Nearly 23,000 Pennsylvania children and youth were placed in foster care during 2015. These children and youth rely on county child welfare agencies, the courts, schools and their temporary caregivers to ensure their educational and daily needs are addressed while they are living away from their homes and families.
For these young people, academic achievement can be a positive balance to the events that led to their foster care placement – and school success begins with school stability. While Pennsylvania lacks reliable educational data on our children in foster care, national data shows that half to three-quarters of children change schools when entering foster care, a third of these children change schools five or more times, and only half complete high school by age 18. The high rate of school mobility amongst foster children and youth negatively impacts their academic success, creates challenges to participation in extracurricular activities and disrupts friendships with other students and school faculty.
In Pennsylvania, several pieces of legislation have been introduced, all with the intention of reducing the educational disruption that plagues many students in foster care. Just this week, HB 1808 and HB 1809 were filed in the House, while in the Senate, SB 966 was filed earlier this session. While additional legislation is expected to be filed, the legislation that has been introduced thus far makes the statutory reforms necessary to keep foster children and youth in their original school whenever possible and inform school districts and county child welfare agencies of their responsibilities to transport children. The legislation also specifies the requirements for county child welfare agencies and school districts to coordinate their efforts to ensure timely enrollment and transfer of student records when the court makes a best-interest determination for the student to transfer to a new school. School districts, county child welfare agencies and the courts all play a role in the lives of foster children and youth, so it is imperative that any school stability legislation addresses the roles of all three and promotes collaboration amongst them to better achieve school stability.
PPC applauds the General Assembly’s recognition of this challenge facing foster children and youth and looks forward to working with them and other stakeholders through the next few months to advance legislation that helps ensure school stability and smooth transitions for school placements for the students that do require a change of school.
Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children via social media: