The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a great deal of uncertainty for many people, especially within the education field. It is the goal of the Pennsylvania Department of Education to ensure all children are receiving the best education they can during these difficult times, including students who are in foster care. Those handling these situations should be aware of how the educational system plans to help these students. Continue reading below to learn more through the questions that are frequently being asked during this time.
How Will Students Receive Technical Assistance?
The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Educational Stability for Youth in Foster Care Regional Offices are continuing to provide help and technical assistance to local education agencies (LEA) and local child welfare agencies throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. More information regarding contacts can be found on the Educational Stability for Foster Care Youth in Pennsylvania website.
Are Best Interest Determinations Required?
LEAs and local child welfare agencies should continue to complete the Best Interest Determination School Placement form. Foster care placements and changes are still taking place during the pandemic, which is why the process of determining school placement is continuing as well. The following are recommendations to keep in mind when dealing with these situations:
- Local child welfare agencies should continue to notify LEAs of a child’s entry into foster care or change in placement as they occur.
- Consistent with PDE’s student enrollment and attendance guidance for all students, LEAs are strongly encouraged to allow a student to remain in their current school/district during the COVID-19 pandemic, if that is the student’s preference and whenever feasible.
- Collaboration should include developing a plan to address the child’s education, school attendance, and the distance/length of the child’s commute when school buildings reopen.
- In the event that a BID indicates that a student in foster care needs to change schools, LEAs and child welfare partners should collaborate prior to withdrawing the student from the school of origin to ensure that the receiving school has a streamlined process for enrollment and can provide continuity of education.
- Pending any final BID, the school of origin should ensure that students in foster care continue to receive instruction or educational supports provided to all other students enrolled in the school through the local continuity of education plan.
What do I Need to Know About Foster Care Student Enrollment?
During the pandemic, LEAs should follow all student enrollment and attendance guidance for all students. Under the Every Student Succeeds ACt’s foster care provisions, children placed in foster care or going through a change in foster care placement should stay enrolled in the school of origin unless it is determined that it is not in the child’s best interest to remain there. Youth in foster care are also entitled immediate enrollment into a new school if it is determined to be in their best interest to do so. Currently, the proximity of foster care placement and the original school may not be the highest determining factor. Circumstances that may call for a change in schools can be if it is no longer practical, feasible, or in the child’s best interest to stay at their current school. Any questions regarding school enrollment and attendance of youth in foster care should be directed to the points of contact at the LEA.
How is Educational Support Being Provided?
The following are strategies the LEAs can implement to support the needs of youths in foster care education during this time:
- LEAs should ensure that foster families and youth are aware of all school resources offered during the COVID-19 response effort, through targeted outreach.
- LEAs should ensure that youth in foster care have the same access to instruction and other educational supports provided to all other students through the LEAs’ continuity of education plans.
- LEAs should maintain open communication and collaboration with their child welfare partners. A directory of child welfare agency Education Liaisons can be found within the Foster Care Point of Contact Directory
- LEAs should communicate any challenges supporting the educational needs of youth in foster care with the child’s caregiver or placing child welfare agency.
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