(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) introduced two bills that provide additional resources to help homeless and foster children succeed in school. The bills, the Educational Success for Children and Youth Without Homes Act of 2009 and the Fostering Success in Education Act establish new supports for homeless and foster children, including:
- Establishing and enhancing liaison positions within school systems that will focus exclusively on homeless and foster children,
- Resources to speed up foster and homeless children’s enrollment and acclimation in new schools,
- Help to promote stability by keeping children and youth in their original school if it is in the best interest of the child.
“School children are paying an awful price in this economic downturn,” said Senator Murray, a senior member of the Senate Education Committee. “Lost jobs and homes mean more foster and homeless children are also getting lost in our school systems. These bills are targeted at helping those students who are at risk of dropping out or falling behind through no fault of their own. Especially now, when more children are finding their family lives turned upside-down, we need to make every effort to provide stability at school.”
“A quality education can serve as a positive counterweight to the abuse, neglect, and instability that homeless children and children in foster care have experienced,” said Senator Franken, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “That’s why Senator Murray and I are introducing legislation to increase their educational stability and success. The loss of a home or the very placement of children in foster care has deprived many children of their opportunity to obtain a decent education. It’s time that we listen to these youth and take steps to ensure that we don’t deprive homeless and foster children of their right to an equal education.”
The Educational Success for Children and Youth Without Homes Act of 2009
The Educational Success for Children and Youth Without Homes Act of 2009 will help children and youth experiencing homelessness thrive in school, despite the constant moving, trauma, and loss often associated with their homelessness.
The legislation will promote school stability and success for homeless students by:
- Keeping homeless children and youth in their original schools, unless the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth wishes to change schools, or unless an individualized, best interest determination by the school supports a change of schools,
- Establishing and training a homeless youth liaison within schools,
- Increasing federal funding to help assist with the costs of transportation to the school of origin, and
- Increasing outreach and identification efforts for homeless students.
“Nearly 20,000 Washington state children experience homelessness each year and often times these kids have to say goodbye to the only friends, teachers and stability they know,” said Senator Murray. “My bill helps keep homeless students in a stable school environment and ensures that there is a school official dedicated to helping them balance their family and school lives .”
Details on the Educational Success for Children and Youth Without Homes Act of 2009
The Fostering Success in Education Act
The Fostering Success in Education Act will improve school stability by directing child welfare agencies to collaborate with local education agencies (LEAs) to ensure that foster children remain in their current schools after they move to new school districts, when it is in their best interest to do so. When it is not in the best interest of particular foster children to remain in their current schools, the Act directs child welfare agencies to collaborate with LEAs to ensure that those children are enrolled immediately in new schools.
In addition, the legislation will promote school stability and success for foster children by:
- Forbidding states from segregating foster children by forcing them to attend separate, and often inferior schools, such as schools at group foster homes, unless it is documented that particular foster children have disabilities that must be addressed in alternative educational settings under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- Requiring each state department of education to designate a foster care coordinator to collaborate with the state child welfare agency.
- Requiring states to create a process for resolving disputes about whether it is in a foster child’s best interest to remain in a particular school after moving to a new school district.
- Requiring states to develop systems to ensure that foster children can transfer and recover credits when they change schools, and that foster children who have attended multiple high schools with different graduation requirements can graduate.
- Providing states, school districts, and child welfare agencies with funding to improve the educational stability of foster children.
“Foster children have a right to the same educational opportunities as other children in their community,” said Senator Franken. “Right now, many foster children are falling behind their peers in school, losing hope, and ultimately dropping out. My bill will help remove barriers to the educational success of foster children by improving their school stability.”
Details on the Fostering Success in Education Act