Students in Foster Care

Foster care is 24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians by a child welfare agency. This includes, but is not limited to, children living in foster family homes, foster homes of relatives, group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, childcare institutions, and pre-adoptive homes.

Student Rights

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, a student in foster care has the right to:

  • a free public education
  • stay in their current school or choose to attend a new school
  • immediately enroll in a new school if it has been determined that it is not in their best interest to stay at their original school
  • transportation services to and from school
  • services comparable to those offered to other students

Parent Rights

Unless a court order says otherwise, the birth/adoptive parent of a child in foster care keeps the right to make educational decisions for their child.

Birth/adoptive parents must have the chance to know about their child’s progress at school. Unless a court order says otherwise, they must be allowed to obtain records, attend parent-teacher conferences, and fully participate in the student’s education.

Special education evaluations and services require the consent of the birth/adoptive parent unless:

  • There is a court order naming someone else as the educational decision-maker;
  • The parent names someone else as a “person in parental relation” for purposes of educational planning; or
  • The parents’ whereabouts or identities are unknown, and a surrogate must be appointed.

School Enrollment and Transfers

Students in foster care should remain in the schools they attended before they entered foster care or changed foster homes. That is, unless the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and/or a foster care agency determines that doing so is not in their best interests. In keeping with this “best interest determination,” a student in foster care may attend either:

  • The school the student attended when they entered foster care or changed foster homes
  • A school zoned for the address of the student’s foster home
  • Any other schools available to students in the same area


The ACS Office of Education Support must approve all transfer requests made by foster parents or foster care agency staff.

Once a transfer is approved:

  • Elementary or middle school students can register at their new school directly.
  • High school students, students without a zoned school, or families looking to explore other options should visit a Family Welcome Center to receive a school assignment.