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Students in Foster Care

or Out-of-Home Placement


  • As of June 2013, there were 13,345 children and youth in Michigan’s foster care system.
  • Research shows that youth in foster care experience a great number of educational disruptions, challenges and barriers and are at significant risk of dropping out of school.
  • It has been found that students in foster care graduate at relatively low rates and are twice as likely to drop out of school, two to four times more likely to repeat a grade, and three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than students in the care of a parent or guardian.
  • Furthermore, research has shown that children in foster care experience higher rates of emotional and behavioral problems that significantly impact their education compared to peers who have not been involved in the child welfare system. Thus, children in foster care often need more intensive educational and support services to succeed in school.


Educational Rights of

Youth In Foster Care


School Stability

  • A youth in foster care is to remain in their school of origin (the school in which the student is enrolled at the time of placement into foster care, or at the time of a change in foster home placement) upon placement into foster care unless it is in the best interest of the student to change schools (as determined by the caseworker and LEA Foster Care Liaison).
  • All school placement changes must take into account the appropriateness of the current educational setting and placement proximity to the school in which the student is enrolled, as well as social and emotional factors.
    • Pursuant to the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, all foster care placement changes must first consider school placement and the educational needs of the youth. (FOM 722)
  • Every child’s case plan must include a documented and descriptive plan for ensuring educational stability and should be monitored and updated to reflect progress and goals.

School Placement / Enrollment / Records

  • The child welfare worker and school are both responsible in assisting in educational records transfers that may be helpful for enrollment.
  • A youth in foster care must be enrolled within 5 school days of being placed in foster care, (DHS Form 942), and when a school change is necessary, the student is required to be enrolled in the new school, without delay, regardless of immediate accompanying records.
  • Caseworkers enrolling new students or changing districts for current youth in care must notify the enrolling school (DHS Form 942), ensuring the LEA Foster Care Liaison is notified as well.
  • A school district shall allow the child to enroll in and attend the appropriate grade in the school selected by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services or by a child-placing agency without regard to whether or not the child is residing in that school district. (MCL 380.1148)

School Transportation

  • When a youth in foster care is placed outside of the school district they are attending, the district Foster Care Liaison is to collaborate with the foster care caseworker to arrange and provide transportation to and from school. The school may invoice MDHHS for any costs for this out-of-district transportation. The district may not request reimbursement from MDHHS for costs of transporting a student within its own district boundaries.
  • Extra curricular activities including, but not limited to sports or band/choir, are also eligible for transportation assistance, using the above procedure.

Early Childhood

  • All children in foster care ages birth to three must be screened for Early On services and be provided with needed supports.
    • Early On services are available for young children who seem to be behind their peers in reaching developmental milestones. Should a child been deemed eligible for services, a plan is developed to identify goals and supports in reaching these goals to ensure the child’s overall health and well-being.
  • All children in foster care are eligible for and should be prioritized for enrollment in Early Head Start and Head Start.
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) expands services from K-12 to Preschool-12, making children in foster care now eligible for the same school supports as of December 10, 2016 (Guidance on Early Learning).

Special Education

  • A child who is in the midst of an evaluation for special education services and moves has the right to have the evaluation continued in the new district, with evaluation data shared by the old district(s) to expedite the evaluation in the new district (US Department of Education Special Education Letter).
  • When considering a school placement change, the new school must be able to provide adequate educational supports that are similar to the previous school placement.
  • A student’s foster parent may participate in IEP meetings, as appropriate (Michigan Alliance for Families).

School Support

  • Payment for services, including school tutoring, driver’s education and graduation expenses, is available to all children in foster care, contingent on prior authorization of the local MDHHS office. Contact the student’s foster caseworker for more information.
  • All youth in care are to receive free school meals without documenting income.
  • Youth in foster care have the right to participate in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities (PL 113-183 Sec. 111).  
  • Additional assistance may be available through the support of an Education Planner. More information about Education Planners and who is your local Education Planner is available here. (NOTE: Student Advocacy Center serves as the education planner in Washtenaw County.)
  • Note: As of December 10, 2016, youth in placed in foster care short-term or awaiting foster care placement are no longer eligible for services through the McKinney Vento Act. Additionally, youth who have been temporarily removed from their guardian’s home during a CPS investigation are no longer eligible through McKinney Vento; however, the student may meet other criteria to receive McKinney Vento services independent of the status of the CPS investigation.

Life Beyond High School

  • Numerous resources exist to help youth in foster care access college. See information about special college programs and financial aid information, among other things. See Fostering Success Michigan and Foster Youth in Transition for information about special college programs, financial aid information, and other details.
  • Samaritas administers the Education and Training Voucher Program (ETV) and can provide eligible youth additional financial support. (Website)
  • Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI) offers youth boards which provide youth with leadership opportunities, life skills training, stipend earning opportunities, and advocacy. MYOI also offers Community Partner Boards to provide support and advocacy for older youth in foster care. (Website)
  • 16 community colleges and universities in Michigan have supportive programs for youth formerly in foster care. Information about these programs is available here.

How to Realize Your Rights

  • By federal law, EVERY public school district (in Michigan, this includes every charter school or public school academy) MUST have a foster care liaison designated. Liaisons are listed here.
  • The Michigan Department, Foster Care Education Consultant can be reached at (517) 373-3743.
  • The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services can be emailed at for further support.
  • The Student Advocacy Center can be contacted at (734) 482-0489.
  • You can also contact the ABA Legal Center on Foster Care and Education at or visit their website.


ABA Legal Center for Foster Care and Education Blueprint for Change
ABA Legal Center for Foster Care and Education ESSA Guidelines
Addressing the Educational Needs of Youth in Foster Care (MDHHS, 2007)
Community College and University Programs for Youth Formerly in Care
Early On Michigan
Education Policy, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (FOM 723)
Educational Planners
Educational Training Voucher Program (ETV)
Ensuring Educational Stability for Youth in Foster Care Guidance
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Implementation Guide
Foster Parents Roles in Special Education
Foster Youth in Transition
Fostering Success Michigan
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ESSA Website
Michigan Guidelines for the Prudent Parent Standard (PL 113-183)
Michigan Head Start Association
Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI)
Michigan’s Handbook for Youth in Foster Care
Placement Selection and Standards, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (FOM 722)
Rights and Responsibilities of Youth in Foster Care
School Liaisons for Youth in Foster Care
The Revised School Code (MCL 380.1148)
US Department of Education Guidance on Supporting Early Learning through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
US Department of Education Special Education Letter


School Notification and Education Records Release Form, DHS-942

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