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 to see that 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 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 should ensure that local policies and practices are aligned and promote opportunities to increase awareness among school staff.

Federal Law:

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, 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, and 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.
  • If remaining in the same school is not in the child’s best interest, the child welfare and local education agencies will work together to ensure immediate and appropriate enrollment and provide ALL of the child’s education records to the new school.

*New–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, May 30, 2014. Please share with your district and networks.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) - Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA)

An amendment to FERPA, Uninterrupted Scholars Act (January 2013), allows educational agencies and institutions to disclose a student’s education records, without parental consent, to child welfare case workers or other representatives of a state or local child welfare agency when such agency or organization is legally responsible for the care and protection of the student (e.g. DFPS staff, the child’s caregiver, attorney ad litem, CASA and others identified by the court order). Additionally, USA permits educational agencies and institutions to disclose a student’s education records pursuant to a court order without requiring additional notice to the parent by the educational agency or institution if the court has already given the parent notice as a party in specified types of court proceedings. These changes also apply to the confidentiality provisions identified in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). School staff should follow FERPA regulations when releasing school-related information (Chap 9, pgs. 70-71).

*New –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 (May 2014).  Please share with your district and networks.

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, p. 74).

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

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

Additional, state guidance related to these provisions can be found at the Texas Department of Agriculture, NSLP Handbook: Administrators Reference Manual (ARM), Determining Eligibility - Special Milk Programs: 27.24, 27.33 and Section Four: 4.13,4.15,4.42,4.60.

Other USDE Resources and Information:

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, p. 16; Chapter 5, pgs. 45-46)
  • Immediate school enrollment without records - TEC § 25.002(g) (Chapter 7, 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, p. 62)
  • Excused absences for court-ordered appointments - TEC § 25.087 (Chapter 10, 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, p. 92)
  • Free eligibility for PRE-K - TEC § 29.153(b)(6) (Chapter 10, p. 74)
  • Accelerated instruction (at-risk indicators and compensatory education) - TEC § 29.081(d)(11) (Chapter 6, p. 51; Chapter 11, 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, 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, p. 44)
  • Transition Assistance from one school to another of students in foster care - TEC § 25.007 (Chapter 11, 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. LEA’s play an important role in developing processes and systems to support these mandates. Districts should also consider how existing practices and processes for other mobile students can be adapted to address the education and successful transition of students in foster care.

TEA is charged to develop guidance to support districts with implementation of these provisions. The Texas Foster Care & Student Success Resource Guide, specifically Chapter 11, pages 83-91 provides introductory information to support implementation.

  • Timely Records transfer within 10 working days after the date the student begins enrollment - TEC § 25.007 (1)
  • Develop practices to ease transition in the first two-weeks of enrollment at a new school - TEC § 25.007 (2)
  • Award credit, including partial credit, if appropriate, for course work, including electives, completed while enrolled at another school - TEC § 25.007 (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 (4)
  • Establish procedures to lessen the adverse impact of the movement to a new school - TEC § 25.007 (5)
  • Entering 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 (6)
  • Provide services for a student in foster care when applying for admission to post-secondary study and when seeking sources of funding for postsecondary study - TEC § 25.007 (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 (8)A
  • 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 (9)

    • All students in DFPS Managing Conservatorship are required to present an Education Decision-Maker 2085 (E-2085) form at enrollment in accordance with Family Code § 263.004 that clarifies for schools who the education decision-maker and caseworker are for each student. If a student does not have this form at enrollment, please request it from the caregiver. The form includes the contact information for the education decision-maker and caseworker.
    • Significant Education Events including, but not limited to:
      (A) 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;
      (B) admission, review, and dismissal committee meetings;
      (C) manifestation determination review required by Section 37.004 (b);
      (D) any disciplinary actions under Chapter 37 for which parental notice is required;
      (E) citations issued for Class C misdemeanor offenses on school property or at school-sponsored activities;
      (F) reports of restraint required by Section 37.0021.
      (G) Use of corporal punishment as provided by Section 37.0011, is not permitted for students foster care.
  • 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 (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 (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 (12)

Texas Education Agency Communications – Foster Care:

Numerous communications have been distributed by TEA addressing students in foster care. Please review these important messages and share across your networks (Appendices E, p. 122).