Back to school time is a mixed bag full of emotions. Parents are rejoicing at the prospect of having a routine again, while also mulling with the fact they must send their kids away for longer periods of time, or maybe for the first time. Kids on the other hand, are excited to be back at school and around their friends all day, but the return of school also means the return of homework and less time for Fortnite marathons. And then there are the teachers. Teachers, like parents, are ready to return to their routine but, as the spouse of a teacher, I know they are also not sure what to expect with the new crop of kids after they spent the year getting to know and love the last crew.
With all of that uncertainty at the start of school, one thing we at Kentucky Youth Advocates are excited about is the fact that youth in foster care can have one less piece of uncertainty as they look ahead to the coming school year.
Previously, children who were removed from their home as a result of abuse or neglect faced the prospect of also being forced to leave their school, if the new home placement was further away. But, for many of those children, their school was the most stable environment in their life. Think of it this way, the child may have strong relationships with certain teachers at the school and they would be there with their friends. Removing the child from that situation, at times, could serve as a detriment to their education by interfering with their stability or continuity of education.
In this past legislative session, House Bill 527 sponsored by Representative Steve Riley, adopted as KRS 199.802 and following the guidance of the Every Student Succeeds Act, created a path to look at the whole situation when making the determination of school placement for a child in foster care. This law supports the educational stability of children who have experienced abuse or neglect by allowing them to remain in the school where they were most recently enrolled. If it is in the best interest and within reason for the child to stay, they will be able to remain in that school where they can continue to personally thrive. When that is not in their best interest, it will ensure a seamless transition to their new school. Under this law, those relationships with that teacher or the friendships in that school will be taken into consideration. Staying is not always the best option, and this law allows for the entire situation to be considered in these instances.
Another important piece of the law ensures these children are able to stay on the right track academically. If a child does transfer schools, this law ensures that their vital records are quickly (within 3 days) sent to the new school and that they’re immediately enrolled in the new school. The law also makes it clear that credit earned at other schools is to be accepted at the new one, keeping them on track to complete their education.
This law is vital to the success of Kentucky’s children in foster care. One bright spot exists in Jefferson County Public Schools, where 923 students are in foster care. Lindsay Bale, the point of contact for the district on foster care issues, has put together a handbook around students in foster care. You can reach Ms. Bale by email at Lindsay.Bale@jefferson.kyschools.us.
If you have other questions about this law or how to it will impact a child in foster care, you can:
- Contact your Foster Care Local Education Agency (LEA) Point of Contact listed at this link.
- Call the Legislative Research Commission at 502-564-8100 to ask about HB 527
- Go to the LRC website and look for KRS 199.802
As we navigate this mixed bag of emotions heading into a new school year and questions arise, thankfully “where am I going to school?” is not one that must to be as commonly answered.