CWLA and a number of groups have signed onto letters to the US Department of Education urging them to take several actions to implement changes enacted through the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The law now referred to as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) made a number of improvements and provisions in terms of the rights of children in foster care and youth in juvenile justice as it relates to their educational rights.  Several of the changes adopted in the ESEA are similar to the requirements that were passed originally in 2008 under the Fostering Connections to Success Act (PL 110-351).

The child welfare letter urges the U.S. Department of Education to provide needed regulatory guidance to State Education Agencies (SEA’s) and definitions in a number of areas. The Fostering Connections to Success Act, through amendments to child welfare law, requires state child welfare agencies to assure that children stay in the same school even if they are placed outside of the district as long as it is in the child’s best interest.  It also directs immediate enrollment in a new school if in the child’s best interest.

The challenge since 2008 has always been that the changes were mandated through child welfare law only and it was not a requirement or condition of federal education law and funding.  That created a greater challenge for child welfare agencies to get education agencies at the table for discussion.

The letter calls for regulations and definitions by the Department around “school of origin,”  “child in foster care”, and requirements for state Title I (ESEA) plans. The new ESEA directs State Education Agencies (SEAs) to identify someone to serve as a point of contact to oversee the foster care requirements. There are also directives to SEAs to work with child welfare agencies in the implementation of the law.

Addressing another challenge since the 2008 child welfare law, the letter asks the US Education Department to issue regulations in regard to the local transportation funding and plans. One of the great challenges over the years has been if a child has to travel to his or her old school district which entity is responsible for and how can you pay for transportation costs. The new education law directs collaboration and there are various options both through education and child welfare to help address some of those transportation costs.

A different set of groups, including CWLA also sent a letter to the Department of Education in regard to provisions in the ESEA as they apply to juvenile justice students.

Some of the challenges here for juvenile justice students are somewhat different than child welfare. {For Additional Information CWLA Members See the Weekly Monitor Mailed to You}