Committee seeks faster transfer of foster student records

A special legislative committee studying the Kansas foster care system is asking state agencies to address delays in the transfer of school records for students who change schools due to foster care placement. 

The request was part of a package of recommendations to improve the foster care system following six days of hearings and discussion. Much of the focus was on the challenges of families in crisis, the special issues of children who are also in the juvenile justice system or who have additional physical, mental and behavioral needs, and coordinating the multiple agencies and organizations, including schools, that are part of the system. 

Numerous speakers told the committee there are on-going educational issues for students in foster care. When students are placed in a foster home or moved to a different home, under federal policy they are to remain in the same school unless there is a “best interest” determination that the child should be moved to a different school. 

The committee heard complaints that when children are transferred to different schools or districts, there are delays in enrolling the child or receiving records to determine what services the child may need, despite state and federal laws on these issues. The committee wants the Kansas Department of Children and Families to work with their foster care contractors to improve the system – or face new legislation. 

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, Vice Chair of the Special Committee on Foster Care Oversight and Chair of the standing Senate Education Committee, said the primary responsibility for requesting school records from past schools and making sure the new schools have the information should be on DCF and its contractors, because it should be considered part of the services the state is paying for. 

Other issues involving schools and foster care reviewed by the committee include: 

  • Transportation for students moved to a difference placement but wanting to continue attending the same school. 
  • Difficulties in acquiring enough high school credit to graduate when students are frequently moved among schools, based on local policies regarding placement of students who move in the middle of a course or accepting credits from other districts. 
  • Resistance by some districts to a state law requiring that students 17 and older in state custody who have completed the state minimum requirements should be allowed to graduate even if the local district requires more credit for other students. 

The committee also expressed concerns that when students are expelled from school, they are not required to share funding with other schools or organizations willing to provide alternative education programs for such students. 

Earlier, a judge who presides over children in need of care cases told the committee that the state must do a better job of helping children in foster care graduate high school. 

When most foster children don’t attain a high school diploma, they have difficulties throughout life and many times end up in the criminal justice system, Sedgwick County 18th District Judge Kevin Smith said. “We need to graduate them,” he said. 

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