Students in Foster Care are required to have the same access to academic services, resources, extracurricular and enrichment activities that benefit all students in the educational system. Juvenile courts, along with educators, lawyers, social workers, probation officers, caretakers, advocates, and others who work with Foster Youth, are required to act in the best interest of the foster child and provide an educational setting that allows the children to succeed and make academic progress. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 is one of the many policies created “ensuring the educational stability of the child while in foster care” by providing educational stability in the least restrictive educational setting to promote this success. As a result, educational matters are considered at every court hearing and are always important when advocating for the youth’s best interest.
Below are some policies and resources used to ensure educational success.
McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the “primary piece of federal legislation dealing with the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in U.S. public schools.” A child in foster care has had an average of three placements in his or her lifetime. Subsequently, if the child moves schools after each placement change, the child lacks educational and emotional stability, causing his education as well as his or her relationships to suffer. Attorneys can invoke the McKinney-Vento Act to ensure that a child remains in his initial school upon entering foster care to maintain stability in the child’s very unstable life in Dependency Court.
For more on McKinney-Vento, please see: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg116.html and https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/M-V_and_Youth_Awaiting_Foster_Car....
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
An IEP is a meeting and document produced to determine if a child is eligible for special education and services. An IEP meeting is attended by a parent/educational rights holders, one regular education teacher, an special education teacher, an educational agency representative, and the child as well if appropriate. An IEP is used to determine whether the child is eligible for special education services, and if the student is found to be eligible an IEP document and plan is created with written measurable goals for the student as well as other specialized plans such as accommodations, individualized ranges of related services, behavioral plans, etc. Then, when the child reaches the age of 16, the IEP will address postsecondary goals and transition services with the school district providing these opportunities among other service providers.
Fore more IEP information please see: http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/sr/iepresources.asp.
Early Education for Children in Foster Care
Early Head Start and Head Start are federally funded programs that provide every county with a Centralized Eligibility List (CEL) that requires these funds to benefit those who are deemed to be at risk. Children in foster care are at the top of the CEL list; however, that does not guarantee immediate services and enrollment into Head Start programs. Head Start Programs enroll children from birth to age three and provide early learning experiences and school readiness, enhancing cognitive and social development.
Learn more about Head Start Education in California through First 5. To learn more about First 5, please see: http://www.ccfc.ca.gov/.
State law prohibits terminating dependency jurisdiction without assisting Foster Youth with applying to college or a vocational training programs and obtaining financial aid when appropriate. Foster youth need assistance in preparing to exit the system. If the youth is not ready to do so by age 18, the court can maintain jurisdiction over the youth until appropriate measures are taken. Transitional age youth have many services that can help them with higher education and housing.
To learn more about transitional age housing and services, speak with social workers and attorneys. More information can also be found on the California Department of Social Services page: http://www.childsworld.ca.gov/PG1353.htm and DCFS Procedure on ILP and Transitional Youth information: http://file.lacounty.gov/dcfs/cms1_174565.pdf.
The success of foster children is recognized at Celebration Graduation when a youth graduates from high school with a 2.8 grade point average or higher and plans on attending a college, community college, university, vocational or trade. This annual graduation ceremony for foster youth was started in 1990 by United Friends of the Children, an organization that focuses on preparing transitional age youth for life after foster care. United Friends of the Children awards thirty to forty college scholarships that total over $450,000 per year up to five years to support these youth.
For more information on United Friends of the Children please see: http://www.unitedfriends.org/.