Frequently Asked Questions about the Educational Stability Law
Research shows that when a child, especially one in a resource family home, changes schools, the child’s ability to succeed in school, to be engaged in school activities and to thrive socially, emotionally, behaviorally and academically can be harmed. For a child who is already fighting an uphill battle in his/her home life as a result of abuse or neglect, the support of a stable school environment and school relationships can be the key to the child’s ability to succeed in many or all other aspects of life.
When DYFS makes the decision to remove a child from his/her current home, it always strives to keep the child close to home and in the same school to limit further disruption in the child’s life. DYFS also works to minimize the trauma on a child by placing him/her with family members or individuals close to and familiar with the child. Staying with a grandmother or aunt, for example, is often the best resource family home placement for a child. This is true even if these family members do not live within the child’s current school district. DYFS weighs various factors, including education, in an attempt to make the child’s first resource family home placement the best resource family home placement. This reduces the likelihood of the child having to move into more than one resource family home.
Not necessarily. The federal government has stated it will provide limited funding reimbursement to support school transportation costs for Title IV-E eligible children in a resource family home. But only around 35% of New Jersey’s children in resource family homes are eligible for Title IV-E funding, which is based on the income of the child’s parents and other factors related to the resource family home placement of the child. The federal government has not said how much funding it will provide to states. We do know that it will only provide partial reimbursement for funds the state has already expended on Title IV-E eligible children. DCF, however, is ready to work with local school districts on ways to maximize federal reimbursement of transportation dollars expended.
A school district will use the same methods to provide transportation to a student placed in a resource family home that it currently uses to provide all transportation, including vehicles for students attending out-of-district nonpublic and vocational schools, out-of-district private schools for students with disabilities and homeless students housed outside of their district of residence. Examples of existing methods follow:
- Use existing routes run with district-owned or contracted vehicles;
- Enact a quoted contract to provide transportation services that will be within the bid threshold after obtaining three quotes;
- Go out to bid in order to find a school transportation contractor to operate a new route;
- Form jointure agreements with other school districts or use coordinated transportation services agencies (CTSAs) located within or outside of their county to provide the service;
- Sign a contract with the resource family home parent (called a parental contract) in which the resource family home parent agrees to provide the child with transportation for a fee paid by the resident school district; or
- Provide students with bus tickets for use on a preset route run by a common carrier.
The receiving district will utilize the existing tuition process to bill the district of residence for the services provided to the child.
If a parent moves after the Application for State Aid (ASSA) count on October 15, the existing district of residence remains unchanged in the current school year. For subsequent school years, the current resident district can request a district of residence determination to identify the new district that is fiscally responsible for the child.
If an existing district of residence believes that a parent no longer resides in the district, the district must contact DCF and the child’s case worker and file a request to have a new district of residence determination made. DCF forwards the request with the relevant information about the child and parent to the DOE, Office of School Finance, where the determination is made. Once a determination is made, the district made responsible has two levels of appeal: 1) the Assistant Commissioner of Administration and Finance and 2) the Commissioner of Education.
There should be no disruption in the child’s education. The district where the child attends school is obligated to provide all required services, and the parents’ identified district of residence must pay for those services, while questions of district of residence are resolved.
Like all other students, multiple factors including the student’s educational placement will be considered when assessing the best interests of the student. There is a presumption that the student will remain in his or her current educational placement, if appropriate, but that could be affected by the best interest determination which considers multiple factors.
No, the student’s placement would not automatically change because the student is placed in a resource family home. In fact, the law presumes that the student’s educational placement will remain the same. However, transportation services would change based on the new residence from which the student would be transported. The school placement would not be affected by a move to a resource family home unless it was determined that the current placement was not in the child’s best interest. In that case, the IEP team would have to be convened to identify the appropriate program and placement.