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Ensuring access to education for students in foster care

Baltimore County Public Schools and Department of Social Services finalize joint guidance

May 20, 2015: New foster family, new neighborhood – children in foster care frequently face profound instability in their day-to-day lives. Entering care can mean losing connections with their family and community, and being in care often involves cycling between multiple placements even over the course of a single year.  With all of these changes, school should be a constant. Federal and state laws seek to aim to ensure that children in foster care enjoy educational continuity, including the McKinney-Vento Act, Fostering Connections Act, and the Uninterrupted Scholars Act. Under these laws, when children enter foster care or change placements, they have a right to remain in the same school and receive transportation from their new address, enroll immediately in a new school even without normally-required documentation, and in either case, receive the support they need to reach their full potential. But these protections are meaningful only if implemented through close collaboration between local school districts and the local departments of social services. Recognizing this, the Public Justice Center and Advocates for Children and Youth have been working with the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) and the Baltimore County Department of Social Services (BCoDSS) over the course of the past year to build a strong inter-agency partnership and collaborative strategies for promoting the stability and success of children in foster care.

This May, BCPS and BCoDSS finalized joint guidance that sets out procedures for ensuring these students are enrolled without delay, stay stable at the same school when they change placements, and receive transportation. In addition, the guidance creates a mechanism through which BCPS and BCoDSS meet on a regular basis to oversee implementation of the agreement, develop strategies to evaluate and support the academic success of students in foster care, both individually and collectively. School district and social services staff are currently being trained on the laws and are planning a series of regular interagency meetings. We commend the Baltimore County Public Schools and the Baltimore County Department for Social Services for this achievement – the first of its kind in Maryland – and their commitment to serving kids in foster care. We also extend a big thank you to Advocates for Children and Youth for their partnership and leadership in this process.

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