CTFosterAdopt Manual - Chapter 4
The Importance of Education: School is a very important part of each child's life. It is essential that as the child’s licensed parent, you ensure that the child attends school and that you communicate often with the school system about the child’s needs and progress. DCF policy does not allow for the home schooling of children for whom DCF has custody. It is expected that any child placed with you by DCF will attend the local public school. Under certain circumstances permission may be granted by DCF to enroll your child in a private school. In the event you would like DCF to consider such a placement, you must speak with the DCF social worker.
A child who has been placed in your home is entitled to receive the same educational services as every other child who lives in your town. Sometimes the process used to obtain educational services for a child placed by DCF seems complicated, particularly if the child’s parents live in another town and the child is a special education student. Nevertheless, no matter how complicated a particular situation may seem, it is important to remember that the child always has the right to go to school.
Enrolling Children in School: When placing a child into a licensed home or moving a child to a different home will result in a change of school districts, the child’s DCF social worker is responsible for notifying the new school district. This is done officially through the form DCF-603. Licensed parents may ask the social worker for a copy of this form.
Although a child’s DCF social worker is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the child is enrolled in school, you will usually enroll the child. Therefore, you must be familiar with the enrollment procedures of the public school system that serves your town. The DCF social worker will assist you if needed.
In order for a child to be enrolled in public school, CT requires only that the child’s vaccination/health record be provided to the local school system. Health assessments are required in some grade levels. Most school systems will want additional information, but if the requested information is unavailable or has yet to arrive, the child may still go to school. CT allows for school districts to develop local policy pertaining to providing proof of residency. The local school district has the authority to ask for documents supporting your residency. You should ask the school district to indicate what documents you will need to present to prove residency when you enroll the child.
As a child’s licensed parent, you have the authority to enroll the child in school. Your school system may require that certain forms be signed by a child’s parent or guardian. Except for forms regarding the release of records, you are authorized to sign the enrollment forms.
You must advise the school system that you are the child’s DCF licensed parent and not the legal guardian. You must not share information about the child’s family or the reason for the child’s placement in care, even if you are a relative of the child. If school personnel question you regarding this, you should refer them to the child’s DCF social worker.
Some children react strongly to leaving home and changing schools at the same time. Therefore, periodically, the DCF social worker may recommend that you keep the child at home for a couple of days until the child is ready to handle the pressures of a new school.
It is important that you help the child become familiar with his/her new surroundings. If possible, after enrolling the child in school, take him/her to the school where he/she has been assigned. If the child will be walking to school, take some practice walks with the child to help him/her feel more confident. Use good judgment regarding allowing children to walk unattended. Give special consideration to the child’s age, developmental level and the environment between your home and the school. If the child will be riding a school bus or van, take him/her to the pick-up point.
There should never be a lengthy delay before a child attends school after being placed in your home, unless the local school system is on vacation. If the local school system refuses to enroll the child and/or refuses to allow the child to attend school, you must contact the child’s DCF social worker and/or the social worker’s supervisor immediately.
Education Records: The child’s DCF social worker or the school district where the child last attended will arrange for the transfer of records to the child’s new school. If school personnel indicate that they have not received particular records that are needed, you should ask them for a list of the records and give it to the DCF social worker. However, missing records are not a valid reason for a school district to refuse to allow a child to attend school. Even if the only record that the school district has is the required copy of the child’s vaccination/health record, the school district must allow the child to attend school. If a school prevents admission, contact the child’s social worker immediately.
Permissions: Upon authorization by the DCF social worker, you may give permission for the child to participate in activities (such as a class trip) for which the school system requires parental permission. Whenever you sign a permission form or slip, you must write next to your signature, that you are the child’s licensed parent. However, prior to granting any permission, discuss the situation with the child’s DCF social worker.
The permission-granting authority does not include the granting of consent relative to any special education matters. Only the child’s parent or surrogate parent has the authority to grant or withhold permission related to special education matters.
Parent Teacher Conferences: You may attend parent-teacher conferences and are encouraged to do so. You have information about the child’s skills and behavior that may be of assistance to school system staff. Also, information about the child’s performance in school will be helpful to you.
Report Cards: Among the things to discuss with a child’s DCF Social Worker is the signing of report cards. Once the Social Worker has given you permission, you may sign the child’s report card at times when the school system requires a parent’s signature. Whenever you sign a report card, you must write, next to your signature, that you are the child’s DCF licensed parent. It is also important for you to provide a copy of the report card to the DCF Social Worker.
Recognition: Like any child, a child placed by DCF needs to know that his/her efforts are recognized and appreciated. Here are a few ways you can help the child obtain such recognition and feel like part of your family:
Praise the child whenever you are aware that the child has accomplished something in school, particularly something with which the child has previously had difficulty;
Display on the refrigerator or a bulletin board, items that the child has brought home from school;
Help the child keep a scrapbook of school activities in which s/he can keep papers, pictures, and awards. These may also become part of the child’s life book.
Problems in School: If you are notified by your child’s school that s/he is having problems, ask for the details and contact the DCF social worker with the information. You may receive a progress report or mid-term grades that indicate a lack of progress or marginal performance, this information needs to be communicated with the child's DCF social worker. A parent/teacher conference may be needed. Whether the problem is academic or behavioral, strategies for improvement need to be discussed. The DCF social worker, the teacher, and you need to be involved in this process. If a child is arrested at school, notify his/her social worker who will need to attend to any legal proceedings, including the release of the child from police custody. Please contact your child's DCF social worker if you receive any notice of suspension and/or expulsion.
Special Education: Certain children have difficulty learning in school. When this difficulty is the result of a disability, the child is eligible to receive special education services. In certain situations, special education services can be provided to children who, although they have not entered school yet, have reached the age of three. Other children excel in school and are identified as gifted and talented. If your child is in this category, special education classes may be arranged by his/her school through a Planning and Placement Team meeting (PPT).
The special education provided to an eligible child can take many forms, depending upon the particular needs of the child. Some special education students stay in the mainstream and receive assistance in their regular classrooms. Some leave their regular classroom for one or more class periods per week in order to receive special instruction from a teacher in a resource room. Some special education students are assigned to a self-contained classroom and are taught by only one teacher. There are many other possibilities.
The child’s special education services are described in his/her individualized education program (IEP). Although the amount and type of special education services in an IEP varies by child, the IEP always lists at least these items:
- the type of setting(s) where the child’s services will take place;
- specific methods and materials which will be used by the professionals who are providing the services;
- annual goals and short-term objectives which the child will be working to achieve;
- any changes which will be made to the regular school program in order to help the child learn.
- The IEP must be designed so the child is able to spend as much time as possible during the school day with non-disabled peers and still be able to benefit from school.
Before any child can receive special education services, a PPT must occur, to which the child’s parent or surrogate parent and DCF social worker have been invited. The PPT also must include at least the following professionals: the child’s teacher, an expert in the area of the child’s difficulties, and someone representing the school administration.
The child’s parent must grant consent in order for the PPT to evaluate the child or to place the child in a special education program. If the child is committed to DCF, the child’s parent no longer possesses the educational authority. Instead, a surrogate parent is appointed by the Dept. of Education (SDE) to represent the child in special education matters. The child’s surrogate parent must be invited to each PPT meeting.
You may participate in any PPT meeting held to discuss a child in your care. However, unless you are appointed as the child’s surrogate parent, you are not authorized to sign consent forms related to special education, evaluation, and programming.
The PPT ensures that the child is evaluated regarding skills, knowledge, deficits and needs. Based upon that evaluation, the PPT determines whether the child has a disability that requires that the child must receive special education services. Some of the most common primary disabilities are: Specific learning disability; Intellectually Disability; Emotional Disturbance; Other Health Impairment; Speech or Language Impairment.
For children who have reached 14, the IEP must also contain a plan regarding transitioning the child from school after s/he is no longer eligible to attend public school, either because s/he has earned a high school diploma or because s/he has reached 21. This Individual Transition Plan (ITP) contains goals, activities which will occur to reach those goals, and a list of the agencies and individuals who will work with the child to reach the goals. Topics in the ITP can include: work, independent living, post-high school education, and services from agencies that assist adults. The child’s IEP is discussed, and adjusted if necessary, by the PPT at least once per year.
Sometimes a child is already a special education student at the time that s/he is placed in your care. In other words, a PPT has developed an IEP for the child and the child’s previous school system has been ensuring that the services in that IEP were being provided. If, as a result of being placed with you, the child changes school systems or for some other reason cannot continue to attend the school program that s/he was attending previously, the child is still entitled to go to school.
If a copy of the child’s previous IEP is available when you enroll the child, the school system in your town will be in a better position to provide services to the child right away. However, even if the IEP is unavailable, the child must be permitted to attend school. As soon as possible after the child’s enrollment, a new PPT meeting should be held to discuss programming for the child and to update the child’s IEP.
If a regular education child who is in your care and is having problems in school, the child may have a disability that is affecting his/her ability to learn. If you suspect that the child may need special education services, you should discuss this immediately with the child’s DCF social worker. Similarly, if a special education child is having problems in school, the child’s IEP may need to be modified. If you suspect that the child may need changes made to his/her special education program, you should discuss this immediately with the child’s DCF social worker.
Please understand that public schools have an obligation to implement strategies and interventions through regular education before making a referral to special education. Children may also be eligible for accommodations under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act of 1973, now known as the American with Disabilities Act. Children with a disability, who are found not eligible for services under special education eligibility criteria, may qualify for services under section 504.
Appointment as Educational Surrogate Parent: Under certain conditions, a child’s foster parent may be appointed as the surrogate parent who represents the child in special education matters. As such, the foster parent has full authority to act on behalf of the child with regard to his/her special education needs.
The SDE may appoint a child’s foster parent as the surrogate parent if:
- the DCF Commissioner has been appointed as the child’s guardian and/or statutory parent, and
- the foster parent has made a request to SDE for such appointment, and
- the child’s DCF social worker certifies in writing to SDE that DCF supports the appointment.
If you wish to become a child’s surrogate parent, you must speak with the DCF social worker first. DCF will support your appointment as a surrogate parent as long as you are in good standing with DCF and you actively support the treatment goals and plans which DCF has developed for the child. The social worker will provide you with the address of the SDE surrogate parent program. If you are appointed as a surrogate parent, SDE will provide you with training and you will be expected to follow all of the procedures that SDE requires of surrogate parents.
Continuing Education After high School: Some youth who complete high school remain in the care of DCF while they continue their education. In such situations, you and the DCF social worker share responsibility for helping the youth plan for college or vocational training. This planning should occur during the second half of his/her junior year of high school and, if necessary, early during the senior year.
The youth is responsible for exploring financial aid options such as grants, loans, and scholarships. Upon reaching the18 in order to be eligible for continued financial support by DCF, he/she must be in a full-time educational program, whether still in high school or in a college or vocational program. Upon reaching 23, a youth is no longer eligible for financial support by DCF; however, a young adult may complete the full school year if started prior to the 23rd birthday. There are specific criteria governing a child’s eligibility for DCF financial support for continuing education after high school. Please ask the DCF social worker to review the criteria with you and your foster child.
Communication: Licensed Parent to DCF Social Worker: It is critical that you share information about the child’s school performance with the child’s DCF social worker. For example, you should keep the social worker informed regarding progress reports, mid-term grades, disciplinary notices, report cards, and of the results of parent-teacher conferences. Despite everyone’s efforts on behalf of the child, problems may arise. It is important that you call the DCF social worker whenever the child has school problems or if there are questions about school matters about which you are uncertain. You and the child’s DCF social worker need to communicate often and openly about the child’s school progress and needs.