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at Advocates for Children

151 West 30th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10001

TEL 800.388.2014
FAX 212.807.6872

Frequently Asked Questions: Foster Care

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Fostering Connections Act) became federal law in 2008. This law aims to improve the education of children in foster care. The Fostering Connections Act requires child welfare agencies to collaborate with school districts to help children in foster care stay in school when their living placements change, and to continue in their original school if remaining in that school is in their best interest.

Does McKinney-Vento apply to children in out-of-home care?

Sometimes. The McKinney-Vento Act applies to children and youth who live in a wide variety of unstable or inadequate situations, but not to children in foster care. Many children who live in out-of-home care are not actually part of the foster care system, and they may be protected by the McKinney-Vento Act as they change living placements frequently. 42 U.S.C. § 11434a (2)(B)(i).

Are children in foster care covered under the McKinney-Vento Act?

No. After changes to the McKinney-Vento Act in 2016, children in foster care are not considered homeless. Students in foster care are entitled to continued enrollment and transportation to their school of origin, if remaining in that school is in their best interest, or immediate enrollment in the local school under the Fostering Connections Act.

What education rights does the Fostering Connections Act provide for children in out-of-home care?

School-age children in foster care can continue to attend the school they last attended or enroll in the local school district. Under to 18 N.Y.C.R.R. § 430.11(c)(1)(i) and 42 U.S.C. § 675(1)(G), the child welfare agency must have an educational plan for each child in foster care. The plan must address the following:

  • The initial placement of the child into foster care and all subsequent placements need to consider the appropriateness of the child's existing educational setting and how close (or far) the school is to the child's foster care placement location.
  • Any time the child welfare agency determines that it is in the best interest of the foster child to continue in the same school in which the child is currently enrolled, the agency must coordinate with local school authorities to ensure that the child remains in such school.
  • When it is not in the best interests of the foster child to continue in the same school in which the child is currently enrolled, the child welfare agency must coordinate with the new local school authorities to make sure that:

    1. the foster child is provided with immediate and appropriate enrollment in
    2. a new school; and
    3. all applicable school records of the child are provided to the new school.

Who decides where a student in foster care may attend school?

The child welfare agency has the responsibility for deciding whether it is in the best interest of a child in foster care to stay in their original school. Each best interest decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. The child welfare agency must request input from the child's caseworker, the child's parent(s) (if available and able to provide input), and the child (if developmentally able) in making the decision related to the child's educational stability plan. In addition, there are other people whose input should be encouraged, including school personnel or education advocates, foster parents, the child's attorney, and others involved in case planning for the child. If the child changes schools based on a best interest determination, the child welfare agency must coordinate with the appropriate school officials to make sure that there is immediate and appropriate enrollment in school and to help transfer all applicable school records to the new school. These provisions apply at the initial placement of the child into foster care and each time the child is moved to a different foster care placement. 42 U.S.C. § 675(1)(G). Every county Department of Social Services (DSS) also has a point of contact for educational stability of students in foster care, which can be found here.

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