The New Jersey Commissioner of Education issued a memorandum on October 4, 2016 on the subject of ensuring educational stability for children in foster care.

The memo states that the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), requires protections for children in foster care that further enhance the requirements of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act). The provisions of ESSA require child welfare agencies and school districts to collaborate, and to keep children in foster care in the same school when their living placements change, if remaining in that school is in their best interest.

To comply with the new provisions of the federal law, the commissioner directed school districts and charter schools to develop policies and procedures related to “…collaboration and communication with state or local child welfare agency to ensure children in foster care have transportation to and from school; and tuition reimbursement to avoid barriers to immediate enrollment.”

NJSBA Policy Services and the Legal Department have prepared a model policy, legal reference explaining the legal justification for the policy, and a sample regulation. This new policy can be found at file code 5118.2, Foster Care and Educational Stability. These documents have been added to the Critical Policy Reference Manual to assist our members in complying with the requirements of ESSA and the Commissioner’s directive to develop policies and procedures.

For additional information on policy and procedure development, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families has published a comprehensive resource titled, “Improving the Educational Outcomes of Children in Out-of-Home Placements: An Interagency Guidance Manual.” The guidance manual describes practices and procedures that enable each local school district and charter school to comply with the new provisions of ESSA regarding the cooperation and collaboration between districts and child welfare services to support the educational stability of children in foster care.

You may directly download the policy, legal reference and regulation from the Critical Policy Reference Manual (CPRM) district or charter versions or the Policy Update List on your password protected Policy Resources webpage. You may also contact an NJSBA policy expert at (609) 278-5268 or email: Jean Harkness, policy consultant, or Steve McGettigan, Policy Manager.