Education of Children in Foster Care
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A positive PK-12 education experience has the potential to be a powerful counterweight to the abuse, neglect, separation, impermanence and other barriers these vulnerable student's experience. Additionally, participation in and persistence to a postsecondary credential can enhance their well-being, help them make more successful transitions to adulthood, and increase their chances for personal fulfillment and economic self-sufficiency.
National research shows that children in foster care are at high-risk of dropping out of school and are unlikely to attend or graduate from college. A coordinated effort by local and state education agencies and child welfare agencies is necessary to improve the educational outcomes for students in foster care. Fortunately, the last few years have seen important policy, practice, and advocacy advances that address the education barriers and supports needed for these vulnerable students.
Federal Law and Iowa Code
Federal Law - Health & Human Services
Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act) - Improving Outcomes for Children in Foster Care (PL 110-351/HR 6893). This is the text in its entirety, to view the educational stability portion, refer to Title II--Section 204 Educational Stability.
Federal Law - Education
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 2015 (PL 114-95) This version contains the text in its entirety.
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. Refer to the Guidelines for the Education of Children in Foster Care in Iowa document, for laws specific to the state of Iowa. These materials are not intended as legal advice to the reader.
The following links access specific sections of the Iowa Code pertaining to districts compliance with Foster Connections Legislation:
- Iowa Code section 280.29 Enrollment of children adjudicated or in foster care — transfer of educational records — services
- Iowa Code section 282.19 Child living in substance abuse for foster care placement
- Iowa Code section 282.27 Children living in psychiatric hospitals or institutions – payment
- Iowa Code section 282.29 Children placed by district court
- Iowa Code section 282.30 Special programs
- Iowa Code section 282.31 Funding for special programs
- Iowa Code section 282.33 Funding for children residing in state mental health institutions
- Iowa Code section 282.34 Educational programs for children’s residential facilities
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.
Every Student Succeeds Act
On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released joint guidance to states, school districts and child welfare agencies on the new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for supporting children/youth in foster care. The guidance aims to assist state and local partners in understanding and implementing the new law, and to inform state and local collaboration between educational and child welfare agencies across the nation for the well-being of children in foster care.
- Foster Care Non-Regulatory Guidance (June 23, 2016)
- Dear Colleague Letter on Foster Care Guidance (June 23, 2016)
- Dear Colleague Letter on Foster Care Timelines (June 2016)
State Point of Contact
State DOE Point of Contact – Steve Crew (515) 326 – 1029; firstname.lastname@example.org
State DHS Point of Contact – Doug Wolfe (515) 242 – 5452; email@example.com
State DOE Legal Contact – Thomas Mayes (515) 242 – 5614; firstname.lastname@example.org
- ED and HHS Letter to Chief State School Officers and Child Welfare Directors on Implementing the Fostering Connections Act (May 30, 2014)
- Letter to States Letter to Chief State School Officers and State Child Welfare Directors on the Fostering Connections Act (August 25, 2011)
Information/Data Sharing (FERPA, USA)
- Letter to Chief State School Officers on Guidance on the Amendments to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (May 27, 2014)
- Letter to Chief State School Officers and State Child Welfare Directors on the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (May 24, 2013)
- Uninterrupted Scholars Act (U.S.A.) (January 2013)
- Guidance on IDEA and Highly Mobile Students (July 19, 2013)
- Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Center
- National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC)
- National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities
- Center for Parent Information and Resource
Supportive School Discipline & Prevention Efforts
- Supportive School Discipline Guidance
- Safe & Supportive Learning Environments - training toolkits (2014)
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.
AMP Iowa –
A youth-driven, statewide group that seeks to unleash the full potential for personal growth among foster and adoptive children in Iowa. AMP offers leadership opportunities, service learning projects, speaking opportunities, and educational/vocational assistance. AMP also provides the life skills youth need to become self-sufficient, independent adults. Watch the "What is AMP" video for more information. The Department of Human Services partners with Youth and Shelter Services, in Ames, IA to support AMP local councils across Iowa.
Foster Care Toolkit for Youth -
This toolkit includes tips and resources intended to help foster youth access and navigate social, emotional, and educational skills barriers as they transition into adulthood.
Iowa Children's Justice Initiative -
Dedicated to improving the lives and future prospects of children who pass through Iowa's dependency courts.
Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association -
A non-profit organization serving as a resource to foster, adoptive and kinship families in Iowa.
Funding – Foster Care Claims
General Education Foster Care Claim
School districts may submit a claim to request additional funding for regular education students living in foster care homes or facilities who are enrolled in the district and are only in the district because of their foster care placement. The claim is a data collection located in the Iowa Education Portal. The Foster Care Claim application is located in the Iowa Education Portal. The claim is generated from the fall and spring Student Reporting in Iowa collection (SRI) submissions. The claim must be certified each year by August 1. For more information about the foster care claim process, for regular education students, contact Carla Schimelfenig at (515) 242-5612.
Special Education Foster Care Claim
Special education foster care claims are submitted through the Tuition-In Billing application located in the Iowa Education Portal.
Claims for students whose parental rights have not been terminated must be submitted to the student’s resident district by July 15. Claims for students whose parental rights have been terminated must be submitted to the state for reimbursement by August 1. For assistance with the foster care claim process for special education students, contact Bill Roederer at (515)-281-7972.