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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 31, 2017 02:56 PM
From: Representative Tarah Toohil
To: All House members
Subject: School Stability for Children in Foster Care Package (Former HB1808 & HB1809)
I will soon introduce legislation to amend both the Human Services Code and the Juvenile Act in order to improve educational stability for children who are in foster care.
This legislation will allow children to remain enrolled in the same school whenever possible and when it is in their best interest following a change in out-of-home placement.

Document #1

Introduced as HB1108

Description: One of the two related bills that I am sponsoring amends the Human Services Code by creating a new Article (Article XIII-B) entitled School Stability (Former HB1808). The provisions contained therein require the county child welfare agency to develop a case plan for ensuring school stability for a child in foster care. The case plan shall be based on the best interest of the child as determined by a court. Until a court has made a best-interest determination for the child, the child shall remain in the same school unless the
county child welfare agency determines that remaining in the same school is contrary to the safety or well-being of the child.
This bill also stipulates that the county child welfare agency has a duty to collaborate with school districts to ensure school stability for children in foster care.

Document #2

Introduced as HB1109

Description: The second bill (Former HB1809) I am sponsoring amends Section 6332 (informal hearing) and Section 6351 (disposition of dependent child) of the Juvenile Act (Title 42) to require the courts to make a finding and determination that ensures that a child in foster care remains in the same school he or she is enrolled in prior to out-of-home placement or a change of placement unless the court determines that remaining in the same school would be contrary to the child's safety or well-being. In making a determination, the presumption
shall be in favor of providing the child school stability.
These two bills are part of a three-bill package being introduced in the House. The other bill, which is sponsored by my colleague on the House Children and Youth Committee, Rep.  Harry Lewis (Former HB1828), amends the Public School Code in order to provide clear guidance to school districts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education as to their responsibilities and their required collaboration with child welfare agencies and the courts to promote and achieve school stability for these children.
For school stability to become a reality across Pennsylvania, it is imperative that school districts, child welfare agencies and the courts work together as equal partners.
The lives of children in foster care are unsettled to begin with, filled with uncertainty and disruption. They are living in unfamiliar settings, away from their natural parents and siblings. A third of these children experience three or more living placements within their first two years in foster care. They often have few personal possessions. They face anxiety about the future. Often times, going to school and being with the same teachers and classmates provides the only semblance of continuity in their lives.
Yet a change in living placement often means having to attend a new school.  Research shows that one of the most significant barriers to educational success is repeatedly changing schools. It is estimated that students lose four to six months of educational progress each time they change schools. When students in foster care change schools they may miss days of school or are placed in the wrong classes waiting for school records to be sent to the new school.  Many times their credits do not transfer, they have to repeat courses or entire grades and many will become frustrated and drop out of school completely.

More often than not, children and youth in foster care are in educational crisis. It is well-documented that they experience lower academic achievement, lower standardized test scores, and higher dropout rates than their non-foster care peers.

My legislation intends to remedy this unfortunate reality. I hope you will join me in supporting this important legislation that intends to minimize the educational disruption experienced by children in foster care.