Calif. Legislation Would Bolster Child Welfare, Education Info Sharing

In the wake of a federal law giving child welfare agencies direct access to education records, legislation is moving in California to bolster its data sharing efforts.

Assembly Bill 1878 creates a direct link between agencies and schools for the sharing of information when a child is in the foster care system.

The bill was drafted after two informational hearings held by the Assembly Human Services Committee last year. The hearings focused on how multiple agencies and school districts could better share and communicate to improve the well-being of children in foster care. The National Center for Youth Law, California Youth Connection, and the directors from both the California Department of Social Services and the California Department of Education all spoke on different panels.

Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) said in a statement sent to The Chronicle of Social Change that the bill would create a “model…Memorandum of Understanding [MOU], which local governments can adapt to their own needs to enable the sharing of information and data for children in foster care while preserving their privacy.”

The bill proposes that the California Child Welfare Council create the MOU by July 1, 2015, and that local schools will then be required to adapt the new policy by January of 2016. The Council was formed in 2006 to judge and monitor the extent to which public agencies and courts collaborate to address the needs of children in foster care.

President Barack Obama signed the Uninterrupted Scholars Act in January of 2013. The law allows child welfare caseworkers to get school records for foster youth without permission from the court or birth parents. States have begun the process of implementing Uninterrupted Scholars through legislation and practice change.

The California measure will also change what information is required in a foster youth’s case plan to include four new categories:

  • The school and school district the child is attending

  • Academic progress

  • School attendance records

  • Other relevant information

The Assembly is looking for feedback and input. It will go before the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday, April 30.

Teddy Lederer is a reporter for the Chronicle of Social Change. 

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