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Meeting the Needs of Children in Foster Care: McKinney-Vento & Fostering Connections. Maura McInerney, Ed Law Center. Are children in foster care ever homeless? Why does school stability matter for children in foster care? Are there other laws that impact children in foster care?
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Meeting the Needs of Children in Foster Care: McKinney-Vento & Fostering Connections Maura McInerney, Ed Law Center
Are children in foster care ever homeless? Why does school stability matter for children in foster care? Are there other laws that impact children in foster care? What are the confidentiality rules? What could we do differently to meet the needs of these students? What are other states doing?
Collaboration between ABA, Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Programs, in conjunction with the Juvenile Law Center and Education Law Center. A national technical assistance resource and information clearinghouse on legal and policy matters affecting the education of children and youth in out-of-home care. Website: http://www.fostercareandeducation.org/ Listserv, Conference Calls, Publications, Searchable Database, state & local models
Website: www.fostercareandeducation.org Join our listserv: Email Shante.Bullock@americanbar.org; include “Join Foster Care & Education listerv” in subject Join Us
Who are the children and youth in out-of-home care? Approx. 650,000 youth a year; approx. 400,000 on any day. Disproportionately children of color 67% school age; 33% under age 5 28% with a relative; 50% foster family 50% have goal of reunification Over 26,000 young people emancipated from foster care in 2011 5
Length of stay in out-of-home care 12 percent in care less than 1 month 35 percent in care for 1 to 11 months 27 percent in care for 12 to 23 months 12 percent in care for 24 to 35 months 9 percent in care for 3 to 4 years 6 percent in care for 5 or more years Many children cycle in and out of care… 6
What are their experiences? Neglected and abandoned Exposed to drug abuse Homeless Post-traumatic stress disorder Exposed to violence Severely abused
The Whirlwind of Out-of-Home Care Removed from home/parents/siblings May not have had chance to say goodbye Uncertain about where parents/siblings are Living with strangers In strange house/room/bed Different customs/routine Other children in home Few or none of your possessions Lucky to have trash bag of belongings Uncertainty about future Where will I live? Will I return home? Where will I go to school?
What are the educational experiences of students in out-of-home care? Of more than 1,000 foster care alumni surveyed in a Casey Family Programs national study, 68% attended 3 or more elementary schools; 33% attended 5 or more. One study showed that over two thirds of children in care changed schools shortly after initial placement in care. A University of Chicago study found that, by the 6th grade, students who had changed schools 4 or more times had lost approximately one year of educational growth. A New York study found 42% of children did not start school immediately upon entering care; half of those did not start due to lost or misplaced records. In a national study of 1,087 foster care alumni, youth who had even one fewer placement change per year were almost twice as likely to graduate from high school before leaving care. 9
Studies across the country, show children in foster care are struggling Only 54% discharged from care have completed high school. Approximately 67% of youth will become homeless, go to jail or die within one year of leaving the foster care system at 18. In one California County, dependent youth were twice as likely to not be proficient in English or math, and earned average of 14 fewer credits per year, compared to their non-dependent peers. Midwest Study showed youth in foster care on average read at only a seventh grade level after completing 10th or 11th grade. Two to four times more likely to repeat a grade. Two times as likely to receive an out of school suspension and three times as likely to report being expelled. Only 4% obtain bachelor’s degree by age 26. 10
Why This Matters A high school drop out is . . . Eight times more likely to be incarcerated 40% more likely to be on public assistance Far more likely to be unemployed More likely to become a drug addict Estimated cost of a youth who drops out and turns to crime & drugs -- $1.7 to $2.3 million Children in foster care are….. Often alone once they “age out” often at 18. More likely to be homeless, unemployed, have mental care needs etc.
Experiences of youth in care: CA 20% of foster youth live in California
Understanding the Process • Child welfare system • Court system Child welfare agencies and courts often lack basic information about a child. Systems are focused on safety concerns and basic needs. Youth may have no voice in the process and worry about where they will live and who will care for them.
How this process impacts the classroom Attendance Changing schools School discipline Lack of connection to school Inability to access extracurriculars Special Ed/Remedial needs Credit problems & lack of access to high school diploma Barriers to accessing higher education 16
Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Children in Foster Care 8 Goals for Youth Benchmarks for each goal indicating progress toward achieving education success National, State, and Local Examples
Goals for Youth Goal 1: Remain in the Same School Goal 2: Seamless Transitions Between Schools Goal 3: Young Children Are Ready to Learn Goal 4: Equal Access to the School Experience Goal 5: School Dropout, Truancy, and Disciplinary Actions Addressed Goal 6: Involving and Empowering Youth Goal 7: Supportive Adults as Advocates and Decisionmakers Goal 8: Obtaining Postsecondary Education
Stability Encourages Growth Youth with even one fewer placement change per year were almost twice as likely to graduate.
Goals 1 & 2: School Stability and Continuity Overlap between the McKinney-Vento Act and Fostering Connections Act
McKinney-Vento Act & Fostering Connections Act • McKinney-Vento Act (NCLB) • Ensures school stability, transportation to school of origin, pendency in school of choice while disputes are resolved, immediate enrollment, help of school liaisons to enroll, access to Title I, comparable services etc. • Fostering Connections (Title IV-E) • Caseworkers must consider proximity and appropriateness of prior school in placing children AND must ensure school stability unless remaining in same school is not in child’s best interest. Transportation is more limited; no liaisons, no clear mandate on Education to act – HOWEVER, they have a duty to cooperate to ensure stability.
Children in Foster Care:Eligibility Under McKinney-Vento • Currently, some children who are, or who have been, in out-of-home care are eligible for the benefits of the McKinney-Vento Act. • Children living in emergency or temporary shelters • Youth who have run away from foster placements and are living in a homeless situation. • Youth who have been abused or neglected and are living in a homeless situation, but have not been placed in the custody of the child welfare system. • Youth who have aged out of foster care and are living in a homeless situation, but have not graduated from high school. • The definition of children eligible under the McKinney-Vento Act includes children “awaiting foster care placement.”
Variety of interpretations of AFCP: • When child is in foster care they are not “awaiting foster care placement” and therefore are not McKinney eligible • Children in foster care in certain particularly unstable placements (such as shelter placements) are considered McKinney eligible • All children pre-adjudication or disposition are considered McKinney eligible • All children pre-finalization of permanency plan (e.g. adoption; guardianship; reunification) are McKinney eligible • Placements typically lasting XX number of days • All children in foster care are McKinney eligible
State examples of McKinney-Vento application to children in foster care • Delaware defines “awaiting foster care placement” as all children in foster care. • Massachusetts and Connecticut have reached state level agreements between their education and child welfare agencies to include certain children in foster care under McKinney Vento. • Other states and local jurisdictions have chosen to have informal policies to determine when a child in foster care is eligible under McKinney Vento.
Right to school stability: “remainder of the school year” • If a child is McKinney eligible, the child has the right to remain in the same school for the remainder of the school year even when the child becomes permanently housed. • Federal DOE guidance instructs States to encourage school districts to provide or arrange transportation through use of Title I & other fundsto “prevent fragmentation of school services” for these formerly homeless students to maintain the continuity of their education in the school of origin • DOE Guidance re McKinney-Vento (2003)
Creating State Foster Care/Education Policies • Some states continue to debate which children in care are eligible under McKinney’s “awaiting foster care placement” and others have limited eligibility to certain subset of children in care • However, almost all agree that similar protections are NEEDED for all children in care. • Many states have sought other means of establishing these McKinney-like protections for all children in care. (Example: California AB 490- Jan. 2004) • Now with Fostering Connections, a new wave of state foster care/education legislation is underway
Fostering Connections to Success Act (October 2008) • Amends Title IV (Parts B and E) of the Social Security Act • Broad-reaching amendments to child welfare law • Important provisions promoting education stability and enrollment for youth in care • Changes child welfare law, but cannot be fully realized without collaboration from education system
Federal Guidance • Joint Letter, HHS & DOE, May, 2014 • Fostering Connections imposes specific obligations on both child welfare agencies AND LEAs • Students in Foster Care Webpage DOE/HHS • Relevant laws, guidance and technical assistance http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/foster-care/index.html
Fostering Connections Act Requirements • Appropriateness and Proximity • Child’s case plan must include “assurances that the placement of a child in foster care takes into account the appropriateness of the current educational setting and the proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement.”
Requirement: School Stability • Child’s case plan must include • “(I) an assurance that the state [or local child welfare agency] has coordinated with appropriate local education agencies … to ensure that the child remains enrolled in the school in which the child was enrolled prior to placement” • If in the child’s best interest • Presumption in favor of stability
ACYF-CB-PI-10-11 July 9, 2010 – Program Instruction Education Stability Plan must be a written part of the case plan, reviewed every 6 months. Agency could invite school personnel, agency attorneys, GALs and AALs, youth, etc. to discussions about the education stability plan. Agency is encouraged to develop standard and deliberate process for determining best interest and properly documenting the steps taken to make the determination.
School Stability Determination Issues • How is best interest determined/what are factors to address? • Who ultimately decides best interest? • What is the role of the parents (or other person with education decision-making authority) in making these decisions? • How will disputes be resolved? • How will child welfare and education collaborate?
Key Questions to Consider When Making a Best Interest Determination • How long is the child’s current placement expected to last? • What is the child’s permanency plan? • How many schools has the child attended over the past few years? How many schools has the child attended this year? How have the school transfers affected the child emotionally, academically and physically? • How strong is the child academically? • To what extent are the programs and activities at the potential new school comparable to or better than those at the current school? • Does one school have programs and activities that address the unique needs or interests of the student that the other school does not have? • Which school does the student prefer?
Key Questions to Consider When Making a Best Interest Determination (con’t) • How deep are the child’s ties to his or her current school? • Would the timing of the school transfer coincide with a logical juncture such as after testing, after an event that is significant to the child, or at the end of the school year? • How would changing schools affect the student’s ability to earn full credits, participate in sports or other extra-curricular activities, proceed to the next grade, or graduate on time? • How would the length of the commute to the school of origin impact the child? • How anxious is the child about having been removed from the home and/or any upcoming moves? • What school do the child’s siblings attend? • Are there any safety issues to consider? ***For NCHE and LCFCE brief see http://www.serve.org/nche/downloads/briefs/school_sel_in_care.pdf
ACYF-CB-PI-10-11 July 9, 2010 Program Instruction Examples of Best Interest Factors: Child’s preference Safety of the child Appropriateness of current educational programs in current or other school and how the schools can serve the child’s needs (including special education) COST SHOULD NOT BE A FACTOR!
Transportation • The term foster care maintenance payments includes “reasonable travel for the child to remain in the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement.”
Transportation: Considerations Permissible use of Administrative Costs or Foster Care Maintenance Payments (only applies to IV-E eligible children in care). Can be paid to child’s provider or separately to the transportation provider. Some children may already be receiving transportation from other sources (M-V, IDEA, etc.) State match required. Reimbursement to foster care provider or caretaker, transportation provider, etc. Extracurricular transportation, school meetings, etc.
Enrolling in a New School • If remaining in the same school is not in the best interest of the child, the child’s case plan must include • “(II) … assurances by the State agency and the local education agencies to provide immediate and appropriate enrollment in a new school, with all of the education records of the child provided to the school.” 42 U.S.C.A. 675(1)(G)(ii).
Enrollment In New School Issues • How are immediate and appropriate defined? • Requires collaboration between school and child welfare agency. • How to ensure records follow student?
State Implementation of Fostering Connections • Many states have or will pursue legislation or other policy changes to comply with Fostering Connections (Approximately 30 states currently) • Provides an opportunity to incorporate some of the known strengths of McKinney-Vento into child welfare/education state policy; such as: • Creation of a liaison or key point of contact in both child welfare and education agencies • Requirement for education agency to coordinate • Consider state funding streams to support school of origin transportation for children in care who are not McKinney eligible • Creation of protocols for best interest determinations as well as process for dispute resolution • Identifying role of the court in these processes given the children in care are court involved.
State Examples • Connecticut (SB 31): when in child’s best interest to remain in school of origin, DCF and Board of Ed. work together to develop transportation plan; DCF pays additional transportation costs, with approx. $3 million state dollars allocated • Colorado (HB 1274): each school district must designate a child welfare education liaison to coordinate timely and appropriate placement, transfer, and enrollment in school; liaison transfers school records within 5 school days of a request • Texas: education section of Child Service Plan amended to ask staff to specifically address educational stability issues
State Examples: Transportation • Child Welfare arranges or pays: • Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont • Education arranges or pays: • Arkansas, Maine, New Jersey • Transportation expenses shared: • Maryland: Education pays for transporation the first year and then cost shifts to child welfare agency
Fostering Connections Myths • Children in foster care are not MV eligible anymore, now that there is Fostering Connections. • False. Children in foster care can be eligible under both laws. McKinney eligibility is determined by state interpretation of MV and AFCP • Children in foster care don’t need MV now that there is Fostering Connections. • False. MV provides far greater rights and protections for eligible children, so the greatest protection for children in foster care is eligibility under both.
Fostering Connections Myths, cont… • Child welfare agencies and advocates now determine which children are eligible under MV. • False. MV eligibility is still determined in the same way it has always been for all MV eligible students. Child welfare agencies are now focused on best interest determinations as well, as it relates to FC, but these determinations do not replace the MV eligibility process in place in states. Child welfare advocates views on best interest should be factored into MV eligibility determinations.
Fostering Connections Myths, cont.. • Now that there is Fostering Connections, child welfare agencies take the place of the parent when making education decisions for the child. • False. Nothing about Fostering Connections changes the role of parents to be involved in education decisions for the child. The parent’s role in MV decisions, before and after Fostering Connections, may be impacted by statute or court determination.
Fostering Connections Myths, cont… • Children in foster care who are eligible under MV now must have transportation costs to remain in their home school covered under IV-E child welfare dollars. • False. Children in care eligible under MV who require transportation to remain in their same school are still entitled to transportation by the school in accordance with MV, although child welfare agencies should collaborate to support those efforts as much as possible. All children in foster care are not eligible under IV-E, making MV support for transportation costs even more critical for those children.
How Can Fostering Connections Help McKinney Vento Liaisons? For Children in Care who are McKinney Vento eligible: • Requires child welfare agencies to focus on education stability for children care, including court oversight to ensure accountability • Child welfare agencies are a partner to the liaisons in ensuring school stability • Requires child welfare agencies to consider proximity to the child’s home schools when making living placement changes- which may decrease school mobility • Opportunity to further stabilize children who fluctuate between foster care involvement and homeless situations.
How can McKinney Vento liaisons help to implement Fostering Connections? For children in care who AREN’T McKinney Vento eligible • While not part of official MV duties, you could be the critical link between child welfare and your school or district • Implementation of FC in your school or district can be benefited from successes learned from MV implementation • Enrollment protocols and record transfer policies • Best interest determinations; dispute resolution • Transportation arrangements or agreements • Helping to implement Fostering Connections for children in foster care, including use of IV-E maintenance dollars to support transportation needs, could help stabilize the child in a more permanent (non MV eligible living placement) and avoid a move to a temporary (MV eligible) placement.
Other Laws You Should Know • FERPA – Recent amendments permit representatives of child welfare to access education records • CAPTA – Federal child welfare law protects confidentiality of child welfare records & information • HIPPA – Protects confidentiality of medical records.