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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: February 23, 2016 05:37 PM
From: Senator Patrick M. Browne
To: All Senate members
Subject: Educational Stability for At Risk Students # 3 – Amendments to Juvenile Act (Title 42)

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.

I previously introduced Senate Bill 966, which 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.

The second bill is necessary to amend provisions in the Human Services Code. As I indicated in a prior co-sponsorship memo, 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.

The third bill 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 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.

It is well-documented that students in foster care experience lower academic achievement, lower standardized test scores, and higher dropout rates than their non-foster care peers. This 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.

Introduced as SB1271