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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: March 11, 2019 11:12 PM
From: Representative Tarah Toohil
To: All House members
Subject: Foster Care Educational Stability Act- Changes to Three Separate Codes
 
Dear Colleagues,

I am re-introducing the Educational Stability Act for the fourth term in a row. Ensuring the Educational Stability of children in Foster Care has been challenging because it requires language changes in three separate areas of our law and, thus, progress in this area has been slow.

In 2014, a former high school student and foster child, Brittany, testified before the House Children & Youth Committee about the negative impacts of being moved from school to school. Many students, like Brittany, are denied the constancy of maintaining their friendships and their focus on school when they are moved from foster home to foster home and moved, unnecessarily, from school to school.

Some county agencies and school districts have disagreed on how to address the educational stability of foster children who are moved out of their homes and many times out of their "home" school district.

Regardless of Federal Requirements to the contrary, children are still in their “home” school of origin one day only to be suddenly moved to a foster home out of their school district and never heard from again. Foster children continue to miss school for a month or more while the new foster family or kinship family enrolls them in a new school district.

In support of Senator Pat Browne’s sister legislation he cites, “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 academic progress each time they change schools.”

Please help ensure that we change our laws and renew our commitment to these children and their educational stability. Thank you for your support on the following three separate code changes.



Document #1

Description: Changes to the Human Services Code:
  • Requires the county welfare agency to ensure that a case plan for a child in foster care addresses school stability and that a plan is in place that outlines the process for determining what school is in the best interests of the child. The plan must detail a method for arranging and funding any transportation.
  • Creates a duty for the county agency to collaborate with the local educational agency.
  • Adds safeguards for reporting to the department if the local educational agency and the county welfare agency do not reach an agreement in compliance with this section.
Former Human Services Code Proposals
2011/12 Rep. Moul HB2501, 2013/14 Rep. Rosemary Brown HB973, 2015/15 Toohil HB 1808,
2017/18 Toohil HB 1108.
 
 

Document #2

Description: Changes to the Education Code:
  • All efforts must be taken to avoid a disruption in a child’s education when the child is becoming homeless or entering into foster care. The first choice should be to immediately continue enrollment in the same school if this decision is in the best interests of the child, is feasible and is appropriate.
  • If the student changes schools then they shall be immediately enrolled in the new school and the former district must provide their records within 10 days of enrollment.
  • Transportation required for school stability shall be provided by school district in which the student is enrolled. The costs of transportation will be determined by an agreement between the agencies.
  • Adds safeguards for reporting to the department if the local educational agency and the county welfare agency do not reach an agreement in compliance with this section.
  • A foster child who is in cyber school shall be reported to the department of education in order for the department to track the number of foster children in cyber school.
 

Document #3

Description: Changes to the Juvenile Act:
  • The court shall address the educational plan of the child at the initial disposition hearing so that an effort is made to not change schools and so the parties are aware that the law favors educational stability as a goal for the child.
  • The court shall ensure that the child remain in the same school unless the court determines that remaining in the same school would be contrary to the child’s safety or well-being.
  • The court shall consider the best interests of the child over the wishes of a biological parent, foster parent or other legally authorized education decision maker and where appropriate, the wishes of the child.
  • A child cannot be moved from their school of origin into a cyber school unless a judge deems this change appropriate, necessary, and in the best interest of the child.
Former Juvenile Act Proposals
2011/12 Rep. Moul HB2053, 2013/14 Toohil HB569, 2015/16 Toohil HB 1809, 2017/18 Toohil HB 1109.