Chapter 3 : Section 9.4

Education Services for Children in Out-of-Home-Care


In collaboration with caregivers and schools, the Department shall ensure that children in out-of-home care are:

  • provided educational stability at the time of the initial placement and each subsequent change in placement;

  • provided services to help them achieve their educational potential;

  • registered for school in a timely manner; and

  • referred for assessment of special education (when indicated) and other educational needs.

When a child enters out-of-home care or is moved to a new out-of-home living arrangement, the child shall remain enrolled in the school of origin unless a determination is made that it is not in the child’s best interest to attend the school of origin. The determination shall be based on all factors relating to the child’s best interest, including consideration of the appropriateness of the current educational setting and the child’s current proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement.

When a determination is made that it is not in a child’s best interest to remain in the school of origin, the child shall be immediately enrolled in a new school, even if the records normally required for enrollment cannot be provided. The enrolling school shall immediately contact the school last attended by the child to obtain relevant academic and other records.

Every child in out-of-home care shall have an Education Plan that specifies:

  • the child’s educational status including last school attended, last grade completed, current school attending, grade level performance, whether evaluated for or receiving special education services;

  • services already provided and to be provided to the child or caregiver to address the child’s educational needs; and

  • whether the child is attending the home school or district.

The Department shall make reasonable efforts to not remove a child who is in out-of-home care from school during regular school hours for appointments, visitation, or activities not related to school.



The Local Educational Agency (LEA) is responsible for determining who acts as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) parent. The Arizona Department of Education, as the State Education Agency (SEA), has developed procedures and criteria for identifying and assigning a surrogate parent. See Special Education and Early Intervention Services for Children in Out-of-Home Care.

The DCS Specialist will provide information as to the whereabouts (when known) and the legal status of the parents to the LEA, including biological and adoptive parents. The biological or adoptive parent retains the ability to make education decisions, including special education decisions, unless one of the following circumstances exist:

  • The identity of the parent (biological or adoptive) is unknown.

  • The whereabouts of the parent is unknown.

  • Parental rights have been terminated.

  • The court has suspended the biological or adoptive parent’s special educational rights.

The DCS Specialist will ask the parent, guardian, and/or custodian for information on the child’s educational status and verify that information with the school (including school name, grade, current needs including whether or not the child is receiving special education evaluation or services).

If a child is receiving or being evaluated for special education services, the DCS Specialist shall promptly notify the school of the name and contact information for the child’s IDEA parent (including a surrogate parent, if appointed by the LEA). For most children, the child’s own parent, guardian, and/or custodian is the IDEA parent. In some situations, the LEA appoints a surrogate parent. See Special Education and Early Intervention Services for Children in Out-of-Home Care.

Enrollment in School and Arranging Transportation

The DCS Specialist will make reasonable efforts to maintain the child’s enrollment in the school of origin throughout the child’s time in out-of-home care, across all changes in the child’s living arrangement. Changes to the school placement may occur depending on the circumstances of the case and the permanency plan for the child. School placement and transportation arrangements should be reviewed as often as needed; minimally at the time a change occurs in the child’s living arrangement, during regularly scheduled case plan staffings, and prior to the end of the current school year.

The DCS Specialist will complete the Best Interests Determination and Transportation Plan with the child, the caregiver, the LEA, and the parent, guardian, and/or custodian, if appropriate, to determine if it is in the child’s best interest to change schools.

The Best Interests Determination and Transportation Plan may be completed in conjunction with the Present Danger, Safety Planning, or Reunification/Permanency Planning TDM, as applicable, or through a separate meeting. The best interests determination will consider the following:

  • the wishes of the parent, caregiver, and child;

  • the safety of the child;

  • the distance and time for the child to travel to and from the school the child is attending;

  • the child’s age, connections, social, and emotional state;

  • academic, developmental, language, and socialization needs;

  • the anticipated length of stay in the current living arrangement;

  • the effect a school change will have on the child's learning, academic strength, and grade placement; and

  • any potential for loss of credits that may occur due to changing schools in the middle of a term or semester.

When it is determined that it is in the child’s best interests to be enrolled in a new school, the child is to be immediately enrolled in the new school, and that school must accept the child’s enrollment, even without the records normally required for enrollment. The new school then becomes the school of origin should a change in living arrangement occur in the future. It is the responsibility of the new school to obtain school records for the purpose of enrollment from the school of origin.

The DCS Specialist shall facilitate a conversation with the caregiver and other team members as needed to ensure transportation to school, including the school of origin, provides for normalcy and safety of the child. Transportation options include:

  • caregiver or another responsible adult transports the child directly to school or a designated school bus stop;

  • car pool approved by caregiver;

  • school provides transportation through an existing school bus route or other service;

  • public transportation, if appropriate to the child’s age and safety needs;

  • DCS transportation vendor (see Service Referral Approval Matrix); or

  • another method agreed to by the service team members.

For children who qualify for special education services, the DCS Specialist shall review the child’s Individualized Education Plan and verify if transportation is an approved service. If transportation is an approved service and is not included in the current plan, the DCS Specialist may contact the IDEA Parent and discuss the appropriateness of requesting this service as a part of the plan.

When a child resides with a kinship caregiver whose residence is outside of the child’s school of origin district boundary, the DCS Specialist shall work with the school, caregiver, and other members of the service team to explore transportation options to maintain the child in the school of origin. When other options have been fully explored and ruled out, the DCS Specialist may consider reimbursement of travel expenses for a kinship caregiver approved by the DCS Specialist, to support a child’s continued enrollment in their school of origin, and to support participation in school related activities.

When a kinship caregiver is identified to provide assistance transporting the child to and/or from their school of origin, the DCS Specialist will complete all of the following:

  • Verify the number of round trip miles anticipated.

  • Explain to the kinship caregiver or that reimbursement is limited to the miles accrued to transport the child to and from school and school related activities, and limited to the current per mile state rate.

  • Provide and review the Foster Parent Travel Reimbursement Claim, DCS-1862 instructions and process for submittal. See DCS 03-16 Foster Parent Travel Reimbursement. The kinship caregiver(s) providing transportation must provide verification of a valid driver’s license, current vehicle registration, and insurance.

The DCS Specialist shall provide the caregiver with the Notice to Provider, CSO-1035A and ensure that school aged children are maintained in the school of origin or immediately enrolled in a local school as soon as possible, and within 5 days of the date of placement. School age children placed in an emergency shelter should be maintained in the school of origin or enrolled in school as soon as possible, and within 5 days from the date of placement. The DCS Specialist should contact the LEA liaison when notified of problems with enrollment, and contact the Regional Education Liaison for assistance if the LEA liaison is unable to resolve enrollment or other education related issues.

Obtaining School Records

The DCS Specialist will provide a copy of the signed Request for Release of Education Records, CSO-1050A and a letter requesting educational records to the school the child currently attends or will be attending, or the previous early intervention (AzEIP) provider.

To expedite this process:

  • Locate the name of the school, principal, phone number, facsimile number and address for a public school through the Arizona Department of Education website.

  • Address the letter to: Principal/school registrar at (name and address of school) if the principal’s name is unknown.

  • Fax the Order and letter or deliver the Order and letter in person to the school office.

  • Contact the school office to see when the records will be available.

Upon receipt of the education records, review the records to determine:

  • if the child was evaluated for special education services;

  • if special education services were recommended or rendered (look for documentation that would indicate Individual Education Program [IEP], Individualized Family Service Plan [IFSP], Adapted Physical Education [PE], Low Vision, Orientation and Mobility or Functional Behavioral Assessment); and

  • the child’s previous grades, attendance, special interests/talents, involvement in extracurricular activities, and educational and discipline issues.

  • Within 5 days of receipt, provide education records or relevant information to the out-of-home caregiver and, upon request, provide copies of the records to the CASA, Guardian ad litem (GAL), FCRB, attorneys in the case and others specified in the Order relating to release of education records.

To obtain early intervention records for children under three, contact the AzEIP Service Coordinator to coordinate the release of records. (Note: The special education parent must consent to sharing records with the DCS Specialist as there is no applicable court order. The AzEIP Service Coordinator and the DCS Specialist should collaborate to obtain consent. When consent cannot be obtained, a court order is required.)

Ensuring Educational Success

The DCS Specialist shall:

Cooperate with the caregiver to ensure adequate communication with the child's school.

Make every reasonable effort to ensure that appointments, visits and other non-school related activities are scheduled during non-school hours whenever possible. Examples of reasonable efforts include but are not limited to:

  • schedule (and arrange transportation to) visitation between the child and his/her family including parents and siblings during non-school hours;

  • identify health care providers and other service providers who have extended office hours (see Mercy Care DCS CHP website);

  • requesting any provider to make appointments prior to or after school hours;

    • for a child(ren) who wishes to attend a court hearing (particularly older youth), consult with the child’s attorney and/or the assigned Assistant Attorney General to make a request that the court schedule the hearing after the child’s school hours.

    • Maintain contact with the caregiver, school staff, and special education parent to obtain school information.

    • Attend meetings or conferences related to the child's education. (For special education students, the DCS Specialist does not have the right to attend or participate in an IEP/IFSP meeting, but may request to be invited and upon approval by the IDEA parent and LEA, should attend IEP/EFSP meetings as an interested party.)

  • Encourage the caregiver to take the lead role in monitoring and advocating for services to meet the child's educational needs. Assist the caregiver in this role if needed.

  • At the end of each academic year, obtain the child’s school records to ensure the education record remains current.

  • Ensure that parents whose rights have not been terminated (and where safety is not an issue and it is in the child’s best interest) are informed of and involved in their child’s educational services to the greatest extent possible.

  • Monitor the child's educational status by requesting updates from the out-of-home caregiver and the child (if verbal) during monthly contacts and at the time of case plan staffings.

  • Request that the caregiver supply a copy of awards earned, the child's report card and any other significant records when received, i.e., IEP, IFSP and discipline records.

  • Recognize the child’s educational achievements and efforts verbally, and document in the case file and court progress reports.

  • Provide educational incentives to eligible teens and young adults as outlined in Services and Supports to Prepare Youth for Adulthood.

  • Prior to and during the case plan staffings, provide family and service team members comprehensive information on the educational status of the child and the service and support needs of the out-of-home caregiver in relation to the child's education. Elicit the comments and recommendations of the family and service team members, and reach consensus, whenever possible, on the outcomes, tasks and services required to meet the child's educational needs. Ensure that all team members know their roles with regard to the child’s educational issues. See Developing and Reassessing the Family-Centered Case Plan.

  • Notify the child's LEA when a child turns 18, and now has the right to make their own educational decisions, and will no longer attend the school or is expected to be absent from school more than ten days due to change in residence, emergency shelter, hospitalization or run away status.

Behavioral Health Inpatient Facility (BHIF) Placement:

The following applies when a child is placed in a BHIF with an on-site school:

  • The DCS Specialist or Behavioral Health Specialist must provide the BHIF with child and parent information including the child’s DOB, grade, last school attended, SAIS number (if known) and the parent’s name, address and phone number. This information will assist in determining the child’s home school or district (HSD).

  • The BHIF will complete the Initial Education Voucher and submit the voucher to the child’s LEA within 5 days of placement.

  • The home school district (HSD) will conduct an evaluation to determine if the child is eligible for special education services. (For students who have previously been determined eligible for special education services, a review of the student’s IEP must be conducted. Either procedure must be completed within the first 60 days of placement.)

  • The LEA will submit a Home School District Voucher Application packet to the Arizona Department of Education.

  • If the child’s BHIF placement is expected to continue into the next school year, the BHIF will initiate the Continuing Education Voucher Application.

If a child in out-of-home care is eligible for special education services and the LEA, through the IEP process, determines that the child may need to be placed in a BHIF on-site school for educational purposes, the LEA must determine if the child is currently receiving behavioral health services through a RBHA. If the child is not currently enrolled with a RBHA, the school will make a referral for a comprehensive behavioral health evaluation. In both situations, an IEP meeting will be convened and include a RBHA representative. See Special Education and Early Intervention Services for Children in Out-of-Home Care.

When a child requires continued or ongoing educational placement in a BHIF setting, the DCS Specialist should:

  • participate in all education staffings;

  • work with the home school district and BHIF prior to child’s discharge from the BHIF to plan for the transition into the public school, and to collaborate regarding the appropriate discharge date; and

  • terminate BHIF placements made for educational purposes only after an IEP team is convened and a review determines that termination of residential placement is appropriate.

Effective Date: February 1, 2021
Revision History: November 30, 2012, February 6, 2018, November 9, 2018, August 26, 2019