Final projects turned in, desks cleaned out, and the classroom doors are closed … summer has arrived! For many families, there is much to anticipate: sleeping in, vacations, and camps. But for foster parents, it is often a season of uncertainty as the kids in their care adjust to a new daily routine, away from the structure school typically provides. Kids who are placed in a new foster home during these summer months are often filled with trepidation about the new school ahead of them.
Historically, one-third of foster care youth change schools at least five times before they turn 18, and with each school change, they are likely to fall four to six months behind. They carry this burden while trying to cope with the trauma of being separated from their families.
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
Fortunately, new federal legislation addresses these challenges with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In Missouri, under this legislation, children in foster care have the right to stay in their school of origin. It is the responsibility of the school districts involved (both of origin and residence) and Children’s Division to pay for transportation to that school, so the financial burden does not fall on foster parents.
If it is determined that it is in the child’s best interest to switch schools, whether this be for better services due to a disability or smaller class sizes, ESSA stipulates that enrollment in the new school cannot be denied or delayed even if the caregiver doesn’t have the records normally required. The school of origin is responsible for transferring those records immediately.
While this legislation is designed to protect the rights of kids in foster care, there are some simple things foster parents can do this summer to help plan and prepare for the upcoming school year:
- Be proactive – set up a meeting with your child’s teacher before the school year starts to talk through any learning or behavioral needs your child has. This gives the teacher a chance to identify and plan creative, effective ways to help your child succeed.
- Communicate effectively – when meeting with your child’s education team, ask specific questions, be assertive but respectful, and stay focused on the goals for your child. Avoid negative language. This sets the tone for all communication throughout the year and helps build trust.
- Keep written records – send requests in writing to the decision-maker and set a deadline if a response is requested. Write polite follow-up letters to document discussions and meetings, and keep a copy for your own records. Keep a folder of all important records that might be useful for
We believe it’s important that foster/adoptive parents are able to understand the unique needs of their kids and effectively navigate the bureaucracy of the education system. That’s why The Coalition has a team of Educational Advocates who work with the child’s Educational Decision Maker to determine and secure appropriate school placement, obtain educational evaluations, ensure implementation of special education services, and protect student’s rights during suspensions. Additionally, our Educational Advocacy program strives to provide children with educational stability and personal growth while helping caregivers become more astute advocates for their children.
Our Educational Advocates are expert both in the educational and child welfare systems, offering the only bridge in St. Louis between foster/adoptive parents, educators, and child welfare professionals. There is no other agency in our region that that does this kind of Educational Advocacy work, which is:
- Focused on the unique needs of youth impacted by foster care.
- Serves every school in St. Louis County.
- Provides all services free-of-charge.
If you would like to speak with one of our Educational Advocates about support during the 2019-2020 school year, please reach out to Claire Sabourin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t forget, if you would like to have your child assessed for early intervention services through the State, it is never too soon to reach out to Missouri First Steps who provides services to families with children, birth to three years of age, with disabilities or developmental delays. Early Childhood Special Education services are available for children between the ages of three and five.