On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services issued the first guidance on the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act—addressing how state and local education and child welfare agencies must collaborate to implement the ESSA’s provisions on school stability, prompt school enrollment, and school success for children in foster care. The guidance consists of two Dear Colleague Letters and a question and answer section. Below are key points found within the guidance document.
The First Dear Colleague Letter on Timelines clarifies that the effective date of the ESSA’s school stability provisions is December 10, 2016. The Department of Education indicated that it intends to condition the FY 2016 Title I grant award on compliance with these provision. The second dear colleague letter is directed to Chief State School Officers and Child Welfare Directors and also stresses the December 2016 timeline.
The guidance provides definitions for key topics such as: foster care, school origin, and “additional costs” for school transportation. Notably, in regards to school of origin, the guidance states that if a child’s foster care placement changes, the school of origin would then be considered the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of the placement change. For transportation costs, the guidance states that they may not be a factor in determining a child’s best interests in terms of school placement.
By December 10, 2016, each SEA must appoint a state-level point of contact to collaborate with the state child welfare agency to implement the ESSA’s foster care requirements. The Guidance also recommends LEAs immediately appoint POCs to ensure compliance with school stability requirements. The Guidance notes the persons appointed must have the capacity and resources to guide implementing the ESSA’s requirements for children in foster care.
The guidance explains that when a child in foster care moves school districts, the new school district cannot decline enrolling a child because the child cannot produce documents normally needed for school enrollment. LEAs must also ensure the children are regularly attending, fully participating, and their needs are met.
For a more in depth analysis of the guidance document, see the highlights document created by The Legal Center for Foster Care and Education.
The guidance document is also available.