A Home Run for Foster Youth!By: Chris Crutchfield
In January 2013, Congress approved a bill making it easier for schools to obtain confidential records for students in foster care who are transferring into a new school. Before this bill, known as the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA), was approved, all student records were protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Under FERPA, a student’s records cannot be released to a third party without the written consent of the parent. This law was written to protect the parent by giving them control over their child’s records. But what happens when the state becomes the child’s parent? While protecting a parent’s rights is a good thing, the unintended consequence can be a lack of knowledge about a student in regards to their personal home situation and their educational needs.
The student and the school both benefit when that student’s needs are identified as quickly as possible. USA allows the child welfare agencies to release school records without having to wait for written parental consent.
Youth in foster care often ‘bounce’ from one home to another while waiting to be reunited with their parents or adopted into a permanent home. Nearly two thirds of former foster youth surveyed by Casey Family Programs experienced seven or more school moves from kindergarten to twelfth grade. This contributes to the graduation rate among foster youth to being roughly 50 percent.
Many times each move results in the student having to start a new school in a different district. This disruption can lead to the student falling behind in their schoolwork and losing school credits necessary for graduation.
Thankfully, attention has been drawn to this dismal situation. Foster youth already have many obstacles to overcome. Graduating from high school shouldn’t be one of them.
Click to read the full text of the Uninterrupted Scholars Act Bill