Leadership of House and Senate Foster Youth Caucuses Applaud Bipartisan Bicameral Passage of Legislation Making It Easier For Foster Youth To Succeed Academically

Jan 2, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Today, Senators Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) joined Representatives Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), and Tom Marino (R-Penn.) in applauding the passage of bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will make it easier for foster youth to succeed academically. 

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA) passed the House of Representatives yesterday following Senate passage earlier this month, and now heads to the White House for the President’s signature.  USA makes a common sense, no-cost legislative fix that will have a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of foster children across the country – in addition to being an example of bipartisan, bicameral cooperation during sharply divided times in Washington.

Current law—the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)—has made it difficult for child welfare agencies to obtain education records in a timely fashion, comply with existing federal requirements and collect data needed to determine the quality of education foster youth receive.

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act allows child welfare agencies access to the education records of children within their care while also preserving the educational privacy rights granted to students under current federal law. As a result, foster youth will now have additional advocates to ensure they are immediately enrolled into school and have access to the interventions they may need to succeed academically.

 In response to House passage of USA, leadership of both the House and Senate foster care caucuses said the following: 

“These simple changes to fix FERPA are a huge step forward in assuring successful education outcomes for children and youth in foster care, who are traditionally among the most educationally at-risk students. I am excited about the support this bill has gained and look forward to seeing the obstacles and confusion so many students have encountered finally eliminated.” -- U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Co-Chair of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.

"This initiative is to give child welfare workers tools to make school transitions smoother.  It allows access to education records so decisions can be made about placement that create as much stability as possible.  It’s a common sense effort to improve the ability of these students to achieve success in school." – U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Co-Chair of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth

“This bill is an important step to help improve educational opportunities for children who are in foster care by streamlining access to their school records. As a former educator, I know that investing in students’ successes is one of the greatest investments that we can make, which is why I will continue fighting for our children’s future in Missouri and nationwide.” – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, Co-Sponsor of the Uninterrupted Scholars Act 

“The Uninterrupted Scholars Act provides child welfare agencies and social workers with a much needed tool in making sure foster youth are enrolled in school in a timely manner and receive the academic support they need to continue their education.  We know that foster youth can have a hard enough time completing their educations as they move around within the foster care system.  We don’t need to add to those challenges by unnecessarily encumbering their caregivers.  As founder and co-chair of the bi-partisan Caucus on Foster Youth in the House, I’m proud that this legislation serves as an example that even in divided times in Washington, Congress can come together to do what’s right for America’s children.” – Representative Karen Bass, Founder and Co-Chair of the House Caucus on Foster Youth

“I am pleased that the Uninterrupted Scholars Act passed the House with such overwhelming bipartisan support.  As a former foster mother, I know how hard child welfare caseworkers work to adequately represent the hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system. We should do whatever we can to remove barriers that impede educational achievement and put in place polices that give our children every opportunity to succeed in school and in life.” – Representative Michele Bachmann, Co-Chair of the House Caucus on Foster Youth

“Education is a predictor of future adult success. Yet too many children and youth in the foster care system find themselves unable to achieve their educational goals because of  barriers between the child welfare and education systems. One of the critical goals of the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act which I authored was to increase educational stability for children in foster care.  I am pleased to have co-authored the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA), which helps to ensure coordination between the child welfare and education systems and will help foster care youth succeed academically.  This small but significant legislation will have enormous positive impact for thousands of children in the foster care system.” – Representative Jim McDermott, Co-Chair of the House Caucus on Foster Youth

“I am pleased that members of both parties in the House and Senate were able to come together in passing this important legislation. It is essential that we equip child welfare agencies and caseworkers with all of the necessary tools to ensure students within foster care programs are not academically harmed by federal laws that create more barriers and red tape for state and local agencies. The USA Act will give foster youth the opportunity to achieve academic success and lay the ground work for a brighter future.” – Representative Tom Marino, Co-Chair of the House Caucus on Foster Youth

Legislation Summary:
Unintentionally, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) hinder child welfare agencies in their efforts to meet the educational needs of students in foster care.
The Uninterrupted Scholars Act remedies this by:

  1. Adding child welfare agencies to the list of approved entities with direct access to a student’s educational records, as long as the child welfare agency has legal responsibility for the foster youth’s placement and care
  2. Protecting and preserving the educational privacy rights of students and parents that FERPA is designed to safeguard.