When a foster child or youth is given a new placement — a frequent occurrence for many — their educational records often don’t follow them to their new school right away, delaying the new school’s ability to provide them an appropriate education plan. Some Massachusetts state lawmakers want to fix that.
A bill making its way through the commonwealth’s legislature, with the backing of the state auditor and numerous Democrats, would require the state’s Department of Children and Families to work with the Department of Primary and Secondary Education to develop and implement an “electronic backpack” for every foster kid with their academic records that would immediately be transferred to the new school.
The problem of tardy records transference is by no means limited to Massachusetts, and other states have already adopted the e-backpack approach, first pioneered by several counties in California.
In Massachusetts, these electronic repositories would contain the educational records of the foster child or youth, including the names and addresses of educational providers, the foster child or youth’s grade-level performance, transcript, attendance records, individual education plan (if any) and other educational information that the department requires. The backpack would be maintained by the education department for as long as a child remained in the foster care system.
The records would be available to school officials and teachers, foster parents, health care professionals when necessary and legal, and the like.
Similar bills have not made it through the legislative process in the previous three sessions.
The primary presenters of the current bill, H.236, are Democratic Reps. Kay Khan of Newton and David LeBoeuf of Worcester.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump testified at a recent House committee meeting that 45% of foster kids have individualized education plans to address their learning needs, WWLP News 22 reported.
“Through all of this disruption, their educational challenges are often exacerbated by delays in new schools’ access to their academic records when a new placement necessitates a school transfer,” Bump said.
If the bill passes, the education department would have a year from that point to implement the system.