Education

I need information on:

Enroll the child into the appropriate school or early intervention services within 5 days of receiving the Notice to Provider.

Talk to the child's teacher and education services providers on a regular basis to monitor progress, and work as a team with the child's caseworkers and educators.

Advocate for the child's rights and needs regarding special education, evaluations, and early intervention.

Represent the child in a positive manner in all dealings with the school.

Make reasonable efforts to not remove the child from school during regular school hours for appointments, visits, etc.

Click here for an informative Educational Resource Guide.

Child care is available for children in care and DCS may partially or fully cover the daycare fees depending on the facility you choose.

Children in foster care who are between 3 and 5 years old are also eligible for Head Start and are moved to the top of the waiting list. Children in foster care from birth to 3 years of age are eligible for Early Head Start services. Click here for more information. You can also call (866) 763-6481 to locate a Head Start or Early Head Start in your area.

Child Care Resources and Referral can help you find quality child care in your area. You can also contact this resource by calling (800) 308-9000.

ESSA is a federal law that promotes educational continuity and stability for foster children. ESSA will ensure children in foster care will stay in their school of origin if it is in their best interests to do so. ESSA changed section 725 of the McKenney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, removing foster children from their definition of “homeless children and youth.” Therefore, foster children are no longer covered under McKenney-Vento but they are covered under ESSA.

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) website has additional information regarding foster children; on this website under “training” there is a power point presentation called “ESSA Foster Care 101” that has helpful information about ESSA.

The American Bar Association has published a fact sheet on ESSA and a fact sheet on Fostering Connections Act.

ESSA and the Fostering Connections Act both have provisions requiring schools and child welfare agencies (DCS) to work together to help children in foster care remain in their schools of origin when placed into a new home if it is in the child's best interests to do so. There are many considerations when making this decision, but the cost of transportation to the school of origin CANNOT be one of the considerations. It is ultimately the child's DCS case manager's decision regarding school selection.

You can find contact information for your school district's liaison on this webpage under “LEA POC List.” Your school district's liaison will work with the child's DCS case manager to determine school selection, help with the child's immediate enrollment, and will ensure transportation (if needed).

If it is decided that the child will not remain in their school of origin, here are the options to consider:

Public schools – You may choose to enroll the child into the local district school or apply for open enrollment into an out-of-district school.

Charter schools – Children in foster care may be enrolled in a local charter school.

Virtual/online schools – Before enrolling a child who is in foster care into a virtual or online school, get permission from the case manager in writing. Some school districts also have online schools. Some virtual charter schools in Arizona are: AZVA, Connections Academy; and Prima Vera.

Alternative schools – When a child has been expelled from his or her school, ask the district if they have an alternative school that the child can attend in the meantime. When enrolling a child into an alternative school, it is important to work with school administrators to develop a plan of when and how the child can transition back to mainstream schooling.

Homeschooling – While it is unusual for a child in foster care to be homeschooled, it has been permitted under extenuating circumstances. If you wish to homeschool a child in foster care, the case manager must document it as part of the child's written case plan.

Private schools – Permission may be granted to enroll a child who is in foster care into a private school on an individual basis under extenuating circumstances. Enrollment into a private school must be documented by the case manager as part of the child's written case plan.

According to ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) Foster Care provisions (which went into effect on 12/10/2016), the enrolling school must ensure immediate enrollment of foster children whether or not the foster parent has all of the required documentation. You should be able to enroll the child who is in foster care into the local school or a charter school with only the Notice to Provider that was given to you by the DCS case manager. This means that you do not have to have the birth certificate, immunization records, transcripts, or other required documentation to enroll.

Also, ESSA Foster Care provisions state that the enrolling school is responsible for contacting the child's previous school to request relevant records. The foster parent is not required to obtain the child's school records.

If you are having trouble enrolling the foster child in school, please contact your school district's liaison; you can find contact information for your school district's liaison on this webpage under “LEA POC List.”

ESSA is a federal law that promotes educational continuity and stability for foster children. ESSA will ensure children in foster care will stay in their school of origin if it is in their best interests to do so. School districts and child welfare (DCS) will work together to provide, arrange, and fund transportation to and from the school of origin. The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) website has additional information regarding foster children; on this website under “training” there is a power point presentation called “ESSA Foster Care 101” that has helpful information about ESSA.

Yes, you may sign school documents and permission slips once you have the Notice to Provider. The school will need to keep a copy of the Notice to Provider on file.

According to federal law, you may share any information with the school staff that is relevant to the education of the child, including information pertaining to trauma history or behavior that has an effect on the child's ability to learn effectively and interact appropriately at school.

Children in care are encouraged to participate in activities such as having his or her picture taken for publication in a newspaper or yearbook; receiving public recognition for accomplishments; participating in school or after-school organizations or clubs as long as he or she is not identified as a foster child in the photograph or publication.

Yes, once you have a Notice to Provider you can sign all school paperwork, including forms for sports, clubs, extracurricular activities, and field trips. You can also sign paperwork for children to join extracurricular activities outside of school, such as sports, music, and so on.

It is important to document suspensions that occur due to behavior because the school must provide accommodations and supports for behavioral health challenges. Every time a student is sent home by the school staff for reasons other than illness, ask the school to document it as a suspension. The school should also document all in-school suspensions. Once a child has been suspended for 10 days for the same reason, it can sometimes be classified as an expulsion. Every child must be provided with an education regardless of disability, which means if the behaviors are caused by a disability, then the school will need to take appropriate action to provide supports, interventions, and accommodations.

Please complete an Unusual Incident Report form to document school suspensions and/or expulsions; click here for more information.

If a pattern of behavior is established that impacts or prevents the student's ability to receive an education, then an IEP or 504 Plan (depending on circumstances and diagnosis) may be necessary to provide accommodations and supports. If a child already has an IEP, the behavior plan should be reviewed, revised, or created. See the section on IEPs and 504 Plans for more information.

Most schools have a parent portal which is an electronic tool parents can use to access information regarding their child's progress in school, including attendance, grades, and assignments. Please ask the office staff at your child's school for more information.

Click here for an informative booklet on the special education process.

Click here to view a chart showing an overview of the special education process.

Raising Special Kids, the Arizona Chapter of Family Voices, is a nonprofit organization that provides no-cost educational advocacy support and information for parents of children, from birth to age 26, with a full range of disabilities and special health care needs. Programs, information, and supports are available in English and Spanish, including assistance advocating for special education services.

To receive free services through Raising Special Kids, the DCS caseworker, licensing worker, therapist, or physician needs to fill out a referral form and fax it to Raising Special Kids.

Any child who receives special education services in a public school setting, including charter schools, has an IEP, which is an individualized document that outlines the services the school will provide to improve success for a child with disabilities. To create the most effective IEP possible, school staff (administers, psychologists, counselors, teachers, etc.), parents, and the student work together. For more information, visit the following websites:

504 plans focus on anti-discrimination and are based on Civil Rights laws. IEPs focus on special education and are based on education laws. A student must have one of thirteen specific disabilities to be eligible for an IEP. However, students with physical or mental impairments that substantially limit learning or another major life activity may qualify for a 504 plan. For details about qualifying disabilities and other differences between 504 plans and IEPs, review A Parent and Educator Guide to Section 504.

Click here for a chart that compares IEPs and 504 plans.

There are ten major steps for a student to get an IEP:

  1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.
  2. Child is evaluated.
  3. Eligibility is decided.
  4. Child is declared eligible for services.
  5. IEP meeting is scheduled.
  6. IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.
  7. Special education services provided.
  8. Progress is measured and reported to parents.
  9. IEP is reviewed at least annually.
  10. The child is reevaluated for IEP eligibility every three years.

For a complete description of each step, review 10 Basic Steps in Special Education.

A student's foster parent, teacher or any other service provider can request an IEP evaluation. An IEP evaluation request must be in writing to the school district. This site has sample letters.

After a request has been submitted, the district school has three options:

  1. Start the initial screening process.
  2. Refer you to the Arizona Early Intervention Program (AzEIP) if the child is three years old or younger.
  3. Refer you to preschool services if the child is not old enough to be enrolled in K-12 education.

For more information, review Evaluation: What Does It Mean For Your Child.

  1. Screening
    The school district must complete the screening process for children ages 3 through 21 within 45 calendar days. If the evaluation identifies any concerns, the school district must notify the foster parents within 10 school days. This notification will also inform the foster parents of the district's plans and procedures to address the student's needs.

  2. Initial Evaluation
    The student's initial evaluation to determine special education eligibility must be completed within 60 calendar days from the date the foster parent provided written consent that the evaluation be completed.

  3. Create IEP
    A meeting must be held to begin creating the IEP within 30 days from the date the student was determined to be eligible for special education. The law requires several specific people participate and specific content be included in the IEP. For a complete list, visit the following websites:

  4. Approve Plan
    Once finalized, foster parents must approve the IEP. If foster parents do not approve the plan, their options include:

    1. Work with the team to re-write the plan.
    2. Ask for mediation with the school.
    3. File a due process complaint.

  5. Monitoring
    A student's IEP team will review the IEP at least once a year. The team will discuss the student's progress toward reaching the annual goals and make recommendations to change the IEP to better meet the student's needs. At least once every three years, the student will be re-evaluated to determine if the student still meets the eligibility criteria. For details about re-evaluations, review the Arizona Department of Education's Special Education Parent Guide.

One option is to pursue a 504 plan instead. See "What is the difference between a 504 plan and IEP?" click here. Another option is to request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). Arizona Department of Education's Special Education Parent Guide summaries the IEE process:

When you make the request, the school will give you information about where the evaluation can be obtained and the criteria that applies to an IEE. The school must either ensure that the IEE is provided at public expense (at no cost to you) or file for a due process hearing to show their evaluation was appropriate. If the due process hearing decision is that the school's evaluation is appropriate, you still have a right to an IEE at your own expense.

For more information about IEEs, visit the Arizona Department of Education's Special Education Dispute Resolution website.

A student's IEP team will review the IEP at least once a year. The team will discuss the student's progress towards reaching the annual goals and make recommendations to change the IEP to better meet the student's needs. At least once every three years, the student will be re-evaluated to determine if the student still meets the eligibility criteria. For details about re-evaluation, review the Arizona Department of Education's Special Education Parent Guide.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) encourages districts to educate both students with and without disabilities in the same classroom whenever possible. Therefore, IEP teams are required to consider all placement options and give preference to the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). For a list of questions the Arizona Department of Education recommends considering when determining placement, review the Arizona Department of Education's Special Education Parent Guide.

An IEP might include specially designed instruction, an extended school year, specialized transportation, school health services, and transition services to name just a few. For a complete list, review the Arizona Department of Education's Special Education Parent Guide.

The Arizona Department of Education allows schools to consider unique circumstances, but according to the Department's Special Education Parent Guide, schools follow these steps:

  1. The school may move a student to an interim alternative educational setting or suspend the student for a single conduct violation or separate incidents of misconduct for not more than 10 school days in a row.
  2. Once the student has been removed from his/her current placement for a total of 10 school days in the same school year, the school district must provide services.
  3. The services will enable the student to continue to participate in the general curriculum, although in another setting, and work on IEP goals.
  4. A functional behavioral assessment and behavioral intervention plan must be provided, as appropriate.
  5. If removal is a change of the student's placement, the IEP Team will determine appropriate services, which are detailed in the Special Education Parent Guide

A student's IEP should include transition services that define measurable postsecondary goals such as training/education and employment. According to the Arizona Department of Education's Special Education Parent Guide:

  1. These goals should be based on the student's preferences, interests, and strengths.
  2. Planning should begin no later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student turns 16.
  3. The goals should be updated annually.

WrightsLaw.com has information about education law and the educational rights of children with a particular emphasis on accommodating students with special needs.

First, ask the child's DCS caseworker or therapist to make a referral for services through Raising Special Kids.

The Arizona Department of Education Exceptional Student Services sometimes provides information and support to ensure that Arizona schools are following special education laws.

The Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (OCR) enforces laws giving students with disabilities the right to a free, public education. OCR provides technical assistance to parents upon request. You can find more information on the OCR website.

Organizations that offer training on IEP advocacy are:
Raising Special Kids
Arizona Family Center
Spring Training Blitz (contact your licensing agency for information)
Southwest Behavioral

You can request that the child's DCS case manager provide you with the educational allowance up to $82.50 per year to cover books, supplies, course fees, student services, and PE fees/equipment.

Children in foster care are automatically eligible for free breakfast and lunch at schools where breakfast and lunch is provided. When filling out the form, the income is $0 because a child in foster care has no income (the stipend you receive from the State of Arizona is a reimbursement, not income). The family income does not count because the guardian of the child is DCS.

Each school district has a written policy on fee waivers that you can request to review. Some fees may automatically be waived for students who receive free lunches (and children in foster care automatically qualify for these). Some districts and schools have specific fee waiver policies in place to accommodate children in foster care. If the school is charging fees for classes, materials, or books, you can check with the school to see if the fees can be waived or reduced.

You can request that the child's DCS case manager provide you with the educational allowance up to $82.50 per year to cover books, supplies, course fees, student services, and PE fees/equipment.

Several organizations also provide backpacks and school supplies to children in foster care, including:

Several organizations provide school uniforms for foster children, including:

Some schools and school districts have clothing banks for school uniforms. Please call your local school or school district to ask if they have this resource.

Agua Fria Food Bank provides emergency food boxes and school uniforms (during back to school season); the food bank serves the Goodyear, Avondale, Tolleson, and Tonopha area. ID and proof of address is required. For more information call 623-932-9135.

DCS has a policy in place to reimburse foster parents for some of the costs of graduation up to $220. Ask the child's DCS case manager for more information.

Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation (AFFCF) also assists with graduation expenses. You can apply for a grant for the child online here. If you don't hear back within 2 weeks after submitting an application, call AFFCF. If there is a delay, often you just need to ask the DCS case manager to confirm the child's case.

Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation (AFFCF) provides grants to fund extracurricular activities for children in foster care. You can apply for a grant for the child online here. If you don't hear back within 2 weeks after submitting an application, call AFFCF. If there is a delay, often you just need to ask the DCS case manager to confirm the child's case.

Foster Care to Success helps connect foster youth with former foster youth to help with the transition to adulthood. The organization also offers scholarships, including Education Training Vouchers (ETVs) to help fund the youth's education. ETVs help with higher education expenses for current or former foster youth up to age 23. Click here to learn more about ETVs.

The Arizona foster care tuition waiver is awarded to youth who were in foster care after their 16th birthday. This waiver covers certain school fees and tuition not included in other grants for current or former foster youth up to age 23. To get this waiver, contact the financial aid office of the college you plan to attend. This waiver is available for most Arizona state universities and community colleges. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for the Arizona Tuition Waiver as well as how to sign up for it.

CollegeScholarships.org has some scholarships for children who are or were in foster care.

This website has some scholarships for children who are or were in foster care.

More scholarships are available through the National Foster Parent Association.

Good Call Scholarship Search Engine is a large database of scholarships.

Former foster youth in the Maricopa County Community Colleges Bridging Success Program have access to the many resources of the Maricopa Community Colleges including tutoring, academic counseling, career planning, skill development as well as additional support they may need.

Be a Leader Foundation designs programs that provide a positive learning environment and a college-focused mentality for each participant to develop their high school and college educational plan (4 plus 4 plan). They work directly with middle school and high school students in primarily inner-city schools to engage them in active development of their self-esteem, leadership skills and long term preparation of their 4 plus 4 plan. They also have a program for youth in college called Be A Leader Institute College (BLIC) that provides college students with educational and career path development support. Click here for more information.

If you are having trouble completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) because you are unsure who to list as your parent(s) because your parent(s) are incarcerated or otherwise not in your life, request that the college financial office review your application to see if you qualify for a waiver called a dependency override. Click here for additional information.

Most schools have an after-school tutoring program, usually at no cost. Check with the child's school to find out if and when tutoring is available.

Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation (AFFCF) will pay for tutoring, but you must get approval first. You can apply for a grant for the child online here. If you don't hear back within 2 weeks after submitting an application, call AFFCF. If there is a delay, often you just need to ask the DCS case manager to confirm the child's case.

Educational Tutorial Services will help you get the referral and get the ball rolling to provide the child with the tutoring he or she needs.

Arizonans for Children provide a free mentor/tutor for any child in care for at least one year. These mentors/tutors can work with the child on educational, emotional, and life skills goals for at least 2 hours each week.

Connect2Compete (C2C) is a national nonprofit program aimed at bridging the digital divide by providing low-cost cable broadband, computer, training, and content salutation. If your child qualifies for the National Free School Lunch Program click here.

Microsoft offers Office 365 Education, a collection of services that allows you to collaborate and share your schoolwork. Office 365 Education includes Office Online (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote), 1 TB of OneDrive storage, Yammer, and SharePoint sites.

Some schools allow students to install the full Office applications on up to 5 PCs or Macs for free. If your school provides this additional benefit, you'll see the Install Office button on your Office 365 home page after you complete sign-up.

You must be an active full-time or part-time student at an academic institution and:

  • Have a school-specific email address provided by the school (for example, student@dysart.edu) that can receive external email
  • Be of legal age to sign up for an online office individually (13 years old)
  • Have Internet access

Download Instructions

  • Go to the Microsoft website
  • From the top menu, click on “Products”, then click “For Students & Educators”, then click the “Office for Students” button
  • Scroll down to the “Give me my Office” button and then click “Get Started for Free”
  • Enter your school email address and follow the instructions for installation

Foster Ed has several tip sheets for caregivers of children in foster care.

The Arizona Department of Education website has information and resources for foster parents.

If you have a placed child under 3 years of age, you can request early intervention services online or by calling (602) 532-9960 or toll-free (888) 439-4509; seek the help of your DCS caseworker with enrollment if necessary.

The Arizona Early Intervention Program (AzEIP) is Arizona's statewide system of supports and services for infants and toddlers (birth to 36 months) with developmental delays or disabilities and their families. Developmental delays mean a child has not reached fifty percent of the developmental milestones expected at his/her chronological age in one or more of the following areas of development: physical, cognitive, language/communication, social/emotional, and adaptive self-help.

For children and youth (ages 3-21), you can receive special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B. Refer to your school district to request an assessment and develop an IEP for the child, if needed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed information sheets to help you understand childhood development, positive parenting skills, safety concerns, and basic health for all stages of development. Please click on the appropriate stage to learn more:

Infants (0-1 years)

Toddlers (1-2 years)

Toddlers (2-3 years)

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

Middle Childhood (6-8 years)

Middle Childhood (9-11 years)

Young Teens (12-14 years)

Teenagers (15-17 years)

The Child Mind Institute has child development information in their “Parents Guide to Developmental Milestones” for the following ages: 1 month, 3 months, 7 months, 1 year, 2 years, 4 years, and 5 years. This guide provides parents with information about milestones in the developmental areas of movement, language, cognitive, social and emotional in addition to listing warning signs of developmental delays that should be discussed with the child's pediatrician.

FosterParentCollege.com has a handout describing developmental milestones for different age groups in the following 5 areas: motor, communication, cognitive, social and emotional, and adaptive skills; click here to view handout.

FosterParentCollege.com has another handout discussing red flags (warning signs) for developmental and behavioral problems; click here to view handout.

Click here to view a list of some additional online resources in the area of child development.

Child Trends News Service (CTNS) has videos on the latest in child development research. Click here to watch videos on CTNS YouTube channel. Click here to access videos on their website.

Click here for a listing of typical and problematic sexual behaviors for children of different ages.