What is expected of me as a foster parent?

  • 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 educational service 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.

Who can request early intervention services for the child in my care?

If you have a placed child under 3 years of age, you can request early intervention services online and seek the help of your Child Safety Specialist 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.

Is day care available for the child in my care?

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

Children in foster care who are between 3 and 5 years old are also eligible for Arizona Head Start.

Child Care Resource and Referral can help you find quality child care in your area.

How can I enroll the child in my care without the documents the school requires?

When placed in a new home, children in foster care qualify under the McKinney-Vento Act to be enrolled into school whether or not the parent or guardian has all of the appropriate 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 caseworker.

This means that you do not have to have the birth certificate, immunization records, transcripts, or other required documentation to enroll. The child can be enrolled while you are in the process of obtaining these documents.

How can I get a copy of the child's school records?

Call the school, and ask for the registrar. You will need to send the registrar a copy of the Notice to Provider (the signed document that was given to you when the child was placed that says DCS has placed this child with you).

Please note that under the McKinney-Vento Act, you can enroll a child who is in foster care into a new school regardless of missing paperwork, including missing school records.

How can I keep the child in my care in his or her current school?

The McKinney-Vento Act and the Fostering Connections Act both have provisions requiring schools and child welfare agencies to work together to help children in foster care remain in their schools of origin when placed into a new home. The child may be eligible for transportation to and from the school of origin. Generally, the child can remain in an out-of-district school at least through the current school year and often throughout later years.

You can find contact for your school district's McKinney-Vento liaison on this webpage under 'Database of Local Liaisons.' The local liaison can provide you with the district's McKinney-Vento policy and can answer questions about the specific eligibility policies, services, and supports available through your district.

What is the McKinney-Vento Act?

The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law that promotes educational continuity and stability for homeless children. Many children in foster care qualify under McKinney-Vento because they do not have permanency. This often allows children in foster care to enroll into school even when documentation is not available, and some children in foster care are eligible for transportation to and from school to ensure continued enrollment in the school of origin.

Each school district is required to have a McKinney-Vento policy and a designated coordinator. Foster parents can call the school or the district office to get a copy of the district's McKinney-Vento policy and contact information for the coordinator.

The American Bar Association has published a fact sheet on McKinney-Vento and Fostering Connections.

The Re-authorization of the McKinney-Vento Act replaced the No Child Left Behind Act with Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA will ensure children in foster care will stay in their school of origin if it is in their best interest to do so. School districts and child welfare will work together to provide, arrange and fund transportation to the school of origin. For more information regarding the McKinney-Vento Act and implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act, click here.


Can I sign school documents?

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.

What information can I share with the school?

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.

Do children in foster care qualify for the free lunch program?

Children and youth 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.

During the summer break, free breakfasts, lunches, and sometimes dinners are available at some schools, which can be found on this website.

Who pays for school fees, books, and materials?

School district policies

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 in most cases. 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.

If a child qualifies under the McKinney-Vento Act, school fines cannot act as a barrier to enrollment. This applies to schools that refuse to release grades, transcripts, and other records to other schools.

DCS educational allowance

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

AFFCF grants

Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation provides grants to help foster families pay for services that engage children in foster care in education, extracurriculars, and the community. This includes some educational expenses, such as class pictures, musical instruments, extracurriculars, field trips, tutoring, graduation expenses, and more. You can apply for a grant for the child online here.

Can I get assistance obtaining school supplies?

You can request that the child's DCS caseworker 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:
Helen's Hope Chest
Jose's Closet
Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation

Who pays for graduation expenses?

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

What financial supports help youth in foster care attend college or vocational school?

Education and Training Voucher (ETV) helps with higher education expenses for current or former foster care youth up to age 23. With ETV, students can use their expenses for tuition, books, and cost of living. To find out if a youth may be eligible for ETV as well as how to sign up click here.


The Arizona Tuition Waiver covers certain school fees and tuition not included in other grants for current or former foster care youth up to age 23. To find out if you may be eligible for the Arizona Tuition Waiver as well as how to sign up click here.

Can I get assistance with the cost of extracurricular activities?

Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation (AFFCF) provides grants to fund extracurricular activities for children in foster care.

How can I obtain tutoring for the child in my care?

School tutoring

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

Arizona Friends of Foster Care

AFFCF will pay for tutoring, but you must get approval first. If you don't hear back within a week after submitting an application, call AFFCF. Often, if there is a delay, you just need to ask the caseworker to confirm the child's case.

Educational Tutorial Services

This organization will help you get the referral and get the ball rolling to provide the child with the tutoring he or she needs.

Do children in foster care receive assistance with college?

Scholarships

  • The Arizona foster care tuition waiver is awarded to youth who were in foster care after the 16th birthday. 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.
  • 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
  • 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 Educational Training Vouchers(ETV's) to help fund the youth's education.
  • More scholarships at National Foster Parent Association
  • Good Call Scholarship Search Engine is a large database of scholarships

Where can I get more information about college for youth in foster care?

What should I do if the child in my care is suspended or expelled from school?

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.

If a pattern of behavior is established that impacts or prevents the student's ability to receive an education, then an IEP or 504 (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.

Which school should I enroll the child in my care into?

If the child is currently enrolled into a school within a reasonable distance, the school may provide transportation to keep the child in the same school. Call the district office and ask to speak with the McKinney-Vento coordinator for details.

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 caseworker in writing. Some school districts also have online schools. Some virtual charter schools in Arizona are:

  • AZVA
  • Connections Academy
  • 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, under extenuating circumstances, it has been allowed. If you wish to homeschool a child in foster care, the caseworker 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 private school on an individual basis under extenuating circumstances. Enrollment into private schools must be documented by the caseworker as part of the child's written case plan.

Special education services: IEPs and 504s

Raising Special Kids (AZ Chapter of Family Voices) Raising Special Kids 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 caseworker, licensing worker, therapist, or physician needs to fill out a referral form and fax it to Raising Special Kids.

How to request an IEP or 504 evaluation

To request an evaluation for an IEP, you must make the request in writing to the school. This site has sample letters.

Mental health services at school

If the child is having behavioral health challenges that affect his or her ability to receive education at school, request a functional behavioral assessment as part of the IEP evaluation. Both an IEP and a 504

Get more information about IEPs and 504 plans

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

What to do if the school is noncompliant

First, ask the child's 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.



Where can I get training on advocating for the child in my care within the educational system?

Organizations that offer training on IEP advocacy are: Raising Special Kids
Arizona Family Center
Spring Training Blitz
Southwest Behavioral

Where can I get more information about educating children in foster care?

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

Can I sign the paperwork to enroll the child in my care in extracurricular activities and/or attend field trips?

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.

Can the child in my care be photographed or video-taped in the yearbook, school videos, and other school venues?

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.

How can I get the child free software for school?

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), 1TB 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 offer 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

How can I obtain affordable internet access?

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

Education

Information about foster children in school (Registration, Documentation, Child Care)