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Foster Care | Awaiting Foster Care Placement

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NCHE Resources

A Look at Child Welfare from a Homeless Education Perspective
Although navigating the child welfare system can be daunting for those working in the field of homeless education, local liaisons and others must determine whether children in the child welfare system are eligible for McKinney-Vento services and collaborate with child welfare staff. This document provides an overview of the U.S. child welfare system, the challenges children in care face, and practices to ensure their educational best interest.
Download the publication.

Clearing the Path to School Success for Students in Out-of-Home Care
The Legal Center for Foster Care and Education and the National Center for Homeless Education present this brief, part of NCHE's Best Practices in Homeless Education series, to help educators and child welfare advocates clear the path to school success for children and youth who are forced to leave their homes due to abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. Two federal laws, among others, provide tools to clear the way: The McKinney-Vento Act and the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. This guide provides basic information about both laws and suggests practical strategies for their implementation.
Download the brief.

School Selection for Students in Out-of-Home Care
The Legal Center for Foster Care and Education and the National Center for Homeless Education present this brief, part of NCHE's Best Practices in Homeless Education series, to provide a framework for local homeless education liaisons, educators, child welfare caseworkers, and other child welfare advocates for assessing best interest when selecting a school for students in out-of-home care. While the brief focuses on students “awaiting foster care placement” under the McKinney-Vento Act, it provides information relevant to school selection and school stability for all children and youth in out-of-home care.
Download the brief.

When Working Together Works: Academic Success for Students in Out-of-Home Care
NCHE and the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education present this brief, part of NCHE's Best Practices in Homeless Education series, to help educators and child welfare advocates work together to support the academic success of children and youth in out-of-home care. The brief offers practical, proven strategies for implementing two federal laws collaboratively: The McKinney-Vento Act, which applies to state and local educational agencies, and the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which applies to state and local child welfare agencies. Specifically, this brief will assist state and local agencies and staff in: Laying a foundation for working together; agreeing on requirements and expectations; promoting school stability; and incorporating children fully in classes and school activities.
Download the brief.


Other Resources

Adoption and Foster Care Reporting and Analysis System (AFCARS)
Provided through the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AFCARS collects case level information on all children in foster care for whom state child welfare agencies have responsibility for placement, care or supervision, and on children who are adopted under the auspices of the State's public child welfare agency.
Visit the website.

Asking the Right Questions II: Judicial Checklists to Meet the Educational Needs of Children and Youth in Foster Care
This guidebook, courtesy of National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges with support from Casey Family Programs, is a revision of the original Asking the Right Questions guidebook published in 2005. This updated guidebook is a tool that judges can use to make inquiries about the educational needs of children and youth under their jurisdiction, with the goal of positively impacting their educational outcomes and preparing them for successful adulthood.
Download the guidebook.

Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Children in Foster Care
The Blueprint for Change, from the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, is an informative resource for people interested in ensuring that children in foster care have the best chance possible to succeed educationally. Blueprint's 8 goals for youth, and benchmarks for each goal indicating progress toward achieving education success, are a framework for direct case advocacy and system reform efforts. Following each goal are national, state, and local examples of policies, practices, programs, and resources that exist to improve educational outcomes for children in foster care.
Download the resource.

Building a Campus Support Network for Students Emerging from Foster Care
This June 2009 brief from Casey Family Programs addresses the following questions: (1) How are college key support services for foster youth structured?; (2) What resources are available to help foster youth to transition to life at the university (e.g., dedicated advisor, support group, etc.)?; and (3) How do other universities assist foster youth in facing specific challenges, including applying for admission and financial aid, buying textbooks and other peripherals, and finding a place to live during semester breaks? The brief provides eight key observations to answer these questions and to help school administrators provide better support for students emerging from foster care.
Download the brief.

Children at Risk in the Child Welfare System: Collaborations to Promote School Readiness
This report from the Catherine E. Cutler Institute for Child and Family Policy examines current practice across systems in order to determine the degree to which the educational needs of children younger than five in the child welfare system are being addressed through collaborations between child welfare agencies, early intervention/preschool special education programs under IDEA, and quality early care and education programs. The report also identifies best practices and policy recommendations for how the multiple agencies which provide these services can coordinate their efforts better.
Download the report.

Courtroom Advocacy for the Education Needs of Children in Out-of-Home Care
This 2-page tip sheet from the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education serves as a primer on which educational issues are particularly important to address in the courtroom for children in out-of-home care and provides specific recommendations for different role groups, including: Guardians ad Litem (GALs), Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), attorneys, and judges.
Download the tip sheet.

FosterClub's Transition Toolkit
The tookit, provided by FosterClub in collaboration with fosteringconnections.org, provides an overview of the skills, knowledge, and resources needed for young people leaving foster care to prepare for life on their own as young adults. The included transition plan provides a space to write down and keep track of all available resources. The toolkit puts young people in the driver's seat in planning for and working towards their future. While designed with students transitioning from foster care in mind, the toolkit can be a valuable resource for all young people, including youth experiencing homelessness.
Download the toolkit.

Fostering Connections Implementation Toolkit: Improving Education Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster Care
This toolkit from the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education is a compilation of the most recent Fostering Connections tools released by the Center. It provides a step-by-step guide on implementation of the education stability provisions of Fostering Connections, and includes examples from across the country. The Toolkit is designed for all stakeholders: state or county child welfare administrators or caseworkers, state or district education agency staff, judges, attorneys or guardians ad litem (GALs), and other advocates. It can be used by a state just beginning to implement the education provisions of Fostering Connections, or one that has been working on improving education stability prior to the passage of the law.
Download the toolkit.

How Fostering Connections and McKinney-Vento Can Support School Success for All Children in Out-of-Home Care
This fact sheet from the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education provides a brief overview of the overlap between the Fostering Connections and McKinney-Vento Acts, and the critical importance of collaboration between the education and child welfare systems to serve the needs of children in out-of-home care appropriately. Topics covered include: Eligibility, school selection, transportation, and the role of parents in educational decision making.
Download the fact sheet.

Mythbusting: Breaking Down Confidentiality and Decision-Making Barriers to Meet the Education Needs of Children in Foster Care
This publication from the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law explains why there is a need to address the education needs of children in foster care; debunks myths about confidentiality and decision-making; explains the federal laws that affect confidentiality of education records and decision making; and suggests strategies to overcome confidentiality and decision-making hurdles when addressing the needs of children in foster care. Use this publication online and benefit from the interactive functions, including links between sections and to additional outside resources; or print a copy of the document to use offline.
Download the publication.

Postsecondary Education Resources for Youth in and Transitioning out of the Child Welfare System
This information brief from the Legal Center on Foster Care and Education explains barriers that youth in and transitioning out of the foster care system may face in accessing higher education and provides information on supports and opportunities available to assist these youth in meeting their higher education goals.
Download the brief.

Questions and Answers: What Child Welfare Professionals Need to Know about Awaiting Foster Care Placement and the McKinney-Vento Act
This fact sheet from the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education clarifies how the McKinney-Vento Act applies to children in out-of-home care. It discusses the inclusion of the "awaiting foster care placement" phrase in the McKinney-Vento definition of homeless and explains how educators and child welfare professional can work together to serve these children best.
Download the fact sheet.

Seeking Shelter in Tough Times: Securing Housing for Youth who Age Out of Foster Care
More than half of the youth who age out of foster care are soon homeless or experience housing instability. This July 2008 issue of the American Bar Association's Child Law Practice explains the different types of federal programs and other resources that may offer housing or funding for housing to these young adults.
Download the issue.

Serving Former Foster Youth in California Community Colleges
This report from the Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges provides for a better understanding of the needs of emancipated foster youth enrolled at community colleges; examines successful responses to student needs from community colleges statewide; identifies challenges faced by community colleges in meeting student needs; and makes recommendations as to how programs can be enhanced, expanded, and improved. It summarizes key findings from a survey of Foster Youth Liaisons at community colleges statewide, a survey of community college students who are former foster youth, and interviews with staff at 12 colleges across the state, and presents a list of recommendations on how to strengthen efforts at both the state and local level to serve former foster youth attending community colleges.
Download the report.

Special Education Decisionmaking Factsheet Series
This factsheet series from the Legal Center on Foster Care and Education, designed for specific stakeholders, addresses the issues surrounding special education decisionmaking for children in out-of-home care. The series includes factsheets for caseworkers, children's attorneys, educators, foster parents, judges and youth.
Visit the webpage.

State Child Welfare Policy Database
This website from Casey Family Programs provides state-by-state policy information on a range of child welfare topics. Access up-to-date information on individual state policies and compare your own state's policies to those of other states.
Visit the website.

Supporting Success: Improving Higher Education Outcomes for Students from Foster Care (A framework for program enhancement)
Few students from foster care ever gain access to higher education programs, let alone graduate from college. Colleges and universities can help youth succeed. Colleges, policymakers, and advocates have begun to address this issue with calls for policy advances, practice innovations, and influential advocacy. This Casey Family Programs publication provides program development tools for college counselors, administrators, professors, and staff. It helps education professionals define a plan for improving their institution's support for students from foster care.
Download the publication.

State Foster Care Fact Sheets
These fact sheets from the National Resource Center for Youth Development provide information about foster care services by state. Information is provided on transitional living programs, state foster care coordinators, services for 18- to 21-year-olds, educational assistance, and more.
Visit the webpage.

The Texas Blueprint: Transforming Education Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster Care
This report from the Texas Children's Commission is the culmination of many months of hard work and collaboration, lead by the Supreme Court of Texas' Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families. Stemming from a Supreme Court order issued in 2010, an Education Committee was formed and charged with making recommendations for statewide reform in several key areas including: judicial practices, data and information sharing, multidisciplinary training, and creating and sustaining a statewide collaborative model.
Download the report.

USDA Interim Rule: Direct Certification and Certification of Homeless, Migrant and Runaway Children for Free School Meals
This interim rule, effective beginning on June 24, 2011, amends the regulations affecting the determination of children's eligibility for free meals under the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program by direct certification and categorical eligibility. The rule was open for public comment between April and October 2011, however remains in effect until a final rule is issued.
Download the interim rule.

USDA memoranda on the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004
The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-265) expands federal child nutrition programs in several ways to assist homeless, migrant, foster, and runaway children and youth by providing:
  • Automatic eligibility for free school meals
  • Streamlined procedures for documenting eligibility
  • Full school year eligibility for free school meals
  • Federal nutrition funds for shelters that serve children and youth up to age 18
See USDA Memorandum SP 11-2014 (December 3, 2013), which clarifies the flexibility available to local educational agency (LEA) officials for establishing the effective date of eligibility for children certified for free or reduced price meals in the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast Programs (SBP) and free milk in the Special Milk Program (SMP) based on household applications.
See USDA Memorandum SP 26-2011 (April 1, 2011), which discusses the eligibility of children evacuated from Japan and Bahrain for USDA child nutrition programs.
See USDA Memorandum SP 17-2011 (Revised April 16, 2013), which discusses the categorical eligibility of foster children for free school meals
See USDA Memorandum SP 17-2010 (Jan 29, 2010), which discusses the eligibility of Haitian refugees for USDA child nutrition programs.
See USDA Memorandum SP3 (Jul 7, 2004), which establishes a household's full school year eligibility for free or reduced price meals.
See USDA Memorandum SP4 (Jul 19, 2004), which establishes the categorical eligibility of homeless, migrant, and runaway children and youth, and provides instructions for documenting the eligibility of homeless children and youth served under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
See USDA Categorial Eligibility for Free Lunches and Breakfasts for Migrant Children Memorandum (Aug 16, 2004), which establishes the categorical eligibility of migrant students, provides instructions for documenting migrant students' eligibility, and explains the free meal program's full school year eligibility concept.
See USDA Guidance on Determining Categorical Eligibility for Free Lunches and Breakfasts for Youth Served under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act Memorandum (Sept 17. 2004), which establishes the categorical eligibility of runaway youth served through grant programs established under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, and provides instructions for documenting the eligibility of youth served under the Act.
See Updated Guidance for Homeless Children in the School Nutrition Programs (April 4, 2002), which initially established the guidelines for providing documentation of a student's homeless status for the purpose of receiving free school meals.


Sample Forms, Materials, and Policies

California Assembly Bill 490
Assembly Bill 490 (AB 490) is a California state law ensuring educational rights and stability for foster youth.
View the law.

California: AB 1393
This California laws requires state universities and community colleges to give priority for student housing to current and former foster youth, including for housing facilities that are open for year-round occupation.
View the law.

Connecticut: Memorandum from the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (DCF)
This memorandum clarifies which children in Connecticut DCF custody qualify for services under the McKinney-Vento Act
Download the memorandum.

Delaware 14 Del.C. §202(c)
This Delaware state law establishes that Delaware will define "awaiting foster care placement" to include all children in foster care.
View 14 Del.C. §202(c).
View Delaware's Administrative Code Title 14, 901 Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

Delaware: MOU between the Department of Education and Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families
This Delaware Memorandum of Understand (MOU) addresses, among others, the following issues:
  • To develop a uniform process for Delaware LEAs and Charter Schools to maintain children who are in the custody of DSCYF in their schools of origin, or when in their best interest, to promptly enroll them in a new school
  • To establish consistent procedures to address when children in foster care change residence resulting in a new school enrollment or the need for transportation to their school of origin
  • To enhance communication and coordination of the McKinney-Vento Act and 14 DE Code § 202
  • To ensure that in all instances, educational and placement decisions regarding children and youth in foster care are based on the best interests of the child
    Download the MOU.

  • Fostering Connections Resource Center: State Legislation
    This webpage from the Fostering Connections Resource Center provides information on legislation pending in and enacted by states to support the implementation of the Fostering Connections Act.
    Visit the webpage.

    Maine Education Bill 257
    This Maine state law, formally entitled AnAct To Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force To Engage Maine's Youth Regarding Successful School Completion, gives homeless students, students in foster care, and other students experiencing educational disruption, the opportunity to earn a diploma from the State Education Commissioner. Students are still required to demostrate proficiency according to state standards, but are given the opportunity to earn a diploma outside of a school district's standard procedures.
    Download the law.

    Massachusetts Homeless Education Advisory 2004 - 9: Children and Youth in State Care or Custody
    This advisory of the Massachusetts Department of Education provides guidance to local school districts and social service providers as they implement the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act regarding the identification, enrollment, attendance, and success in school of children and youth who are awaiting foster care placement.
    View the advisory.

    Serving the Educational Needs of The Child/Youth in DCS Custody
    This policy, established by the State of Tennessee Department of Children's Services, details state guidelines for educating children and youth in state custody. It includes children and youth that are eligible for services under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act due to the emergency or temporary nature of their placements.
    Download the policy.

    States at a Glance: Awaiting Foster Care Placement Under the McKinney-Vento Act
    This chart from the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education summarizes state and local law and policy defining the McKinney-Vento Act's "awaiting foster care placement" designation.
    Download the chart.

    Texas Education Code 25.001(f)
    This state law reads: "A child placed in foster care by an agency of the state or by a political subdivision shall be permitted to attend the public schools in the district in which the foster parents reside free of any charge to the foster parents or the agency. A durational residence requirement may not be used to prohibit that child from fully participating in any activity sponsored by the school district." The durational residence requirement portion will enable foster students to participate fully in all school activities regardless of how long they've lived in their current foster placement.
    View the code (scroll down to (f)).

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    The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) is the U.S. Department of Education's technical assistance center for the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program. NCHE is housed at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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