Students in Foster Care

Extra Support in School So Students in Foster Care Can Thrive

Being in foster care puts students at higher risk of struggling in school, dropping out, and being suspended or expelled. For students in foster care, knowing your rights and how to work with a school to create stability and a supportive educational environment is vital.

We’re here when you need us. Reach out to us with questions or for help navigating the system.

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How to Realize Your Rights

The laws regarding the rights of children in foster care can be complex. If you would like help understanding how your rights relate to your situation, please call our toll-free Students’ Rights Helpline at 1-855-668-1916.

Educational decisions about a child who is in foster care are made by caseworkers and the school district’s foster care liaison. Every decision should support the best interests of the student.

Do you know your school district’s foster care liaison?
By federal law, every public school district (in Michigan, this includes every charter school or public school academy) must have a foster care liaison designated. Find your liaison


Staying in School or Enrolling in a New School

A young person must be enrolled in school within five days of being placed in foster care, (DHS Form 942).

Students in foster care stay in the school they attended at the time they were placed in foster care (called the “school of origin”), unless a caseworker and local educational agency (LEA) foster care liaison decides it is in the best interest of the child to change schools. The decision is made by taking into account the needs of the child, the educational setting and proximity, and social and emotional factors. (To learn more about placement selection and standards, review FOM 722.) Every child’s case plan must include a documented and descriptive process for ensuring educational stability and should be monitored and updated to reflect progress and goals.

When the caseworker and foster care liaison decide that the child should attend a new school:

  • Caseworkers who are enrolling a child in a new school, or changing districts,  must notify the enrolling school (DHS Form 942), and they must make sure that the LEA Foster Care Liaison is notified as well.
  • The child welfare worker and school are both responsible to help with transferring educational records for enrollment. 
  • When a school change is necessary, the student is required to be enrolled in the new school, without delay, even if the school records have not yet been transferred.
  • A school district must allow the child to enroll in and attend the appropriate grade in the school selected by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or by a child-placing agency, even if that child doesn’t reside in that school district. (MCL 380.1148)

School Transportation

When a student in foster care is placed in a school outside of their previous school district, the district foster care liaison and the caseworker must arrange and provide transportation to and from school. If the student is involved in extracurricular activities including (but not limited to) sports or band/choir, they’re eligible for transportation assistance.

Additional School Support

  • Students in foster care do not have to pay for school tutoring, driver’s education and graduation expenses, upon prior authorization of the local Michigan Department of Health and Human Services office. Contact the student’s foster caseworker for more information.
  • All students in foster care receive free school meals without documenting income.
  • Students in foster care have the right to participate in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities. (PL 113-183 Sec. 111).  
  • Additional assistance may be available through the support of an education planner. Learn more and find your local education planner here.
    (NOTE: Student Advocacy Center serves as the education planner in Washtenaw County.)

Special Education Services

  • If a child who is being evaluated for special education services moves to a school in a new district, they have the right to have the evaluation continued in the new district. Evaluation data should be shared with the new district. (US Department of Education Special Education Letter)
  • When considering a school placement change, the new school must be able to provide adequate educational supports that are similar to the previous school placement.
  • A student’s foster parent may participate in IEP meetings, as appropriate. (Michigan Alliance for Families)

Early Childhood Learning (Ages 0-3)

All children in foster care, from birth to age three, must be screened for Early On services. Early On is a Michigan program that supports young children who seem to be behind their peers in reaching developmental milestones. If a child is eligible for services, the Early On team develops a plan, identifying goals and supports in reaching these goals, to ensure the child’s overall health and well-being.

All children in foster care are eligible for — and should be prioritized for — enrollment in preschool through Early Head Start and Head Start.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) expands services from K-12 to Preschool-12, making children in foster care now eligible for the same school supports as of December 10, 2016 (Guidance on Early Learning)


    Moving Beyond High School

    • There are many resources to help students in foster care go to college. See Fostering Success Michigan and Foster Youth in Transition for information about special college programs, financial aid and more.
    • Additional financial support can be found through the Education and Training Voucher Program (ETV).
    • Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI) offers youth boards, which provide youth with leadership opportunities, life skills training, stipend earning opportunities and advocacy. MYOI also offers Community Partner Boards to provide support and advocacy for older youth in foster care. Learn more.
    • Sixteen community colleges and universities in Michigan have supportive programs for youth formerly in foster care. Information about these programs is available here.


    School Liaisons for Youth in Foster Care
    Look up your district’s liaison for foster youth here. The foster care liaison is there to help!

    Educational planners are employees of DHHS who can help youth in care navigate educational challenges.

    Foster Parents’ Roles in Special Education

    Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Includes a summary of educational rights for youth experiencing foster care.

    Rights and Responsibilities of Youth in Foster Care in Michigan. This includes educational rights and
    education policy.

    Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (FOM 723)

    Michigan’s Handbook for Youth in Foster Care

    Ensuring Educational Stability for Youth in Foster Care 

    Fostering Success Michigan 

    Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative


    School Notification and Education Records Release Form (DHS-942:
    Foster care staff must send this form to the school district’s foster care liaison, notifying the school of any change in home or school placement, any change in case worker, and at time of the case closure.