Foster Care & Student Success - Education Laws and Guidance

There are many federal and state laws that exist to advance the education of students in foster care. Knowledge of the laws and how to apply them is critical so these laws are understood and followed.

Numerous links to more information and law references are included below. Chapter and page numbers from the Texas Foster Care & Student Success Resource Guide (PDF) provide quick access to information and support local training efforts.

For the benefit of students, we encourage local education agencies (LEAs) to be familiar with this information. School boards and district administrators ensure that local policies and practices are in alignment and promote opportunities to increase awareness among school staff.

Federal Law

You may find a brief overview of federal laws that relate to the education of students in foster care below.

Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, Public Law 110-351

This law requires state child welfare agencies to collaborate with their state and local education agencies to promote school stability and improve educational outcomes for children in foster care (Chapter 1 (PDF), pgs. 14-15).

Education provisions in Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 include:

  • Emphasis on the importance of school stability, maintaining the school in which the child was enrolled at the time of placement
  • The need for coordination between state and regional child welfare and state and local education agencies
  • Assurance that the placements take into account the appropriateness of the current education setting and proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement in foster care
  • Ensure immediate and appropriate enrollment by child welfare and local education agencies, and provide ALL of the child’s education records to the new school, if remaining in the same school is not in the child’s best interest

* Share with your district and networks important reminders and joint guidance ED and HHS Letter to Chief State School Officers and Child Welfare Directors on Implementing the Fostering Connections Act and addressing school stability (outside source), May 30, 2014.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act - Uninterrupted Scholars Act

An amendment to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA) (January 2013), allows educational agencies and institutions to disclose a student’s education records to child welfare case workers or other representatives of a state or local child welfare agency. An agency or organization legally responsible for the care and protection of the student is allowed access to education records. Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) staff, the child’s caregiver, attorney ad litem, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and others identified by the court order are all examples. Additionally, USA permits educational agencies and institutions to disclose a student’s education records. Educational agencies and institutions would not be required to have parental consent because of a court order. The court would have given the parent notice in specific types of court proceedings. These changes also apply to the confidentiality provisions identified in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). School staff must follow FERPA regulations when releasing school-related information (Chap 9 (PDF), pgs. 70-71).

* Share with your district and networks –Letter and FAQ to Chief State School Officers on Guidance on the Amendments to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (outside source PDF) (May 2014).

Nutrition Assistance

Students in foster care are categorically eligible for all U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) child nutrition programs. Caregivers for children and youth in foster care do not have to complete a separate application to participate in these programs (Chapter 10 (PDF), p. 74).

You can gather more information on nutritional assistance from the following links:

U.S.D.A. “USDA Announces Expansion of Nutrition Assistance for Foster Children, Provision Expands Safety Net against Childhood Hunger and Promotes Healthy Lifestyles” (outside source), February 3, 2011.

U.S.D.A. Child Nutrition Programs Food and Nutrition Service, “Eligibility Manual for School Meals, Determining and Verifying Eligibility” (outside source PDF), (see page 10 & 46).

You can locate state guidance for these provisions at the Texas Department of Agriculture, NSLP Handbook: Administrators Reference Manual (ARM) (outside source), Determining Eligibility - Special Milk Programs: 27.24, 27.33 and Section Four: 4.13,4.15,4.42,4.60.

Other U.S. Department of Education Resources and Information

You can find more information from the USDE regarding foster care and education below:

State Law

The following laws are identified in the Texas Education Code addressing students in foster care:

  • Data sharing and data collection requirements in PEIMS - TEC § 7.029 (Chapter 1 (PDF), p. 16; Chapter 5 (PDF), pgs. 45-46)
  • Immediate school enrollment without records - TEC § 25.002(g) (Chapter 7 (PDF), p. 56)
  • Attendance in the school the student was enrolled immediately before entering conservatorship, even when placed outside of the district attendance zone, until the student successfully completes the highest grade level offered by the school - TEC § 25.001(g) (Chapter 8 (PDF), p. 62)
  • Excused absences for court-ordered appointments - TEC § 25.087 (Chapter 10 (PDF), p. 75)
  • 11th or 12th grade student who transfers to a new school district and does not meet the graduation requirements of the new school district may request a diploma from the former school district, when on-track to graduate at the previous school - TEC § 28.025 (Chapter 9 (PDF), p. 92)
  • Free eligibility for PRE-K - TEC § 29.153(b)(6) (Chapter 10 (PDF), p. 74)
  • Accelerated instruction (at-risk indicators and compensatory education) - TEC § 29.081(d)(11) (Chapter 6 (PDF), p. 51; Chapter 11 (PDF), pgs. 82-83)
  • Free lifetime college tuition and fees waiver. The waiver is activated when a student enrolls in dual credit or another course where a student may earn college credit- TEC § 54.366 – (Chapter 13 (PDF), pgs. 104-106)
  • School districts and open enrollment charter schools are required to appoint a Foster Care Liaison and notify TEA of their Foster Care Liaison appointment - TEC § 33.904 (Chapter 5 (PDF), p. 44)
  • Transition Assistance from one school to another of students in foster care - TEC § 25.007 (Chapter 11 (PDF), pgs. 84-91).

Supporting Successful School Transitions

There are numerous components included as a part of TEC § 25.007 to promote successful school transitions for students in foster care. LEAs play an important role in developing processes and systems to support these mandates. Districts should also consider how to adapt existing practices and processes for other mobile students to address the education and successful transition of students in foster care.

The Texas Foster Care & Student Success Resource Guide (PDF), specifically Chapter 11 (PDF), pages 83-91 provides introductory information to support implementation of TEC § 25.007:

  • Transfer records within 10 working days after the date the student begins enrollment - TEC § 25.007 subsection (b)(1)
  • Develop practices to ease transition in the first two-weeks of enrollment at a new school - TEC § 25.007 subsection (b)(2)
  • Award credit, including partial credit, if appropriate, for course work, including electives, completed while enrolled at another school - TEC § 25.007 subsection (b)(3)
  • Facilitate access to extracurricular programs, summer programs, credit transfer services, electronic courses provided under the Texas Virtual School Network, and after-school tutoring programs at nominal or no cost - TEC § 25.007 subsection (b)(4)
  • Establish procedures to lessen the adverse impact of the movement to a new school - TEC § 25.007 subsection(b)(5)
  • Enter into a memorandum of understanding with DFPS regarding the exchange of information as appropriate to facilitate the transition of students in foster care from one school to another - TEC § 25.007 subsection (b)(6)
  • Provide services for a student in foster care when applying for admission to post-secondary study and when seeking sources of funding for post-secondary study - TEC § 25.007 subsection(b)(7)
  • Accept a referral for special education services made for a student in foster care by a school previously attended by the student - TEC § 25.007 subsection (b)(8)
  • Provide notice to the child’s educational decision maker and caseworker regarding events that may significantly impact the education of a child, including, but not limited to - TEC § 25.007 subsection (b)(9)
    • Require all students in DFPS Managing Conservatorship to present an Education Decision-Maker 2085 (E-2085) form at enrollment in accordance with Family Code § 263.004.  This clarifies for schools who the education decision-maker and caseworker are for each student. If a student does not have this form at enrollment, request it from the caregiver. The form includes the contact information for the education decision-maker and caseworker.
    • Include significant education events such as:
      • Requests or referrals for an evaluation under Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. Section 794), or special education under Section 29.003;
      • Admission, review, and dismissal committee meetings;
      • Manifestation determination review required by Section 37.004 (b);
      • Disciplinary actions under Chapter 37 for which parental notice is required;
      • Citations issued for Class C misdemeanor offenses on school property or at school-sponsored activities;
      • Reports of restraint required by Section 37.0021.
      • Corporal punishment, as provided by Section 37.0011, is not permitted for foster care students.
  • Allow a student in substitute care who was previously enrolled in a course required for graduation the opportunity, to the extent practicable, to complete the course, at no cost to the student, before the beginning of the next school year - TEC § 25.007 subsection (b)(10)
  • Review the Personal Graduation Plan and Course Credit accrual for students who are not likely to receive a high school diploma before the 5th school year following enrollment in grade 9 - TEC § 25.007 subsection(b)(11)
  • Ensure that 11 or 12 grade students in DFPS conservatorship are provided information about the tuition and fee waiver, dual credit, or other courses where a student may earn joint high school and college credit - TEC § 25.007 subsection (b)(12)

Texas Education Agency Communications – Foster Care

TEA distributed numerous communications addressing students in foster care. Review these important messages and share across your networks (Appendices E, p. 122).

Join TEA’s Foster Care Education Listserv and select Foster Care Education.