New federal education law includes protections for foster youth
Yesterday, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a replacement of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law and a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Beyond overhauling federal education policy, the new law contains many provisions and requirements related to children in foster care and in the juvenile justice system.
According to a coalition of national organizations including the National Center for Youth Law, the American Bar Association, the Juvenile Law Center and the Education Law Center, ESSA addresses longtime concerns about children in foster care who are often forced to change schools multiple times. New provisions are designed to help ensure school stability and academic success for these students.
When the Fostering Connections Act passed in 2008, child protection agencies were assigned sole responsibility to ensure academic success for foster youth as part of national wellbeing standards. Under a prior joint letter from the federal departments of education and health and human services, and now under the new law, school districts share that responsibility.
The law also eliminates enrollment delays, reduces disruptions in education, and provides youth with greater school stability, continuity and success through a number of provisions, including:
- Allowing youth in foster care to remain in the same school even when their foster home placements are changed;
- Requiring schools to immediately enroll children in foster care after a school move;
- Requiring points of contact in every state education agency as well as many school districts;
- Requiring plans for school transportation for youth in care; and
- Tracking achievement data for youth in care.