to improve the well-being of students in foster care. ED and HHS released a letter advising local educational and child welfare agencies to coordinate efforts to ensure the educational stability of students in foster care under the Fostering Connections Act.

ED also launched the Students in Foster Care webpage this week, which provides information on important laws, guidance and technical assistance materials.

The new guidance, letter and web page are just three of ED’s continuing efforts to improve outcomes for children and youth in foster care. The Department has also worked to raise awareness of the impact of the Uninterrupted Scholars Act on the IDEA.

The Obama administration believes that if we can improve the lives of the most vulnerable students, it will lead to better outcomes for all students.


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