New Jersey Department of Education

Best Interest Determinations

2.1 Children in foster care enroll or remain in their district of residence unless there is a determination that it is not in the child's best interest to attend the district of residence (ESEA §1111(g)(1)(E)(i)). The best interest determination must be based on all relevant factors, including:

  • Safety considerations, (concerns of parent access, bullying, etc.);
  • Proximity of the resource family home to the child's present school (no limit on distance, case by case considerations);
  • Age and grade level of the child as it relates to other factors;
  • Needs of the child, including social adjustment and wellbeing;
  • Child's preference;
  • Child's performance, continuity of education and engagement in present school;
  • Child's special education programming;
  • Point of time in the school year;
  • Child's permanency goal and likelihood of reunification; and
  • Anticipated duration of current placement

2.2 If the child's foster care placement changes, and it is determined to be in his/her best interest, the child has the right to remain in his/her pre-placement district for the duration of his/her time in foster care.

2.3 LEAs and local child welfare agencies (CWAs) should collaborate to develop a joint process for making best interest determinations, which should consider multiple student-centered factors, including:

  • Consultation with the child, if appropriate, and adults who have meaningful relationships with the child;
  • Child's attachment to current educational setting, including meaningful relationships with staff and peers;
  • History of school transfers and how they have impacted the child; and
  • How the length of the commute would impact the child, based on the child's developmental stage.

Please Note: Transportation costs should not be a factor.

2.4  If parties cannot come to agreement, the ultimate decision should reside with the child welfare agency (CWA).

2.5 To the extent feasible and appropriate, to reduce the number of school moves, a child must remain in his/ her pre-placement district while awaiting a decision.

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