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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: February 23, 2016 05:34 PM
From: Senator Patrick M. Browne
To: All Senate members
Subject: Educational Stability for At Risk Students # 2 - Amendments to Human Services Code
I plan to introduce two bills as companion legislation to Senate Bill 966, which working in tandem, will allow children in foster care to remain enrolled in the same school whenever this is in their best interest. For school stability to become a reality across Pennsylvania, it is imperative that school districts, child welfare agencies and the courts work together as partners.

Senate Bill 966 which was previously introduced, amends the Public School Code to provide clear guidance to school districts regarding their responsibilities and required collaboration with child welfare agencies and the courts to achieve school stability for these children. If it is better for the student to change schools, this legislation permits immediate enrollment in the new school without the typically-required documents, requires prompt transfer of the education record, and designates a point of contact to ease integration into the new school setting.

Other legislation is necessary in the Human Services Code and the Juvenile Act (Title 42) to ensure that children in foster care are supported to remain in the same school when this is in their best interest and that this issue is addressed by courts and child welfare agencies to ensure effective implementation.

The lives of children in foster care are filled with uncertainty and disruption. They are living in unfamiliar settings, away from their biological parents and siblings. Almost 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, remaining in the same school with familiar 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.

The second bill amends the Human Services Code by creating a new Article (Article XIII-B) entitled School Stability. It requires the county child welfare agency to develop a case plan for ensuring school stability for a child in foster care, outlines a process for determining what school is in a child’s best interests, and details a method for arranging and funding any transportation needed to make school stability a reality in collaboration with school districts.

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

Introduced as SB1272