The Department of Children and Families ("DCF") and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education ("DESE") have prepared this document to facilitate access by DCF social workers to education records of students in DCF custody in a manner consistent with applicable laws and regulations.
When DCF has custody1 of a student, it is expected that the DCF social worker assigned to the student will have access to that student's education records. For students in DCF custody, DCF social workers should be provided with access of the same type and degree as parents to online portals, distribution/mailing lists, and other communication protocols used by districts and schools to share education records and data about individual students. Districts and schools that offer web-based or online access to student-specific data on attendance and education progress should extend such access to the DCF social worker. This includes providing such social workers with a user profile, login credentials, information on how to access the portal, and guidance on how to use the system.
Districts should provide DCF social workers assigned to students in DCF custody with information on how to access its SIS, including a user profile with a password, and the same guidance offered to parents on how to use the system. The district's Foster Care Point of Contact (FPOC) can help to coordinate with other district staff needed to facilitate the access to education records required by DCF social workers assigned to students in DCF custody.
Disclosures of education records from an LEA or school to a DCF social worker are authorized under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as well as under state law and regulations in Massachusetts. See 20 USC § 1232g(b)(1)(L); G.L. c. 119, §21; and the Massachusetts Student Record Regulations, 603 CMR 23.02.
When DCF is granted custody of child, the DCF social worker assigned to the student will present a Notice to LEA form to the District's Foster Care Point of Contact (FCPOC). Access to education records and data should be extended to DCF social workers as soon as possible, and ideally no later than five working days after receipt of a Notice to LEA form.
Upon a change to the status of a student's custody with DCF, enrollment in a school district, or education placement, DCF will refile the Notice to LEA form with the FCPOC, who can ensure that the user profile associated with DCF changes or is deactivated appropriately.
Please note that biological parents/guardians do not lose access to SIS or other education records possessed by the district unless there is a specific court order to this effect. FCPOC will also work with the DCF staff to facilitate access to any other school or teacher-specific online systems that are used to share information with parents.
1 For purposes of this guidance, the term "custody" is used according to the definition provided in G.L. c. 119, §21.
Last Updated: October 21, 2021
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
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