Uninterrupted Scholars Act of 2012
Thanks to the concerted effort of youth, advocates, and service providers across the nation, the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA) was signed into law by President Obama! 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, it is a great example of bipartisan, bicameral cooperation spearheaded by the Foster Youth Caucus in both the House and the Senate.
Throughout 2012, the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth has traveled the country and visited five states on a nationwide listening tour. We heard from youth, families, and community leaders about the best practices and challenges facing the child welfare system. In Miami, Florida we learned about a common sense, no cost legislative fix that would have a significant and positive impact on hundreds of thousands of foster children across the country.
In May, after returning to Washington, the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth – Representatives Karen Bass, Tom Marino, Jim McDermott, Michele Bachmann, and a number of other Members of the Caucus introduced the Uninterrupted Scholars Act. The Senate Foster Youth Caucus introduced the bill in August 2012.
This new law will help to close the academic achievement gap between children in foster care and their peers by providing youth with the support they need to avoid problems like inappropriate course placement and lost credits upon changing schools. Specifically, it will simply allow caseworkers to access transcripts and report cards for foster youth while maintaining important privacy protections.
Prior to this law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) unintentionally created a harmful barrier that prevented child welfare caseworkers with legal responsibility for foster children from being able to quickly access the school records necessary to help meet the educational needs of students in foster care. This led to significant delays that contributed to inappropriate course placements, enrollment delays, lost credits, delayed graduation, and drop-outs. In fact, foster youth sometimes had to repeat coursework they’ve already taken because child welfare agencies have incorrect or limited educational information. They also missed school for extended periods of time while waiting for school records to transfer when placed with a new caregiver.
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.