Child welfare newsletter July2011

July 2011 




NCSL can help state child welfare systems develop ways to safely reduce the number of children in foster care through:

  • Presentations, informal briefings and testimony before committees and hearings,
  • Written research and analyses, or
  • Informal telephone conference calls with state child welfare administrators, legislators and legislative staff in other states to discuss their experiences with child welfare reform.


The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (H.R. 6893/P.L. 110-351) of 2008 helps to: connect foster children with their relatives; better coordinate the health care and education of foster children; support permanent families through relative guardianship; and enhance adoption subsidies and supports to older youth in foster care.  

Legislative Highlight: Educational Stability 

Under the Fostering Connections Act, states are required to include in each foster child’s case plan, an assurance that:

  • The placement of a child in foster care takes into account the foster home’s proximity to the child’s current school.
  • The state agency has coordinated with local educational agencies to make certain the child remains in school.
  • State and local agencies have provided immediate enrollment and transfer of records to a new school, if remaining in the current school is not in the child’s best interests.
  • It requires only “reasonable travel” for the child to remain in his or her current school.

Here are some examples of introduced legislation in 2011:

  • AR SB 625, Act 591: Requires children in foster care to be assisted so that they can remain in their current schools. Requires individuals directly involved in the care, custody and education of foster children to work together for the continuity of educational services to the foster child.
  • MA SB 37: Requires the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to enter into a memorandum of understanding concerning the enrollment of students in the public school system when they are placed in the care of the Department of Children and Families or are young adults who have signed a voluntary placement agreement with the department. The bill also requires the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, along with the Office of the Child Advocate and the secretary of education, to develop a statewide plan for the educational stability of children placed in care or young adults who have signed voluntary placement agreements.

Click here for information on other state bills introduced in 2011 related to the Fostering Connections Act.

NCSL Report on Education for Children in Foster Care

For all children and, in particular, for children and youth in foster care, educational coordination, stability, continuity, advocacy and opportunity are essential to positive educational experiences and academic success. Studies indicate, however, that children and youth in foster care, compared to similar children who are not in foster care, have higher rates of school transfer, school absence or tardiness, and suspension and expulsion. They are more likely to receive poor grades, be placed in more restrictive classrooms, perform below grade level, be retained a grade, and receive low scores on state testing. Studies suggest that they are less likely to do their homework, receive help with schoolwork, enroll in college preparatory courses, receive a high school diploma, or participate in post-secondary education.

State legislatures have been working on critical educational issues for children and youth in foster care in the following areas: interagency coordination, collaboration and information-sharing; educational stability; education continuity; educational decision making and advocacy; early childhood development; post-secondary educational preparation; post-secondary educational opportunities; and other educational protections and benefits that are essential to ensuring educational success for children and youth in foster care.

Click here for the NCSL report “Educating Children in Foster Care State Legislation 2004 – 2007.” The report reviews state legislation enacted between 2004 and 2007 to improve the educational experiences and opportunities of children and youth in foster care.


California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care

In 2006, California Chief Justice Ronald M. George appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care to make recommendations to the Judicial Council of California on how courts and their partners such as legislators, the child welfare agency, foster youth, caregivers and advocates, can improve the child welfare system in the state. The commission focused on how to improve the safety, permanent placements, well-being and fair treatment of children and families.

The commission included judges, legislators, child welfare administrators, foster youth, caregivers, philanthropists, tribal leaders, advocates, and others involved in the issues that face foster children and their families, and the courts and agencies that serve them. The commission built on recent Judicial Council efforts to improve California’s juvenile courts and was consistent with goals and objectives previously adopted by the Judicial Council.

The California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care sought to achieve four things:

  • A comprehensive set of achievable recommendations for how courts and their partners could improve the child welfare system, including an implementation plan.
  • Improved court performance and accountability in achieving safety, permanent placements, well-being and fairness for all children and families in the child welfare system.
  • Improved collaboration and communication among courts and child welfareagencies and other stakeholders, and the development of permanent local county commissions that support ongoing efforts involving foster care.
  • Greater public awareness of the court’s role in the foster care system and the need
    for adequate and flexible funding.

Early indications suggest that active court oversight and better representation in the juvenile dependency courts makes a significant difference for the children and families who enter the child welfare system in California. The commission’s first progress report from August 2010 documenting the efforts by local and statewide collaborations to advance the commission’s recommendations and to begin the process of making sweeping reforms to the juvenile dependency court and child welfare systems in California can be viewed by clicking here


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