California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued guidelines aimed at supporting the educational success of foster youth through improved data sharing.
An agreement between the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), the California Department of Education and the state’s Bureau of Children’s Justice is designed to promote the increased sharing of secure information between schools and child-welfare agencies in the state.
The new guidelines outline how school districts, county offices of education and child welfare agencies should collaborate to share school records and provide information to ensure that foster youth are receiving appropriate services.
Some county and local agencies in the state have not established protocols that could easily guide the sharing of data between child-welfare and educational agencies, a collaboration that Harris suggested is important to helping foster youth succeed in school.
“Too many foster children in California are falling through the cracks, not meeting their full potential, and ending up in the criminal justice system,” Harris said in a press release. “Schools and child welfare agencies must communicate effectively in order to provide children the services they need.”
The lack of guidelines that could make the sharing of information easier between state educational and child-welfare agencies has often been hampered by uncertainty about federal and state privacy laws, according to a letter outlining the new data-sharing guidelines written by Harris, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and CDSS Director Will Lightbourne.
In order to help foster youth receive appropriate supports and services, the new guidelines explicitly set out federal and state law in four arenas:
- School administrators’ ability to access to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Foster Match Information (data that identifies which students are eligible for appropriate educational services under the state’s LCFF program)
- The type of information that local educational agencies may and must share with child welfare agencies
- The type of information that child welfare agencies may and must share with local educational agencies
- The type of information that may and must be shared with caregivers of foster youth, even if the caregiver is not the foster child’s educational rights holder
The guidelines also provide examples to illustrate when and how a foster youth’s educational data can be appropriately shared.
The Bureau of Children’s Justice was formed in 2015 to provide oversight of systems that come into contact with children, with a special focus on children in California’s foster care, adoption, and juvenile justice systems; discrimination and inequities in education; elementary school truancy; trafficking of vulnerable youth; and childhood trauma.
In June, the bureau announced investigations of four jurisdictions in the state and an educational nonprofit organization.