PA 10-160—sSB 31

Human Services Committee

Appropriations Committee

Education Committee

AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE GOVERNOR CONCERNING THE EDUCATIONAL PLACEMENT OF CHILDREN IN THE CARE AND CUSTODY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

SUMMARY: This act creates a presumption that it is in the best interest of a child the Department of Children and Families (DCF) places in out-of-home care under an emergency, temporary custody, or commitment order to continue to attend the school he or she attended before the placement. The act applies to (1) school-age children, (2) three- to five-year olds determined eligible for special education, and (3) children between 27 months and six years old referred for special education determination. It provides mechanisms for parents to challenge DCF decisions. And it makes DCF responsible for some costs of transporting a child from a placement to school and makes a school ineligible to receive state special education excess cost grants for a child placed in another community who continues to attend his or her original school.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2010

SCHOOL PLACEMENT FOR CHILDREN PLACED OUT OF HOME

Determining School Placement

The act requires DCF, when it places a child in out-of-home care, such as a relative's or foster parent's home, or changes such a placement, to determine immediately whether it is in the child's best interest to remain in the school he or she had been attending (the “school of origin”). In making a decision about an out-of-home placement or a change in an existing placement, the act also requires DCF to consider the appropriateness of the school setting and the proximity to the school of origin.

The act requires DCF to notify all parties (i. e. , the child or child's attorney and the parents or their attorney) of its decision and the reasons for it, in writing, within three business days after making the decision. Any party can object to the decision within three business days of receiving this notice. The act requires disagreements to be resolved “expeditiously” and places the burden of proof on DCF to show that its decision is in the child's best interest. The child must be transported to the school of origin until the three days have passed or the disagreement is resolved.

The act permits the school placement decision to be revisited at any time while the child is in out-of-home care, if circumstances change, to ensure the placement remains in his or her best interest. Notice of a decision in such a review must be given as described above. A party may challenge such a decision by using the dispute resolution process for a DCF treatment plan. DCF policy permits a parent or child aggrieved by a treatment plan provision to ask for an administrative hearing and, if still aggrieved after the hearing decision, to appeal to Superior Court.

If DCF determines it is not in the child's best interest to remain in his or her school of origin, the act requires the agency to work with that school's board of education and the board of the school that DCF decides the child should attend (the “receiving school”). This collaboration must ensure the child's immediate and appropriate enrollment in the receiving school. (For a child requiring special education, the law requires DCF to notify the school board responsible for the child's education (in most cases, the board where the child lived before being removed from home) (1) orally within one day of the removal and (2) in writing within two days. )

The act requires the school of origin to provide the receiving school with the child's educational records in accordance with federal law. It requires the school of origin, within one day of receiving notice from DCF, to send all essential educational records, including any individualized education or behavioral intervention plan, and all documents the receiving school needs to determine an appropriate class placement and provide educational services. It must transfer nonessential records within 10 days.

Removing a Child from School Placement

The act permits DCF to immediately remove the child from the school of origin if it determines that remaining there jeopardizes his or her immediate physical safety. If it does so, it must notify the child's parents, attorney, guardian ad litem, and surrogate parent (if the child has one) by phone or fax on the day it removes the child. Any party (it is not clear whether this includes the guardian ad litem or surrogate parent or just those parties to the original removal from home) may object to the change in placement. It must do so within three business days of receiving the notice, and DCF must hold an administrative hearing within three business days of receiving the objection.

Paying for School Placement

The act specifies that any child placed in another town who continues in his or her school of origin remains that district's educational and fiscal responsibility. The act makes the district of origin ineligible for state excess cost grants for special education for such a child's education, including tuition and transportation costs (see BACKGROUND).

By law, when DCF places a child receiving regular education in another town and the child attends school there, the receiving town must provide and pay for the child's education. When DCF places a child requiring special education in another town and the child attends school there, the town of origin retains educational and fiscal responsibility for the child.

The act requires DCF, if it determines a child should remain in his or her original school, to collaborate with that school board on a transportation plan for the student. They must consider cost-effective, reliable, and safe transportation options.

The act makes DCF responsible for any additional or extraordinary cost of transportation beyond that to which the child would otherwise have access. It does not specify what costs are additional or extraordinary. The act requires DCF to maximize any reimbursements for the transportation costs available for eligible foster children under the federal Social Security Act.

BACKGROUND

Federal Law

P. L. 110-351, the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, requires a foster child's case plan to:

1. assure that the child's foster care placement takes account of his or her current educational setting and proximity to the school,

2. assure that the state agency has coordinated with local educational agencies to ensure the child remains in school,

3. assure that the state and local agencies will provide immediate enrollment and transfer the child's records to a new school if remaining in the current school is not in the child's best interest, and

4. consider reasonable travel to allow the child to remain in his or her current school.

Connecticut must implement the federal law by July 1, 2010.

Excess Cost Grants

The state provides a categorical grant to towns for special education based on their costs. This grant is called the “excess cost” grant. The grant reimburses districts (1) a portion of the reasonable costs of special education for a student who lives in the district and (2) 100% of the cost of special education for any student placed in the district by a state agency who has no identifiable home district in the state. Reimbursable costs include special education personnel, equipment, materials, tuition, transportation, and consultant services.

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