Office of Student and Family Support
Clarifications Regarding February 2017 ESSA Foster Care Provisions Memorandum
|To:||Superintendents; Charter School Leaders; School Principals; Homeless Education Liaisons; and Foster Care Points of Contact|
|From:||Rachelle Engler Bennett, Associate Commissioner, Student and Family Support|
|Date:||June 6, 2017|
This communication is a follow-up to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (Department) February 2, 2017 memorandum regarding implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) foster care provisions. The purpose of this document is to help clarify aspects of the new requirements as they apply to the current (2016-2017) school year. Additional guidance documents will be forthcoming this spring and summer.
Update: Starting in the 2017-2018 school year, children "awaiting foster care" should now be considered children in foster care. The text with strikethrough below no longer applies.
Children Awaiting Foster Care
The Department has determined that it is in the best interest of children in the care or custody of the state and who meet the definition of awaiting foster care (a temporary placement not to exceed 90 days) to continue to be covered as homeless students for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, as they were prior to implementation of ESSA. Such students, as with all homeless students, have the right to remain enrolled in their school of origin, with transportation if needed, through the end of the academic year in which they become permanently housed or placed.
Children who are in placements not intended to exceed 90 days at any point in the school year should be considered to be "awaiting foster care." Stabilization Assessment and Rapid Reintegration (STARR) programs and transitional care units (TCU) are examples of these placements. Additionally, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) may use foster homes and kinship placements with the expectation of moving a child quickly (within 90 days).
Transportation for Children Awaiting Foster Care
Transportation for students awaiting foster care will be a shared homeless transportation cost reimbursable through the state's funding for homeless students (through the end of school year 2016-2017).
By continuing to cover children awaiting foster care as homeless, transportation is shared between the district where the child is enrolled and the district where the child is placed.
Reimbursement for Children Awaiting Foster Care
Reimbursements to districts are made in the year following the year in which the costs are incurred.
By continuing to cover children awaiting foster care as homeless, districts will be able to submit the cost of transportation across district lines for partial state reimbursement as they have in previous years, on their end-of-year financial reports. Pending appropriation, partial reimbursement is sent when that fiscal year is closed out.
Immediate Enrollment for All Children in Foster Care
If it is determined not to be in the student's best interest to remain in the school of origin, a student in foster care must be immediately enrolled in the new school, even if the student does not have the documentation normally required for enrollment, and a school to school transfer of records must be initiated, as appropriate.
Immediate enrollment means that a child is enrolled with or without the documentation usually required to enroll in school. Such documentation includes proof of residency, academic records, Individual Education Plans (IEP), discipline records, documents evidencing proof of custody (e.g., birth certificates, custody or guardianship orders), identification documents and medical, and health and immunization records. A school or district may require emergency contact information.
Questions may be directed to the Office of Student and Family Support via firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-338-3010.