Senate Panel Releases Vitale/Ruiz Bill Ensuring Educational Stability For Kids In Foster Care

Catholic Health East-New Jersey unveils a photo exhibit, "Faces of The Uninsured," highlighting eight people who lost their jobs and face illness without medical coverage.

TRENTON – The Senate Health, Human Services & Senior Citizens Committee today released legislation Senators Joseph Vitale and Teresa Ruiz sponsored to ensure educational stability for kids in foster care by ensuring they are not uprooted from their schools unnecessarily when placed in a new home.

The bill (S-1333) would change current policy that automatically places a foster child in the school district of their foster family, allowing a child to remain in their current school. The bill would allow a child to switch districts if it is determined to be in their best interest.

The measure would put New Jersey in compliance with federal law and ensure the state is not at risk of losing roughly $125 million in federal aid.

“The ultimate goal of our foster system must be to do what is in the best interests of the child, and when it comes to education we need to first prevent an uprooting from a school that could be counterproductive,” said Vitale (D-Middlesex), the panel’s vice-chairman. “Being placed in a foster family can be stressful enough on a child. Being taken away from friends at school and placed in an entirely new learning environment can only add to that stress.”

Under the measure, the Division of Youth and Family Services would provide a child’s transportation to and from school while a final determination on their educational arrangement is being made and for the subsequent five school days after that decision is reached. The district of residence would otherwise be responsible for transportation of the child to attend school.

“For children being removed from an abusive or negligent home, school can sometimes be the refuge from what’s going on in their lives,” said Ruiz (D-Essex), who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “Hop-scotching from one school to another can have a serious impact on a foster child’s ability to grow academically, socially and psychologically. This bill will ensure some level of stability in a time when they need it most.”

The committee released the bill 8-0 with one abstention. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

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