State and Federal Foster Care Requirements
Foster care students are protected both federally and in Washington state to ensure their educational stability. Review the following laws and regulations.
Below are the RCW’s that pertain to the educational stability of students in foster care in Washington state.
- State Laws
RCW 28A.150.510 - Transmittal of education records to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).
- Requires the prompt/timely transmission of student records to DCYF for appropriate case planning and maximizing the student's academic achievement.
- Allows for data sharing for Passport to College and College Bound Scholarship Program.
RCW 28A.225.023 - Review of unexpected or excessive absences-Support for youth's school work.
- Requires districts to monitor the unexpected or excessive absences of dependent youth.
- Proactively support the youth's school work so the student does not fall behind.
- Avoid suspension or expulsion based on truancy.
RCW 28A.225.330(6) - Enrolling students from other districts.
- Prevents school districts from denying or delaying the enrollment of dependent youth.
- Requires school districts to retrieve school records (educational history) within two business days.
RCW 28A.225.350 - Students subject to a dependency proceeding - Best Interest Determinations.
- Best interest determinations should be made as quickly as possible in order to prevent educational discontinuity for the student.
- Every effort should be made to gather meaningful input from relevant persons.
- Student-centered factors must be used to determine what is in a student's best interest.
- Student must remain in his or her school of origin while a best interest determination is made and while disputes are resolved.
- The special education services of a student must not be interrupted by a transfer to a new school.
RCW 28A.225.360 - School districts must collaborate with the department of children, youth, and families.
RCW 28A.320.148 - Foster care liaison and building points of contact.
Each school district must designate a foster care liaison to:
- Facilitate district compliance with state and federal laws related to students in out-of-home care.
- Collaborate with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to address educational barriers.
- In consultation with building principals, designate a foster care building point of contact in every school.
RCW 28A.320.192 - On-time grade level progression and graduation of students who are dependent youth.
Requires school districts to facilitate the on-time graduation of student in foster care by:
- Waiving specific courses required for graduation if similar coursework has been satisfactorily completed in another school district.
- Providing an alternative means to complete required coursework necessary for graduation.
- Consolidating unresolved coursework and providing opportunities for credit accrual.
- Facilitating the graduation from the sending district where graduation requirements were met.
RCW 13.34.045 - Educational liaison-Identification.
- Requires an educational liaison for students in grades 6-12 to be identified at each hearing in the dependency process. This person should be committed to providing on-going educational supports for the youth.
RCW 74.13.550 - Child placement-Policy of educational continuity.
- Requires that, whenever practical and in the best interest of the child, children placed into foster care shall remain enrolled in the schools they were attending at the time they entered foster care.
RCW 74.13.560 - Educational continuity - Protocol Development.
- The administrative regions of DCYF must develop protocols with school districts specifying strategies for communication, coordination, and collaboration regarding the status and progress of foster children in the region.
- Protocols for making best interest determinations and methods to assure effective sharing of information must be included.
- The protocols for making best interest determinations for students in out-of-home care must be implemented before changing the school placement of a student.
RCW 74.13.631 - School-aged youth in out-of-home care-School placement options.
The department shall provide youth residing in out-of-home care the opportunity to remain enrolled in the school he or she was attending prior to out-of-home placement, unless the safety of the youth is jeopardized, or a relative or other suitable person placement approved by the department is secured for the youth, or it is determined not to be in the youth's best interest to remain enrolled in the school.
The educational responsibilities of DCYF for school-aged youth residing in out-of-home care include:
- To collaboratively discuss and document school placement options and plan necessary school transfers during the family team decision-making meeting, consistent with the provisions for making best interest determinations.
- To notify the receiving school and the school of origin that a youth residing in foster care is transferring schools.
- To document factors that contributed to any school disruptions.
- To pay any unpaid fees or fines due by the youth to the school or school district.
Students in foster care must be allowed to attend school and participate fully in school activities, regardless of immunization status.
- Immunization Guidance Manual
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires the best interest, when a student enters foster care or changes placement, to determine whether the student should remain in their school of origin or enroll in a new school. If it is in the student’s best interest to enroll in a new school, the school must immediately enroll the student, even if the student is unable to produce records normally required for enrollment (including immunization records).
For more information, please see WAC 246-105-060.
Effective the 2020–21 school year, the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) will cover 50% of all excess costs related to transporting students in foster care to and from home and school—regardless of the district’s percent funded. This means that districts that are 100% funded can split costs with DCYF.
- Transportation Shared Cost Procedure
- DCYF and the required school district(s) will work collaboratively on a transportation plan for the student.
- If there are excess costs because the student is commuting from outside the school boundaries, the school district will complete the DCYF School Transportation Billing form.
- Watch the DCYF & School District Transportation Shared Cost Procedure tutorial on how to complete and submit this form.
- The school district will provide the completed form electronically to the HQ Education Program Manager who will review and forward it to finance.
If disagreements develop regarding the best interest of the child or the transportation plan, the caseworker may contact their regional Education Lead for support in the resolution of the matter. The school district must ensure that the child remains in his or her school of origin while disputes are being resolved.
Federal laws and guidance surrounding the education of students in foster care can be found below.
- Federal Laws
- Dear Colleague Letter on Foster Care Guidance
- Dear Colleague Letter on Foster Care Timelines
- Non-Regulatory Guidance: Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care
- ED and HHS Letter to Chief State School Officers and Child Welfare Directors on Implementing the Fostering Connections Act
Educational Stability Requirements
There are key protections for children in foster care that require State and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) to collaborate with child welfare agencies to ensure the educational stability of children in foster care.
Uninterrupted Scholars Act
Educational agencies and institutions are permitted to disclose personally identifiable information (PII) from the education records of students in foster care placement, without parental consent, to an agency caseworker or other representative of a State or local child welfare agency (CWA) or tribal organization authorized to access a student’s case plan “when such agency or organization is legally responsible, in accordance with State or tribal law, for the care and protection of the student.”