In October 7, 2008, the federal government signed into law the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351). This act requires all states to arrange for children and youth in foster care to remain in their “school of origin” to ensure educational stability unless it is determined to be in a child’s best interest to go to the new district where the Resource Family Home is located. New Jersey responded to this charge by passing the Education Stability Law on September 9, 2010, which established a system that supports the act. The Department of Children & Family (DCF), Department of Education (DOE) and Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) work together to implement this law.
For children, changing schools can affect their ability to thrive academically, socially, behaviorally and psychologically. This is especially true for children in resource family homes. For these children – who often suffer the lingering effects of abuse or neglect and the trauma of being removed from their homes and families – school can often be the most stable part of their lives.
The Improving the Educational Outcomes of Children in Out-of-Home Placements: An Interagency Guidance Manual, developed by a multiagency state-level working group, provides specific strategies for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and local education agencies (school districts) to implement, both apart and together, to achieve the goals set forth for providing educational stability for students in resource center homes and developing a model memorandum of agreement with DCF. Some of the listed responsibilities are required by Federal or State laws and regulations. Others are recommended actions for school and DCF staff to help achieve the goals listed below.
The manual includes forms, resources, and a sample model for collaboration to facilitate the implementation of the actions.
The goals for meeting the educational needs of children in out-of-home placement are as follows:
Goal 1: Children remain in their current school when in their best interest.
Goal 2: Children enter school ready to learn.
Goal 3: Children receive supports and services to participate in all aspects of school and to prevent school dropout, truancy, and disciplinary actions.
Goal 4: Children are engaged in their education, are empowered to advocate for their educational needs and pursuits, and receive supports and services to ensure a successful transition into adulthood.
Goal 5: Children with disabilities are located, identified and evaluated for eligibility for special education and section 504 services and, if eligible, must receive a free, appropriate public education.
Goal 6: DCF and local school districts participate in ongoing communication and collaboration to support and improve the well-being of children.