The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) and the Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) recently released guidelines to assist school districts in complying with the ESSA provisions regarding transportation of students in foster care. Most importantly, the guidelines require that school districts implement written procedures governing how they will provide transportation to ensure that a child in foster care can remain in his/her school of origin by June 30, 2017. The initial deadline for developing these written procedures was January 16, 2017, but in the FAQ document distributed by ISBE on January 7, 2017, ISBE noted that they would extend this deadline to June 30, 2017, to ensure that school districts had sufficient time to develop policies and procedures. Please note that these guidelines only address agency-placed foster care students. The full guidelines can be accessed HERE.
The guidelines also provide several factors and considerations that school districts should consider when determining whether it is in the “best interest” of the child in foster care to remain in his/her school of origin. These factors include, among others, the appropriateness of the current education setting and proximity of placement, the preferences of the child, the preferences of the child’s parent(s) or education decision-maker(s), and the placement of the child’s siblings. Notably, the guidelines stress that transportation costs should not be considered when determining a child’s best interest.
According to ISBE and DCFS, the purpose of the guidelines is to “promote greater stability for children in foster care so that they can continue their education without disruption, maintain important relationships with peers and adults, and have the opportunity to achieve college and career readiness.” To ensure that these guidelines satisfy their intended purpose, please note that ISBE is currently taking steps to prepare a model policy/procedures and webinar so that school districts can learn more about these new foster care transportation provisions. ISBE also recently released a FAQs document, which can be accessed by clicking: pdf-1.
Additionally, the ESSA requires that each school district designate a “foster care point of contact.” This “point of contact” does not need to be at each individual school building, but can be one individual for the entire school district. Furthermore, ISBE’s FAQ indicates that special education cooperatives do not need to appoint an foster care point of contact. The designated point of contact must register via the ISBE Entity Profile System in IWAS HERE. For your convenience, step-by-step guidance on how to register the designated point of contact can be accessed by clicking: pdf-2.
Please contact Stephanie Jones, Kaitlin Atlas, or Kevin McKeown with your inquiries.