Caregiver Access to Education Records
This legislation authored by Senator Jim Beall, will improve the coordination of educational services between caregivers of foster children, Local Education Agencies (LEAs), Child Welfare Agencies (CWAs) and education rights holders by clarifying the types of education records that caregivers can access. A foster child’s caregiver is not always their education rights holder, but plays a significant role in supporting their education. Caregivers who are regularly informed of a child’s progress in school can better support the child’s day-to-day educational needs and increase their educational success.
California has approximately 60,000 children in foster care. Placement and school instability is commonplace among these children, resulting in poor academic and social/emotional outcomes. Research shows that a child loses four to six months of academic progress each time they change schools. WestEd’s landmark report, The Invisible Achievement Gap, found that foster children had the lowest graduation rate and highest dropout rate of any student subgroup in the state. Further, due to the trauma they have suffered, many foster children experience emotional and behavioral struggles at school.
Federal and state law has recognized that children in foster care are a unique population that faces multiple educational challenges, and requires extra support and coordination between LEAs, CWAs, education rights holders, and caregivers to improve their educational outcomes. While LEAs and CWAs are responsible for ensuring foster children receive adequate educational services, including protecting the educational stability of children in foster care, and education rights holders are responsible for making education decisions in the best interests of each child, caregivers are responsible for meeting the day-to-day educational needs of the foster children in their care. For example, this includes making sure children attend school daily, complete and turn in their homework, monitoring their grades, and helping them access education services such as tutoring, and extracurricular activities. In some cases a child’s education rights holder is their caregiver, but not always—for example, the child’s parents may retain education rights, or a non-caregiver relative or CASA may hold education rights.