February 01, 2015

Education Needs of Foster Children

In a Feb. 2 letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the ABA urged the inclusion of a set of recommendations addressing the unique educational needs of children in foster care in the committee’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill. ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman emphasized in the letter that research has shown that far too many students in foster care are not succeeding in school and a concerted effort is needed to address their unique educational needs. The ABA recommendations, which build on complementary obligations already required of child welfare agencies in federal law, include: the right for a child to remain in the same school despite a change in placement; the right for the student to enroll immediately, regardless of any records requirements, when a school change is necessary; provisions to ensure that schools maintain and quickly transfer any records; a required point of contact designated to assist a foster child in his or her educational career and changes; the collection and sharing of information on foster children’s education; the requirement that students get credit for work completed when switching schools; and the requirement that the involved agencies plan and implement transportation plans to and from school for foster children. Alexander and the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are working together to draft legislation to reauthorize the ESEA, which was first enacted in 1965 and most recently reauthorized in 2002 as the No Child Left Behind Act, a law that has been criticized by many, including Alexander and Murray, for stringent testing requirements.

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