ESSA and the Fostering Connections Act both have provisions requiring schools and child welfare agencies (DCS) to work together to help children in foster care remain in their schools of origin when placed into a new home if it is in the child's best interests to do so. There are many considerations when making this decision, but the cost of transportation to the school of origin CANNOT be one of the considerations. It is ultimately the child's DCS case manager's decision regarding school selection.
You can find contact information for your school district's liaison on this webpage under “LEA POC List.” Your school district's liaison will work with the child's DCS case manager to determine school selection, help with the child's immediate enrollment, and will ensure transportation (if needed).
If it is decided that the child will not remain in their school of origin, here are the options to consider:
Public schools – You may choose to enroll the child into the local district school or apply for open enrollment into an out-of-district school.
Charter schools – Children in foster care may be enrolled in a local charter school. One option is Ombudsman Charter Schools (locations in Maricopa County and Tucson), a tuition free charter high school that provides an alternative to traditional high school for students ages 14-21 who are at risk of dropping out or who have dropped out of school and who want to return and earn their diploma. Website
Virtual/online schools – Before enrolling a child who is in foster care into a virtual or online school, get permission from the case manager in writing. Some school districts also have online schools. Some virtual charter schools in Arizona are: AZVA, Connections Academy; and Prima Vera.
Alternative schools – When a child has been expelled from his or her school, ask the district if they have an alternative school that the child can attend in the meantime. When enrolling a child into an alternative school, it is important to work with school administrators to develop a plan of when and how the child can transition back to mainstream schooling.
Homeschooling – While it is unusual for a child in foster care to be homeschooled, it has been permitted under extenuating circumstances. If you wish to homeschool a child in foster care, the case manager must document it as part of the child's written case plan.
Private schools – Permission may be granted to enroll a child who is in foster care into a private school on an individual basis under extenuating circumstances. Enrollment into a private school must be documented by the case manager as part of the child's written case plan.