Department of Children and Families
David E. Wilkins
June 5, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – A child in foster care should be able to graduate high school, attend college and succeed in their dreams just like any other child.
Educational success for children in foster care is a priority of the Florida Department of Children and Families and our 20 community-based care partners across the state, and an educational effort by the department and these partner agencies has already begun making big changes.
Recently, the department and representatives from the community-based care agencies had an opportunity to meet with the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. Mary Cagle, DCF Director of Children's Legal Services, told the bipartisan Caucus members that they had an opportunity to improve access to educational records for children in foster care.
"We are here to talk about all of the positive things we are doing in the foster care system and share best practices," Cagle said. "Education is one of the biggest indicators for the future health and happiness of our kids."
Cagle spoke about the problems with a federal law that hampers the ability to share records. Currently, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of a child's educational records. However, when a child is in foster care it can unintentionally hinder their educational success by limiting child welfare workers' access to the child's school information.
In the two months since the meeting, the Caucus on Foster Youth developed a plan to improve information sharing in order to give children in foster care a better chance at success. The Access to Papers Leads to Uninterrupted Scholars Act (A+ PLUS Act) was introduced in the U.S. House on Thursday by both Democratic and Republican representatives.
The A+ PLUS Act will allow child welfare agencies to help foster youth succeed in school by allowing better information sharing between state agencies and the school system for children in foster care. Without access to this important information, child welfare workers aren’t able to appropriately advocate for a foster youth’s educational goals.
The Florida Department of Children and Families and our community-based care agencies are in the process of launching a survey for school-aged youth in foster care that will help us gather information monthly on a child's progress. This will help us identify interventions that are working to help our children accomplish their goals in school.
"Every child in foster care is there through no fault of their own," said DCF Secretary David Wilkins. "We need to do everything in our power to ensure these children have every opportunity to succeed in life, and the first stepping stone is to make certain they receive a strong foundation of education."
To see the full text of the proposed legislation, please go to www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr5871ih. For more information on DCF education initiatives, go to www.dcf.state.fl.us/initiatives/everybodysateacher.