Skip to Content

Education of Children in Foster Care


On this page...

I want to emphasize the importance of doing all we can to address the special needs of children in our care, because the work we do now will, in many ways, affect their future, and ultimately, the future of our communities.

--Former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus

The district of location is responsible for the education of Iowa students when they are placed in foster care and/or out-of home care within the state of Iowa. The Department of Education's involvement varies from monitoring, accreditation and oversight to collaboration with agencies such as the Department of Human Services (DHS), Juvenile Court/Children's Justice Initiative, Department of Corrections and private providers contracted by the DHS. The intent of the information contained on this page is to enable the people and entities who serve children in foster care and out-of-home care to do so more ably and more consistently across the State and across child serving agencies.

Children in out-of-home care face additional educational barriers that their peers do not. It is important to create positive school experiences to enhance the well-being of all students and to increase the educational stability of students in foster/out-of-home care. These experiences help students in foster care of out-of-home care make more successful transitions to adulthood, increase their chances for personal fulfillment and economic self-sufficiency, as well as increase their ability to contribute to society.

Improving Education Outcomes for Children in Foster Care (2009-09-25) - Memo from former Director Judy Jeffrey.

Awaiting Foster Care (2010-08-31) - Memo from former Acting Director Kevin Fangman providing a definition of "awaiting foster care placement."

Federal Law and Iowa Code

Federal Law
PL 110-351/HR 6893 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act) - Improving Outcomes for Children in Foster Care - This is the text in its entirety, to view the educational stability portion, refer to Title II--Section 204 Educational Stability (p. 12-13)

Outline for the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act

Iowa Code

The Iowa Code has been updated to include specific areas to address educational responsibilities of districts in educating children and youth in foster/out-of-home care. The following document has been prepared as a courtesy to and for the use of school personnel, Department of Human Services caseworkers, foster parents, and all other interested parties as general guidelines regarding education issues for foster children. These materials are not intended as legal advise to the reader.

The following links access specific sections of the Iowa Code pertaining to districts compliance with Foster Connections Legislation. Code sections are also referenced in the Guidelines for the Education of Children in Foster Care in Iowa document.

Legal Questions Contact:
Thomas Mayes


Guidelines for the Education of Children in Foster Care in Iowa

Forum Guide to the Privacy of Student Information: A Resource for Schools


Students in Out of State Facilities Contact:
Susan Walkup


Out of State Private Facility Application for Approval to Provide Special Education Services to Iowa Students



The following resources are provided through The Legal Center for Foster Care Education (FCE). The Legal Center FCE serves as a national technical assistance resource and information clearinghouse on legal and policy matters affecting the education of children in the foster care system. The Legal Center FCE provides expertise to states and constituents, facilitates networking to advance promising practices and reforms, and provides technical assistance and training to respond to the ever-growing demands for legal support and guidance. These resources can be downloaded at: Refer to the Guidelines for the Education of Children in Foster Care in Iowa document, for laws specific to the state of Iowa.

Blueprint for Change - Legal Center for Foster Care & Education

Student Enrollment and Transitions:

Foster Care Q & A:

Special Education Decision Making for Students in Out of Home Care:

Decision-Making for Children with Disabilities in Foster Care - This document, jointly issued by the department of education and human services, explains who may act as a parent for purposes of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for children who are in foster care.  It clarifies the role of established parents, foster parents, guardians, DHS employees, and surrogate parents.


Iowa Children's Justice Initiative - Dedicated to improving the lives and future prospects of children who pass through Iowa's dependency courts.

Legal Center for Foster Care and Education (Legal Center FCE) - A national technical assistance resource and information clearinghouse on legal and policy matters affecting the education of children in the foster care system. The Legal Center FCE focuses on supporting direct education advocacy efforts for children in foster care, as well as promoting federal, state and local laws and policies that address the education needs of this population.

Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association - A non-profit organization serving as a resource to foster, adoptive and kinship families in Iowa.

Elevate - Desire to Inspire - A group of young people who seek to inspire others to new levels of understanding and compassion to the life connection needs of foster care and adoptive teens by sharing their personal stories of hope. The Department of Human Services partnered with Children and Families of Iowa to expand the successful Des Moines elevate chapter to sites across Iowa.

Foster Care Parent Handbook

Parent's Juvenile Court Handbook - A handbook written to help parents understand court proceedings for a child in need of assistance. Spanish version of the Parent's Juvenile Court Handbook.


Funding for educational programs is in Iowa Code chapter 282.

Below is a list referencing specific types of programming. For questions about billing procedures, reimbursements or claims, contact Su McCurdy at the Iowa Department of Education.


Foster Care Claims

School districts may submit a claim to request additional funding for nonresident regular education students living in foster care homes or facilities and enrolled in the district. The claim is a data collection located in the Iowa Education Portal. The Foster Care Claim for nonresident regular education students is populated from the fall and spring Student Reporting in Iowa collections. This claim is a verification of the information already submitted by the attending districts. See the following links from Iowa Code or contact Carla Schimelfenig at for assistance in verifying the Foster Care Claim. The claim must be certified by August 1 of each year. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. Call Carla Schimelfenig at 515-242-5612 for more information on the claim process.

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on November 30, 2015 at 5:36am.