Funding Services for Students in Foster Care

Every Student Succeeds Act 

TheEvery Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) emphasizes the educational stability of vulnerable students, including those in foster care. Children in foster care face many educational barriers, including high mobility, increased incidences of trauma, and mental, behavioral and physical health conditions. ESSA required new guidelines and resources to ensure improved educational outcomes for children in foster care. These provisions took effect on Dec. 10, 2016, and include:  

  • Students in foster care have a right to a best interest determination when placed into foster care or experiencing a change in foster care placement, 
  • Students in foster care have a right to remain in their school of origin, 
  • Students in foster care have a right to transportation services to and from their school of origin, and
  • Students in foster care have a right to immediate enrollment and school records transfer. 

To ensure that students in foster care have access to necessary educational services, many local education agencies (LEAs) may utilize funding to provide educational supports for youth in foster care. These include but are not limited to the following: school meals, school transportation, technology, textbooks and fees, extra-curricular activity costs, tutoring and after-school programming and summer learning. 

The US Department of Education Non-Regulatory guidance for the Educational Stability of Students in Foster Care states that schools and districts should ensure immediate enrollment, regular attendance and full participation in school for students in foster care. This includes meeting students’ educational needs. To fully implement this, schools and districts can take affirmative steps to revise policies that are barriers to enrollment and attendance for children in foster care. Therefore, local schools and districts should review and revise local policies and procedures to ensure school fees are not a barrier to enrollment, attendance, or full participation.    

Student Wellness and Success Funds and Disadvantaged Impact Pupil Aid 

During the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years many schools from across the state found innovative and effective ways to provide whole child supports, including mental and behavioral health care services, to children using Student Wellness and Success Funds

The adoption of a new school funding formula incorporates the Student Wellness and Success funding provided in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years into the formula and restricts a portion of the funding that schools and districts will receive for this critical work. The new formula acknowledges the importance of programs and activities that support Ohio’s children such as: mental and physical healthcare services, prevention education programs, wraparound services, mentoring and afterschool programs, programs geared toward homeless youth and those involved in the child welfare system, enhanced safety and security measures and improved family and community resource and engagement services. Regardless of circumstances, each child has unique needs and it is imperative to find ways to meet those needs.  

Ohio Law: Materials for Course of Instruction  

Ohio Law outlines that school districts are not permitted to “charge a fee to a pupil who is eligible for free lunch” for any materials needed to participate fully in a course of instruction.  

Students in foster care are categorically eligible for free and reduced priced meals, per the National School Lunch Program, making students in foster care eligible for fee waivers for materials for courses of instruction.  

Schools and districts may choose to utilize the following available funds to support the educational stability of students in foster care.  

Title I Funds

Uses: Tutoring, after-school programming, summer learning, technology, textbooks and other materials. 

The purpose of Title I is to provide all children “significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.” To achieve that, states develop accountability systems to identify and support schools with academically struggling students, and schools and districts use their Title I funds to improve student outcomes, including academic achievement. 

All students in foster care are eligible for Title I services, even if they are attending a building that is not Title I eligible. Schools and districts may use Title I, Part A funds to support educational services for students in foster care. Funds can be made available for foster students in Title I by setting aside funds on the Title I set aside page in the Title I funding application.  

School Transportation 

Schools and districts may reserve a portion of Title I, Part A funds to support the additional costs needed to transport children in foster care to their schools of origin, consistent with the Every Student Succeeds Act. The amount reserved, if any, should be based on need. For more information, see page 6 of the Title I, Part A spending guide.

National School Lunch Program  

Use: School meals  

The National School Lunch Program provides funds to local school and districts so that eligible students have access to free and reduced priced school meals.   

Students in foster care are categorically eligible for free school meals, meaning they receive automatic eligibility for free meals or free milk.  

  • Foster Child: Whether placed by the State child welfare agency or a court, federal law states that in order for a child to be considered categorically eligible for free meals, the State must retain legal custody of the child. This definition does not apply to informal arrangements or permanent guardianship placements that may exist outside of State or court-based systems.

An individual child’s eligibility for free benefits under any of the Other Source Categorically Eligible Programs does not convey to other children in the household. Except for a foster child, the household indication of Other Source Categorically Eligible Status must be confirmed through documentation prior to certifying the child’s eligibility for free meals. If documentation does not confirm eligibility for an Other Source Categorically Eligibility, the household should be asked to resubmit the application and include income information. 

Early Childhood Education Grant  

Uses: Preschool enrollment and educational services 

Students in foster and kinship care receive special considerations when accessing early childhood education programs through preschools that receive funding from the Early Childhood Education grant.  

Enrolling students in foster or kinship care in preschool programs after the deadline 

Programs can enroll students after the Spring 2022 enrollment survey deadline if the student meets one of the following criteria: 

  • Eligible child with an IEP, or  
  • Eligible child in foster care; or a child placed in Kinship Care as documented through Kinship Permanency Incentive Program payments.  

Funding preschool education services

Family Eligibility: The funds from the Early Childhood Education grant are required to be used to provide preschool services to: 

  • Economically disadvantaged children whose family income falls at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level,
  • Children with disabilities, and
  • Children in foster care; or a child placed in Kinship Care as documented through Kinship Permanency Incentive Program payments.  

If a child meets one of the above criteria, a family should not be required to pay for preschool services if the child is enrolled in a school or center that has the Early Childhood Education grant.  

Head Start  

A child in foster care is categorically eligible for Head Start and should be prioritized for enrollment.  

Head Start performance standards capture this requirement here:  

(c) Eligibility requirements. 

  1. (1) A pregnant woman or a child is eligible if: 
    1. (i) The family’s income is equal to or below the poverty line; or, 
    2. (ii) The family is eligible for or, in the absence of childcare, would be potentially eligible for public assistance; including TANF child-only payments, or, 
    3. (iii) The child is homeless; or, 
    4. (iv) The child is in  foster care. 

Head Start does not charge fees to participate in the program or any related activities. Head Start performance standards also address fees for full participation in the language below:  

(a) Policy on fees. A program must not charge eligible families a fee to participate in Head Start, including special events such as field trips, and cannot in any way condition an eligible child’s enrollment or participation in the program upon the payment of a fee. 

(b) Allowable fees.  

  1. (1) A program must only accept a fee from families of enrolled children for services that are in addition to services funded by Head Start, such as childcare before or after funded Head Start hours. A program may not condition a Head Start child enrollment on the ability to pay a fee for additional hours.
  2. (2) In order to support programs serving children from diverse economic backgrounds or using multiple funding sources, a program may charge fees to private pay families and other non-Head Start enrolled families to the extent allowed by any other applicable federal, state or local funding sources. 

Other Funding Sources  

Uses: Academic, wellness and wrap-around supports 

ESSER and ARP Funds  

As states continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government allocated the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Programs (ESSER) and American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to local education agencies (LEAs) to respond to the emergent needs in schools and communities. The Supporting Students in Foster Care with ESSER and ARP Funds serves as a guide for districts, community schools and stakeholders as they make local decisions regarding how to direct ARP ESSER funds to programs and initiatives to student, family and community supports to address the whole child needs of students in foster care.  

Last Modified: 8/21/2023 8:15:29 AM