The fact is that many of our foster youth change placements and schools while in care, sometimes many times more than we would like. The school change in itself puts the student at a disadvantage, as research shows that they lose approximately four months of progress for every change.
The following are important considerations to ensure that the student doesn't encounter unnecessary challenges:
- Is it in the child's best interest to remain at their current school? Allowing the child to maintain their daily routine at school often provides stability when a home placement is happening.
- How would transportation be arranged? This discussion happens between social workers, advocates, liaisons, school districts and foster parents to find a plan that works.
- Is there a semester or summer break which would allow a more natural transition to a new school? Is it possible to maintain school placement until then?
- If my child must transfer to a new school, have I informed the current school so that they can assist in preparing the child and their records?
- Have I returned all books and materials that belong to the current school? (Many schools will send a bill for materials not returned, or attempt to hold back records until fines and fees are paid).
- Have I advised the school registrar that my child is due full or partial credit for all coursework satisfactorily completed? Partial credit award is a foster youth educational right per AB490. Do not depend on the school registrar to know about this law or automatically give credit - it must be requested. Educational liaisons can assist you in making the request and providing guidance to schools about how this is done. This is especially important for high school students who are earning credits toward graduation.
- Have you gathered immunizations, IEPs (special ed documents), psycho-educational reports, test scores and transcripts to be sent to the new school? Social workers and foster parents should take a proactive role in making sure records are transferred from one school to the next. When this doesn't happen, some records are lost to the detriment of the student.
- A foster child's grades cannot be lowered because of absences due to change in placement, attendance at a court hearing, or court-ordered activity. However, it is the foster parent and social worker's responsibility to report these absences to the school directly, in advance if at all possible.
More information on credit transfer and school completion can be found here: Foster Care and Education Q & A
Click on the link above for a tool provided by Sacramento FYS to calculate partial credits. Education Code 49069.5(e)(g) requires that students who leave a school before the end of a term (i.e. semester, trimester) be granted all partial credits earned.