Back-to-school sales are in full swing, and parents have their homework cut out for them to gather the paperwork necessary for enrollment in school and activities.
Here are some areas where foster parents and adoptive parents may need to take a little extra time and planning before school starts.
Enrollment Need Not be Complicated for Children in Foster Care
The Fostering Connections Act requires schools and county agencies to continue the student’s school placement unless it is not in the student’s best interest. Upon placement in foster care, the foster parents should provide their contact information to the school. If a change of schools is necessary following placement, the foster parents must immediately enroll the child in the local school.
In Pennsylvania, all students enrolling in school must provide the following four documents:
- proof of age
- proof of immunizations required by law
- proof of residency; and
- parent registration statement (also known as an “Act 26” form)
Foster parents should request proof of age and immunizations from the caseworker. It is the foster parent’s residence that establishes residence for the child; many types of documents are accepted, including a deed or lease, and utility bills. Foster parents should sign the Act 26 form based on the information available to them. Caseworkers should be able to provide education records from previous schools attended by the student, and the schools will also facilitate the transfer of records.
Enrollment of Children Following Adoption
Only the four documents listed above are required for enrollment. Court orders are not required, including a TPR order and an adoption decree. However, a birth certificate is a common form to establish a child’s age. If the amended birth certificate is not available at the time of enrollment, other documents can be used to establish the child’s age, including a notarized statement of the parent. Also, immunization records typically include the child’s date of birth and the school may accept this document to establish age as well as immunization history.
Disclosure of Family History
The child is entitled to privacy regarding foster care status, as well as adoption history. Neither status is shameful. However, this information is obviously highly personal and the child should be in control of who knows what about this history.
Nonetheless, many parents believe it is important to contact the child’s teacher to disclose the fact that a child is in foster care or that the child is adopted. The goal of these disclosures is to open the doors for communication, and to raise the teacher’s awareness of adoption-related issues.
Many teachers engage in “get-to-know-you” activities at the start of the school year. Children in care and children who are adopted may not feel comfortable, or have access to information to facilitate participation in activities that call for disclosure of family history or ask for pictures. These activities, as well as classroom assignments, can be altered to facilitate a more inclusive experience.
heARTbeat is a publication of KingSpry’s Adoption Law and Assisted Reproductive Technology Law Practice Group. It is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.