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Family Services And Schools Collaborate To Support Students In Foster Care

A focus on the educational needs of foster kids increased with the implementation of Every Student Succeeds: the federal act that replaced No Child Left Behind. The new guidelines required Wyoming school districts to implement foster care plans. Districts now have foster care liaisons and collaborative agreements with local representatives from the Department of Family Services (DFS).

Kari Eakins, the communications director with the Wyoming Department of Education, said DFS determines what’s in the best interest of a child in foster care, and school districts collaborate to meet those needs.

“It’s not uncommon for a student to be placed with a family that is in a different county,” said Eakins. “But DFS may determine that it’s best for that student to stay in their current school which is then in a different school district.”

Eakins said it’s up to districts to cover the cost of transporting foster kids.  During the 2018 legislative session lawmakers capped future spending on busing, which means districts will no longer be fully reimbursed for such things.

The Wyoming Department of Education recently offered a workshop to help districts comply with the new federal guidelines while also navigating state budget cuts.

“In light of the fact that we’ve been charged by the legislature to look at transportation efficiencies and we know that school districts are starting to look at how to stretch those dollars,” Eakins said the WDE is working with schools, “making sure that they are still doing what they need to do to make sure foster care students are still getting to school.”

Eakins said in some cases districts may have to pull funds intended for other purposes to cover transportation costs required to best serve foster kids

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.

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