I’m not sure what is going to happen with all of the children who have been ripped from their families or who have been put in concentration camps if they crossed the border without any adult accompanying them. If any of my readers wind up fostering children at any point, I thought it might be helpful to link to an article by Shaun Salmon on how FERPA, the federal law dealing with the privacy of education records and disclosure, applies to foster situations. Some of the following apply to the rights of the biological or legal parents; other points apply to the rights of the foster parents.
Salmon provides 10 things to know:
- A biological or legal parent does not automatically lose rights under FERPA when a child is placed in foster care; a mother or father may ask to see a copy of a child’s records for a variety of reasons.
- Parents of children placed in foster care might even ask that a child’s records be amended if there are inaccuracies or other issues that need to be addressed.
- The right to access a child’s education records after a child has been placed in foster care is not absolute. If a child was abused by a parent, for example, that child’s location may need to remain undisclosed. FERPA rights may be limited or even denied to keep the child safe.
- There are strict requirements to meet before a school can release education records; a school cannot release them simply because a parent or child welfare representative requests it.
- The party requesting a child’s education records must provide written and informed consent to access these records.
- Furthermore, records may only be released to government or similar agencies via court order. That said, schools may generally release records freely to the Department of Education or for reasons related to a student’s application for or receipt of financial aid.
- In some cases, it may be possible to send records to another school if a child is moving to that school or wants to continue his or her education there in the future. This type of transfer must be directly from one school district to the other.
- Emergencies are also considered special circumstances; schools generally have the right to release records if a child is experiencing a health crisis or is otherwise in an emergency situation.
- Regardless of the reason, parents must generally be notified of any release to give them an opportunity to challenge it. (This may not apply if FERPA rights have been limited for child safety reasons, as noted above).
- If a parent’s rights to a child are terminated, there is no longer any right to access a child’s records under FERPA, regardless of whether these rights were terminated by a court order or voluntarily by the parent.
Of course, if you read the above and think of the current situation where our government doesn’t seem to know where a child’s parents are – or even who they are – then it’s not clear how some of this will play out if a foster parent attempts to get records from a school. I would hope that schools would have a modicum of common sense and not make an already horrific situation worse. Give foster parents the tools and support they need to help these traumatized children in school.
You can read more of Salmon’s article here.