Educational Rights for Children in Foster Care

Every child in foster care under the age of 18 is required to have someone who holds educational rights for them. This is someone who is required to make education decisions in the youth’s best interest. This person may be: a parent, legal guardian, caregiver, or another person chosen by the court. When a child is put into foster care, the person who holds their educational rights is their biological parent, unless or until the court orders otherwise.

This means that if you, as the child’s parent(s), still hold educational rights you have the ultimate decision in signing off (or not signing off) on changes to your child’s education. This is especially important if your child is in special education of any kind and has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Even though your child is in foster care, you still have the right to go to all IEP meetings (unless there is a restraining order in place) as well as make decisions regarding your child’s education.

Why are educational rights important?

  • Special Education Evaluation: Local educational agencies (LEAs) generally cannot start evaluating a student for disabilities that make her/him eligible for special education until the adult who holds educational rights signs a proposed assessment plan. 20 USC 1414(a); EC 56506.
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP): A student’s IEP cannot be implemented without the approval and signature of the adult who holds educational rights. 20 USC 1414(d); 34 CFR 300.321; EC 56341(b), 56343(c) and 56346.
  • School Placement: The best interest determination cannot be made for a child without the educational rights holder. A child’s educational rights holder may determine it is in the child’s best interests to attend an educational program other than one operated by the local educational agency. EC 48853(a)(3).

The pamphlet below is for parents, foster parents, guardians, and people who hold education rights for school-aged children who are struggling in school, describes the process for identifying the need for special education and the services and supports the school can provide. Click “download” to view a printable version of the pamphlet.