Ensuring the Educational Stability of Students in Foster Care

Ensuring the Educational Stability of Students in Foster Care

Information for Reset and Restart

Educational stability is essential to the overall well-being of students in foster care. Children in foster care utilize services regularly provided by schools for access to transportation, meals, health care, social and emotional supports and connection to peers and trusted adults. As each local school district adopts a reset and restart plan in coordination with local stakeholders and the local health department, many schools will be operating fully remote and many will use a hybrid model. Students in foster care will require additional support from school district personnel to fully access educational and wraparound services.

Below are a series of questions and answers to assist local school districts and county children services agencies as they collaborate to meet the needs of students in foster care during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

For Local Schools and Districts

How can local school district foster care liaisons provide additional supports to students in foster care during reset and restart?
  • Ensure contact information for foster families, caregivers, guardian ad litems (GALs) and other individuals close to students in foster care are current in districtwide email listservs, call lists and the Student Information System.
  • Check in regularly and consistently with students, families and caregivers. Ensure students in foster care can stay connected to trusted adults (coaches, mentors, teachers, school staff) in remote and blended learning environments.
  • Know which students and families need additional assistance with technology and internet connectivity necessary to complete remote schoolwork. Help students and families get connected to the resources offered by the district or local community partners and agencies.
  • Work with teachers and other school staff to monitor attendance and engagement rates of students in foster care. If a student needs additional outreach and support to engage in remote or blended instruction, consider developing a plan with teachers, school staff, the foster family and student to ensure success.
  • Students in foster care may receive social, emotional and/or behavioral health supports in the school setting. Reference information in How to Support Your Child’s Health and Well-being and Telehealth Guidelines for Service Providers for additional resources on the continuation of these services.
  • Ask students and caregivers what they need to feel healthy and safe. Assist in connecting them with other community resources, including housing, food or necessary items if appropriate. See the Preventing Abuse and Neglect: Student Safety During School Restart webpage.
  • Strengthen connections with caseworkers and the county children’s services agencies in your area. Reach out when necessary to ensure there are comprehensive services and plans in place for foster youth and families. Collaborate with caseworkers to meet the individual needs of foster youth. Locate child welfare county agency contacts here.
How can local schools and districts update the contact information (name, position, email, phone number) of the local school district’s foster care liaison?
The Ohio Educational Directory System (OEDS) is the data system all school districts in Ohio use to provide the contact information for designated staff positions. A district’s foster care liaison contact information should be kept up to date in OEDS. Due to additional needs students may have related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is important for foster families, child welfare agencies and the community to know how to reach the foster care point of contact. If the contact information for the district foster care liaison requires updating, contact the districtwide OEDS administrator. Instructions for updating OEDS can be found here.

Where can a district foster care liaison obtain an up-to-date list of students in foster care in his or her respective district?
The Education Management Information System (EMIS) will have information on students in foster care in each school and district. Contact the Education Management Information System (EMIS) coordinator for more information. Local foster care liaisons also should work closely with county children services agencies throughout the 2020 – 2021 school year to stay up to date on students entering foster care and students whose placements change.

Where can best practices for engaging with families and caregivers of youth in foster care be found?
Family and caregiver engagement is essential to every local school and district’s COVID-19 response. It is important to consider additional outreach to foster families, caregivers and kinship providers who may need support assisting youth with remote learning and wraparound supports. How can schools support students in foster care who are seniors in high school or older youth?
  • Ensure students, foster families, caregivers and caseworkers have access to the local school district’s policy for graduation and promotion in the 2020-2021 school year.
  • High school administrators, counselors and teachers should consider additional outreach to students in foster care to ensure they are on-track to complete coursework necessary for graduation and promotion. Student success plans and one-on-one mentoring are vital to the completion of academic requirements. Visit the Department’s Reset and Restart webpage Graduation Flexibility – 2021 and Beyond for more information on graduation requirements.
  • Consider establishing peer-to-peer networks to keep youth connected to friends and classmates during remote and blended learning.
  • Monitor the attendance and engagement of youth in foster care, especially when using remote or blended learning models. If a student in foster care is experiencing a change in placement, educational stability is vital to his or her overall well-being and success. See the Ohio Department of Education’s Attendance Considerations for Remote Learning Plans.
  • Ohio will continue to cover the cost of keeping youths in foster care who are set to age out of the system until further notice. See Governor DeWine’s April 25 announcement.
  • Ensure school staff who work with youth in foster care, including teachers, counselors, and student support services personnel are knowledgeable about transitional resources. Consider connecting eligible students with Ohio BRIDGES or Young Adult Services through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for housing support, employment opportunities and postsecondary education access.
  • Visit the Ohio Reach Webpage for more information regarding postsecondary transitions services for former foster youth.
  • For more information on services and supports for transition-age youth, visit this resource page from the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs.
How can school districts and child welfare agencies collaborate for “best interest determination” meetings?
If a student is entering foster care for the first time, or is changing foster care placements, a “best interest determination” meeting or conversation is necessary to determine school placement. A student in foster care has the right to remain in his or her school of origin if it’s determined to be in the student’s best interest to do so or he or she can enroll in the school district where the foster care placement is located.
  • Updated Determination Form: Ohio Department of Education’s Model Best Interest Determination Form
  • Considerations for Reset and Restart: During the best interest determination conversation, determine the learning methods and platforms being used by the school of origin and attendance area district. Consider a student’s ease of transfer to new platforms of remote learning and the effects this could have on full participation in learning. Consider the foster family’s needs and preferences, as well as the youth’s.
How can local schools and districts ensure they uphold the immediate enrollment provision for students in foster care?
A school or district should follow its process for enrolling students in foster care during reset and restart. Under section 1111(g)(1)(E) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, students in foster care have a right to immediate enrollment when they are placed into care or experience a change in foster care placement and a determination is made that it is not in the student’s best interest to remain in the school of origin.
  • If a student in foster care is enrolling in a school or district for the first time, ensure the school staff member processing the enrollment contacts the school the student last attended and has the student’s records transferred immediately. Records can include: individualized education programs (IEPs), attendance records, student success plans, course of study plans, etc. Unpaid fees or fines are not a reason to delay student records transfer for youth in foster care.
  • Updated: Foster Care Enrollment Checklist
  • Updated: Foster Care Educational Stability Provisions Flowchart 
How can the local school district ensure a student in foster care is receiving transportation to and from the school of origin?
The foster care liaison should work with the district’s transportation coordinator and county children services agency to ensure transportation services are arranged, provided and funded for the duration of time a student is in foster care.

For Child Welfare Agencies and Congregate Care Facilities

Who should be contacted in each local school district regarding services for students in foster care?
Each local school district and community school in the state of Ohio has a foster care liaison. To find the foster care liaison in a district, visit the Ohio Department of Education’s Foster Care webpage and scroll to the ‘Foster Care Points of Contact’ section at the bottom. For additional information or contact information, email fostercare@education.ohio.gov.

How can students in foster care receive free school meals?
All students in foster care are categorically eligible for free school meals. Many school districts in Ohio are serving meals daily to all children ages 18 and under in their communities. To find the school meal site closest to the student or family, visit this link.
Congregate care facilities for students in foster care that would like to pick up school meals for multiple students should follow the parent and guardian meal pick-up policy in the ‘Resources’ section of the Supporting Whole Child Nutrition webpage.

How can foster families and caseworkers ensure students in foster care who have IEPs or Section 504 plans are receiving educational services during the reset and restart of the 2020-2021 school year?
The Ohio Department of Education has released information entitled Reset and Restart of the 2020-2021 school year: Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities. For specific questions relating to the services in a student’s individual IEP, reach out to the student’s intervention specialist or classroom teacher to discuss the instructional methods to be used to deliver services and accommodations. The local school district foster care liaison will be able to assist in facilitating these connections with appropriate school staff.

How can students in foster care and foster families get connected to community partners and resources?
Many local school districts have updated their webpages with information regarding local family and community resources. Examples include the COVID-19 Family Resources webpage from Akron Public Schools and Columbus City Schools Resources for Families. Stay connected to school district webpages and social media to understand what supports are being provided for youth and families in the local area.

For answers to questions not addressed in this information page, please contact the Department by sending an email to fostercare@education.ohio.gov.

Last Modified: 8/26/2020 9:20:09 AM