- Cama-i, quyana tailuci!
- (Central Yup’ik)
- "Greetings, thank you for coming!"
In order to support students in foster care, ESSA requires districts to do the following: Establish a Foster Care Point of Contact (POC) that Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services (OCS) can work with; allow students in foster care to remain in their “school of origin” (regardless of changes in housing) unless a determination is made that it is not in the student’s best interest; coordinate with OCS to provide transportation to the school of origin; and facilitate expedited enrollment in a new school when it is determined in the student’s best interest to change schools. [ESEA Sections 1111(g)(1)(E) and 1112(c)(5)]
DEED/OCS Joint Guidance and Templates
In order to assist districts in coordinating with OCS and complying with ESSA’s and Fostering Connection’s requirements, DEED and OCS have worked together to create joint guidance and templates.
Joint Guidance on Ensuring the Educational Stability of Children in Foster Care (pdf) –This joint guidance aims to establish statewide roles, definitions, and procedures for supporting students in foster care and ensure compliance with federal statutes.
Memorandum of Understanding to Ensure Educational Stability of Children in Foster Care (docx) –This template’s purpose is to create an MOU between the district and OCS that documents points of contact, affirms the Joint Guidance, and identifies a transportation agreement.
Foster Care Student Transportation Agreement (docx)–This template’s purpose is to arrange transportation and associated funding for an individual student in foster care on a case-by-case basis.
Connecting with OCS
Whereas DEED divides the state into 54 school districts led by Superintendents, OCS divides the state into 5 regions: Northern, Western, Southcentral, Anchorage, and Southeast. Each region is run by at least one regional Protective Services Manager (PSM).
Within most regions there are several sub-regional field offices that serve specific communities in the region.
If a district is trying to set up an MOU and/or transportation agreement with OCS, or if the district is trying determine who is the OCS Protective Services Specialist serving as its POC, the best route for the district is to email the regional PSM (docx).
In order to make timely, informed decisions regarding students in foster care, the school district and Office of Children's Services (OCS) must efficiently share and safeguard necessary information while respecting all relevant student privacy laws, including the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
OCS is expected to contact schools within 48 hours if one of their students is taken into a foster care placement. This formal notification document is often delivered to the school in person by the student’s foster parent, but it may be delivered in person by the student’s case worker, or OCS may send it to the district staff person who serves as the Foster Care Point of Contact (POC) via email.
Additionally, a district may request to receive a weekly report from OCS listing all foster care students in Out-of-Home Placements who are enrolled in their schools, as well as transition dates, the name of the foster parent, and the case worker contact information. This Out-of-Home Placements (OOH) Report is confidential and sent securely. To request this service, the district Foster Care POC or superintendent should send an email to HSS OCS Research indicating a desire to receive the weekly School District OOH Report. In order to set up the report, OCS will email the district a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that only the district superintendent is authorized to sign.
More information about how data can be appropriately shared between schools districts and OCS is available in the Guidance for Education Data Sharing for Alaska Children in Out-of-Home Care (pdf) that was jointly issued by DEED and OCS in August 2014.
Federal Statute and Guidance
There are several national advocacy organizations offering free resources and templates to help districts support students in Foster Care. Please note: These resources may describe best practices, not necessarily what is specifically required by ESSA or an allowable use of Title I-A funds. Additionally, other states may also share their state’s Foster Care resources, but be aware that these may be based on funding, laws, and protocols specific to that state and not applicable in Alaska.