February 2017

Consider This… Things to Consider in February 2017 

NEW – RTSC Feature Article

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):  What It Means for Students in Child Welfare or Who Are Homeless Janie Crecco, MA, MSEd
With this legislation, the federal government has addressed the education of two of the most vulnerable populations in the country who have traditionally struggled to be successful in school-children and youth in the custody of the state and/or homeless.    


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Education Brief: ACEs for Educators and Stakeholders
ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) are the root cause of many of society’s most pressing health problems that contribute to the rising costs of health care as well as tremendous social costs in morbidity, mortality and quality of life. An ACE score greater than or equal to six can shorten an individual’s lifespan by as much as 20 years. This Brief examines the common education challenges that recent research indicates have roots in childhood adversity. Promising programs that can help mitigate the impact of adverse experiences are also discussed.

What Wellness Doesn’t Look Like: The Optics and Impact of Violence on Young People’s Health
In January 2017’s edition of Consider ThisBarriers to Wellness included the findings of a new five-city Center for Promise study of young people by young people. This article is a first-person perspective of one Boston youth researcher. It is eye-opening account, and her request to adults is simple –“How can you be more of a positive influence toward young people’s well-being?”

A Discussion about the Culminating Federal Report in a Series on Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress
This is an interview with author Desiree Murray about the fourth and final report in a series on Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress, which includes the recommendation that schools teach self-regulation skills in order to promote opportunities for student success in a number of areas. The report finds that self-regulation can be taught in the same way as literacy – beginning with simple skills and building from there. Murray says there are two critical development periods – early childhood and early adolescence – when it’s particularly vital to teach self-regulation skills, especially to kids who are struggling to develop them.

NCFY Reports: Serving Transgender Youth
This report from the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth explores different areas that transgender youth may have to navigate – shelters and transitional living programs, sexual health clinics, and foster care. For each space, they recommend steps that adults can take to help transgender youth feel welcome and successfully (and safely) make their way into adulthood.

A New Head Start Initiative Targets Children of Opioid Addicts
This article from the Boston Globe discusses a new government-funded initiative that will pay for weekly home visits to 36 low-income families in New Bedford, where the number of children born with opiates in their bloodstreams is four times the state average. This program, part of the federal Early Head Start program, will provide educational, nutritional, and nursing services to children and their families, as well as prenatal care and parental coaching. Families struggling with addiction will receive preferential enrollment.

Emancipation: One Young Man Leaves Foster Care on His Own Terms
“It’s bittersweet because I’m losing guaranteed stipends for food and housing, as well as access to my social workers and my lawyer. But on the other hand, I’m relieved to finally get away from a system that ultimately failed me on its biggest promise. That one day it would find me a family who would love me.” Featured on All Things Considered, NPR, it can be heard as a podcast.

Useful Tools and Resources

4 Proven Strategies for Teaching Empathy
Universal strategies used by teachers worldwide to help develop both affective and cognitive empathy in schools and within the community.

New Apps Designed to Reduce Depression, Anxiety as Easily as Checking Your Phone
The apps offer exercises to de-stress, reduce self-criticism and worrying, methods to help your life feel more meaningful, mantras to highlight your strengths, strategies for a good night’s sleep and more. A variety of 13 speedy mini-apps called IntelliCare resulted in participants reporting significantly less depression and anxiety by using the apps on their smartphones up to four times a day.

You Got This: Educational Pathways for Youth Transitioning from Juvenile Justice Facilities
For students recently released from juvenile detention, effective preparation can serve as a critical step to ensuring a smooth transition from a juvenile justice facility back to school. This 12-page guide is written for youth and can be distributed by any one working with middle- or high-school students as soon as they come in contact with the juvenile justice system. 

Milestones in Action
This online resource is provided by the Centers for Disease Control. Click on an age to see photo and video examples of important developmental milestones. This library can be used as an aid in completing the milestones checklist for children aged from 2 months to 5 years old.

Every Student Succeeds Act Implementation Toolkit
This basic Question and Answer factsheet about the foster care provisions of ESSA also includes a short summary of the detailed joint guidance issued from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services; two checklists to support child welfare and education agencies in understanding their roles and responsibilities around implementation; a checklist of considerations, including sample forms, for making best interest determinations to support stability; and a guide about creating transportation plans between Local Education Agencies and child welfare agencies, with corresponding sample templates.

Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services
These resources provide an overview of key concepts related to trauma and a guide to resources from a range of health and human service federal agencies and respected sources outside government. These materials are both a “front door” to the topic of trauma and a “road map” to relevant resources.

RTSC February Webinar on Every Student Succeeds Act: Promoting School Stability for Kids in Foster Care 
On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), replaces the No Child Left Behind Act and amends the McKinney-Vento Act. This webinar is being presented by Marlies Spanjaard, the Director of Education Advocacy for The Edlaw Project, an initiative of the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts and the Youth Advocacy Division. She will outline the changes and discuss ways to promote school stability for kids in foster care. Visit our Archived recordings.

Featured Article continued
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):  What It Means for Students in Child Welfare or Who Are Homeless by Janie Crecco, MA, MSEd, Recruitment, Training and Support Center
Federation for Children with Special Needs

With this legislation, the federal government has addressed the education of two of the most vulnerable populations in the country who have traditionally struggled to be successful in school – children and youth in the custody of the state and/or homeless. The numbers of both these populations are growing: As of September 30, 2015, there were 427,910 in foster care (52% males) – an increase of more than 3% from a year before. 61% of these children had been placed in care as a result of neglect on the part of the primary caregiver.[1] U.S. public schools enrolled 1,301,239 children and youth experiencing homelessness during the 2013-2014 school year, an increase of 15% from the 2011-2012 school year.[2] And the number of youth who have left the child welfare system, are of school age and are also homeless (unaccompanied youth), can only be estimated, as some are runaways or emancipated. Approximately 1.3 million homeless youth are living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers.[3]
The ESSA seeks to promote academic stability and ultimately, success for students by offering important protections for youth in the child welfare system. Collaboration with child welfare partners is required and critical. Foster students can move frequently during their tenure in the care of the state, and possibly when they return to their birth home. The result is a dramatic lack of stability resulting in low test scores, negative academic and social/emotional outcomes, and high drop-out rates. Research shows that a key component of emotional stability for children who have experienced adverse experiences is supportive relationships with nurturing and predictable adults. Moving frequently negates the possibility of this occurring. The new ESSA states that state education agencies must assure that these students remain in their “school of origin,” unless it is not in their best interest. This determination must be made in a collaborative way with educational stakeholders – the law creates reciprocal obligations between the two parties.

One of the issues for youth in foster care has been frequent delays in school enrollment due to incomplete records or incorrect placements in classes. Now, these students can enroll immediately in a new school, even if their documents are not in order. Enrolling schools must immediately contact the last school attended to obtain relevant records. Transportation – always an intractable issue – also requires mandatory collaboration between local education and child welfare agencies to provide cost-effective transport in order to allow students to remain in their school of origin. This part of the law went into effect on December 10, 2016. 
Massachusetts Department of Education has assigned its designated point of contact for child welfare agencies — Elizabeth Harris, Phone Number: 781-338-6310, Email: eharris@doe.mass.edu. She will facilitate communication and collaboration and oversee the rights and protections for foster students under the new law. She will also ensure effective implementation with public charter schools. When the Department of Children and Families notifies the local school district or charter school (LEA) that is has a point of contact for the education of students in the care of the state, the LEA will be required to designate a similar point of contact. This person can help the new student connect with their new school community.
With these key protections in place, the ESSA removes the “awaiting foster care placement” from the definition of “homeless.” This part of the law went into effect in Massachusetts on October 1, 2016. This means that students in STARR (Short Term Assessment and Rapid Reintegration) placements are no longer considered homeless, as the new law makes it essential that they be bused back to their schools of origin, with a plan for cost effective transportation in place resulting from collaboration with the LEA. This will also ensure additional resources for homeless students.
Lastly, for the first time, the state must report annually on student achievement and graduation rates of youth in child welfare. This disaggregation of data will hopefully raise public awareness about their critical educational needs. Public charter schools are also mandated to eliminate any barriers for youth in the foster care system.[4]
While the amendments to the federal mandate for homeless students -the McKinney-Vento Act- went into effect on October 1, 2016, most amendments to Title 1, Part A take effect after the 2016-2017 school year. These amendments include:

  • The disaggregation of data on enrollment, attendance, graduation rates and school stability of homeless students
  • A description of the services provided by the LEA to ensure the success of these students
  • Funds being reserved specifically for homeless youth, based on a needs assessment 
  • Title 1 funds can be used for local liaisons and transportation to school of origin 

New mandates of the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program for State Coordinators and Local Liaisons include:

  • An annually published list of local liaisons on the Department of Education’s website
  • Sufficient response to questions from homeless parents and unaccompanied youth in order to protect their rights and ensure services
  • Posting the numbers of youth served annually
  • Development of professional development programs for school liaisons and other personnel that will improve the identification of homeless youth and increase the response to homeless students’ needs
  • Public dissemination of McKinney-Vento rights where parents are most likely to view them

Additional protections also include the right of homeless students to return to their school of origin – including the right of parents’ to appeal the decision of the LEA. They too must be enrolled immediately even if the application process was delayed after any period of homelessness. Transport back to the school of origin must continue through the academic year, even when the student achieves permanent housing. Policies must be reviewed that could impose barriers to enrollment or retention – including those due to fees, fines, or absences. Credit must be given for appropriate full or partial coursework, even if it was completed in a prior school. These laws also apply to unaccompanied homeless youth.
Lastly, the ESSA authorizes $85 million for each year 2017 through 2020. This is a substantial increase from past levels.[5]
The Homeless Education State Coordinator is Sarah Slautterback, Phone Number: 781-338-6330, Email: sslautterback@doe.mass.edu

For more on this topic, please register for our February 21st Webinar: Every Student Succeeds Act: Promoting School Stability for Kids in Foster Care 
[1] https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport23.pdf
[2] http://www.air.org/center/national-center-family-homelessness
[3] http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/homeless-and-runaway-youth.aspx
[4]Thank you to the Legal Center for Foster Care & Education for their Foster Care & Education Q&A entitled How Will the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Support Students In Foster Care, available here: http://www.childrensdefense.org/library/data/how-will-the-every-student.pdf
[5]Thanks you to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth for their Summary of Major Amendments on Homelessness and Foster Car in “The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015,” available here: http://www.naehcy.org/essa-legislation-bill-summaries-text-and-us-department-education-guidance-and-regulations

*Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure that the contents of Consider This… is accurate, the Federation for Children with Special Needs makes no representations or warranties in relation to the accuracy or completeness of the information found within the enclosed articles. The contents within this transmission is provided in good faith, and nothing included in it should be taken to constitute or imply professional advice, an endorsement or a formal recommendation.