Education Rights

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    Children and youth in foster care experience changes in their living situations that may have a negative impact on their education. As a result, youth in foster care have the poorest education outcomes of any student population in California.  Statewide data shows that the academic performance of youth in foster care is less successful than other disadvantaged groups and that youth in foster care continually have the lowest graduation rates, as well as the highest dropout rates, compared to the general student population. Ensuring access to current and most recent education records of youth in foster care is critical to obtaining services to address these barriers to their education.

    In an effort to address this pervasive problem, the California Department of Education has established support services for students in foster care statewide. Every school district has an Education Liaison to help foster youth keep track of their school records, enroll in the right classes, and answer any questions related to education.  To find the Educational Liaison in a specific school district, please click here. You can also call Foster Youth Services at 1-916-455-5737.

    Students in foster care have specific rights afforded to them in order to minimize the negative impacts foster care may have on their lives. The information on this webpage outlines what those rights are and offers suggestions for individuals concerned about a foster child/youth’s education to best advocate on their behalf.

     

    Educational Rights Holder

    Every foster youth under age 18 must have an education rights holder, who is required to make education decisions in the youth’s best interest. Foster youth who are 18 or older have the right to make their own education decisions. Educational rights holders have full access to a student’s records and are permitted to make all education decisions for a child. An education rights holder may be the birth parent or legal guardian, a caregiver, or another person chosen by the juvenile dependency court.  

     

    Caregiver’s Rights to Access Education Information

    Even though the caregiver of a foster child or youth sometimes does not hold educational rights, they play a significant role in supporting the child’s education.  Studies and data show that caregivers who are regularly informed of a student’s progress in school can better support the child’s day-to-day educational needs and increase their educational success.  Welfare and Institutions Code section 16010 provides that the caregiver to a foster child or youth can access and maintain educational information about the child, regardless of whether the caregiver has been appointed as the student’s educational rights holder.  Also see ACL 21-86 (August 20, 2021). Additionally, California Education Code section 49069.3 provides that foster parents and relative caregivers have the right to access the foster youth's current or most recent records of grades, transcripts, attendance records, online school portals, individualized education programs (IEPs), and 504 plans. 

     

    Specific Education Related Rights for Foster Youth

    Foster youth are entitled to specific education related rights that other students may not be due to their circumstances.  Most education related rights for foster youth are outlined in the California Foster Youth Education Law Fact Sheets (January 2023).  Certain rights are discussed below:

     

    Right to Remain in School of Origin

    Youth in foster care have a right to remain in their school of origin following a home placement change, unless their Education Rights Holder (ERH) determines it is in their best interest to change schools. In recognition of the major disruptions that occur for a youth experiencing a school change, both California and Federal law make clear that remaining in the school of origin is the default placement when a youth moves from one placement to another. Before making a recommendation to move a youth in foster care from their school of origin, a school district of origin’s AB 490 Foster Youth Liaison must provide the youth and their education rights holder with a written explanation of why it is in the youth’s best interest to transfer to a new school. Also, a youth should not be moved from their school of origin until after a written waiver of this right is obtained by the school district from the education rights holder.

    If the child remains in their school of origin, transportation may be needed between the child’s foster care placement and school. The school district and child welfare agency must coordinate and provide transportation for the child/youth. 20 USC 6312; EC 48853.5. If the caregiver or other trusted adults provide transportation, they may be eligible for reimbursement. See All County Letter No. 11-51, I-86-20

    For foster youth with an IEP and for whom the IEP team has determined that transportation is a necessary related service for the youth to benefit from their IEP, the school district must provide transportation as part of its responsibility to provide a free appropriate public education and related services, with consideration of location, placement, and the needs of the youth. EC 56040; EC 41850(b)(5).

     

    Right to Education and Placement Stability

    While in foster care, children or youth in foster care may experience disruption and instability as a result of placement changes. Placement changes can be confusing and cause disorder in a child’s home life but also require that a child change schools (often during the school year already in session). Such disruptions can adversely affect the child’s academic progress as well as his or her emotional well-being. 

    If the proposed placement change is being made by the county child welfare agency, the education rights holder must be notified and be provided an opportunity to object to the move.  

    Educational Rights Holder Must be Noticed of a Proposed Placement Change:  Pursuant to California Rule of Court 5.651, the juvenile court has the authority to supervise and maintain the child or youth’s educational stability.  When a proposed placement change will affect the child/youth’s educational stability within 24 hours. California Rules of Court, Rule 5.651(e)(1)(a). If the child has an IEP, there are additional notices required to the local educational agency providing the IEP program and the educational agency in the area to where the child will be moved at least 10 days before the change in placement. CRC Rule 5.651(e)(1)(b)

    Duties of Minor's Counsel to Discuss Proposed Placement Change Affecting School of Origin:  The attorney must discuss the proposed placement change and its effect on the child/youth’s right to attend the school of origin with the child/youth and with the person who holds educational rights (who may be the caregiver). See California Rules of Court, Rule 5.651 (e)(2)

    Education Rights Holder or Minor’s Counsel Can Object to Proposed Change of School of Origin: To object, the attorney or educational representative must file a JV-539 Request for Hearing Regarding Child’s Access to Services no later than 2 court days after receiving the notice. 

    Court Hearing on Proposed Placement Affecting Right to Attend School of Origin: A court hearing must be held no later than 5 court days after the JV-539 is filed. The clerk must give required notice if the JV-539 is filed by the educational representative. If removal from the school of origin is disputed, the child/youth must be allowed to remain in that school pending the hearing and for as long as there is a disagreement between the child, parent, guardian or educational rights holder, and the local educational agency. See California Rules of Court, Rule 5.651 (e)(3)

    The social worker must file a report within 2 court days after the hearing request form is filed containing specific information, including how the proposed change of schools serves the best interests of the child. 

    The court is authorized to determine what actions are necessary to ensure the protection of the child or youth’s educational rights and to make any findings and orders needed to secure those rights (which may include a provision of transportation services so that the child/youth may remain in their school of origin).  When considering the child/youth’s best interest to remove them from their school of origin, the court must consider the following:

    • Whether the parent, guardian, or other educational rights holder believes that removal from the school of origin is in the child's or youth's best interest;
    • How the proposed change of placement will affect the stability of the child's or youth's school placement and the child's or youth's access to academic resources, services, and extracurricular and enrichment activities;
    • Whether the proposed school placement would allow the child or youth to be placed in the least restrictive educational program; and
    • Whether the child or youth has the educational and developmental services and supports, including those for special education and related services, necessary to meet state academic achievement standards.

    See California Rules of Court, Rule 5.651 (f)

     

    Right to Participate in Afterschool Activities

    Every child or youth in foster care has the right to go to school everyday and participate in afterschool activities.  

     

    Rights if Foster Youth/Child is Facing School Suspension or Expulsion

    If a foster child or youth is facing suspension at school, there are special rules that may apply. For example, if the child/youth is facing expulsion, s/he has the right to a hearing and to present witnesses and evidence and to bring an attorney.

     

    Right to Access Information about Educational Options

    If the foster youth/child is 16 years of age or older, they have the right to access information regarding educational options, including coursework necessary for vocational and postsecondary educational programs and financial aid for postsecondary education.  They can obtain assistance from an Educational Liaison (AB-490 Liaison).  

     

    Resources and Additional Information

    California Foster Youth Education Law Fact Sheets (2023)

    California Department of Education Foster Youth Services

    Foster Youth Education Rights

    Alliance for Children’s Rights Toolkit

    California Foster Youth Education Task Force

    Foster Youth Services Coordinating Programs (FYSCPs) are programs administered by the California Department of Education (CDE) through county offices of education. The programs help to improve children’s educational performance and personal achievement. FYSCPs have the flexibility to design services to meet a wide range of needs of foster youth. For a list of FYSCP county contacts, click here.

    Legal Disclaimer: Advokids provides educational information and resources to those who use our website, call our hotline, or submit requests for information via the website. Any information provided may not be construed as the giving of legal advice to any person about a particular legal matter and should not be relied upon as the basis for taking a particular action or refraining from taking a particular action in any legal matter. If you want or need legal advice about a particular legal matter, you should consult a lawyer.

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