Effective today, children placed in foster care or other out-of-home care by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) can stay in the school they were attending when they were removed from their home, rather than changing schools based on where they are placed. Until now, children who entered state care were required to enroll in school in the town in which they were placed. Because placement changes are common for children in DCF care, this meant that many children repeatedly changed schools within the same school year and over the course of many years. Children with disabilities, including children identified as in need of special education, were particularly disadvantaged as they moved from school to school, falling further and further behind their peers. Public Act 10-160, puts an end to this practice and ensures educational stability for children placed in DCF care.
The new law creates a presumption that it is in the child’s best interest to remain in his or her “school of origin,” defined as “the school the child is attending at the time [DCF] removes the child from his or home or the school the child is attending at the time of any change in the out-of-home placement.” DCF and the school must collaborate to ensure that the child will be transported from his or her placement to the school of origin. DCF is responsible for any extraordinary transportation costs.
When it is not in the best interest of a child to attend his or her school of origin, the law requires “immediate and appropriate enrollment and attendance” in the new school. Moreover, the school of origin is required to transmit to the new school, within one business day, all essential educational records including the child’s individualized education plan (IEP), behavior intervention plan, any other document necessary to determine appropriate class placement and provision of educational services.
The new law, implementing mandatory provisions of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-351), is the result of much hard work and collaboration by the Office of the Child Advocate, Center for Children’s Advocacy, Connecticut Voices for Children, Department of Children and Families, State Department of Education, and state legislature.