On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and instituted new protections for children in foster care that further enhanced the requirements of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act). These provisions, which took effect December 10, 2016, require State Educational Agencies (SEAs) and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) to work with child welfare agencies to ensure the educational stability of children in foster care.
In 2010, N.J.S.A. 18A and N.J.S.A. 30 were amended in response to the federal Fostering Connections Act. These amendments established requirements to support and implement the federal legislation, requiring child welfare agencies and school districts to collaborate and keep children in foster care in the same school when their living placements change, if remaining in that school is in their best interest. The New Jersey Departments of Children and Families (DCF) and Education (DOE) collaborated with local school districts to successfully implement those amendments, and the collaboration will continue in order to support the implementation of the new requirements under ESSA.
The foster care provisions of Title I, Part A of ESSA complement those in the Fostering Connections Act, and clearly state that the educational stability of children in foster care is the joint responsibility of both the education and child welfare systems.
Requirements for LEAs
LEAs must implement the Title I educational stability requirements for children in foster care, ensuring that:
- A child in foster care remains in his or her school of origin unless it is determined that remaining in the school of origin is not in that child's best interest;
- To the extent feasible and appropriate, the child remains in his or her school of origin while this determination is being made by DCF;
- If it is not in the child's best interest to stay in his or her school of origin, the child must be immediately enrolled in the new school even if the child is unable to produce records typically required for enrollment;
- The new (enrolling) school immediately must contact the school of origin to obtain relevant academic and other records; and
- Upon notification from DCF of their designated Point of Contacts (POCs), the LEAs must designate a corresponding POC.