Back to School Guidance for Caregivers

During the pandemic, the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) is waiving the need for administrative and court approvals for public school choices for foster youth. This means caregivers for children or youth in out-of-home care are now permitted to make decisions to allow *either remote learning or in-person attendance through the child’s school district or another accredited public school program. This decision should be made with the family’s safety and child’s individual needs in mind, and with consultation from the child’s team (caseworker, child and legal parents). DCYF is currently working to update its Education Services and Planning Policy to reflect this guidance.

Caregivers and DCYF staff are still required to seek permission through the administrative approval process and obtain a court order for any school placement that is not affiliated with a Washington public school or accredited through the public school system, as outlined in the existing DCYF Education Services and Planning Policy.

The School Placement “Best Interest Determination” guidance sheet provides important information to consider if a school change is occurring.

Additional Information

  • If you need support with special education services for a student in out-of-home care, ask your caseworker to make a referral to the Education Advocacy Program. This program provides direct advocacy, consultation, information and referral services for youth in care. All youth in out-of-home care with educational needs are eligible. Educational Advocacy Coordinators (EACs) are located throughout the state.
  • Foster Care Liaisons can be contacted with questions about foster care student supports.  
  • Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) is a new and temporary food benefit to help families buy groceries. Children enrolled in K-12 school that qualified for free or reduced-price meals before the school closures in March are eligible for up to $399 in benefits (students in foster care are categorically eligible for free school meals).
    • If benefits were denied, there may have been an error. Please reapply if school-age foster children were in your home during school closures and benefits were denied.
    • P-EBT Application must be completed by August 31 or the beginning of the new school year (whichever is later). There are two ways to apply:
      1. Online: www.WashingtonConnection.orgb (on the application, choose “Pandemic EBT—Emergency School Meals Program” in the Food Assistance section)
      2. Call: 877–501–2233 (DSHS Customer Service Contact Center—Language translation available)

For additional questions on school enrollment or school-related topics, please contact DCYF’s Adolescent Programs team.

*Chapter 392-401A WAC

Statewide Definition of Absence for the 2020-21 School Year

(2) "In-person learning" is when instructional activity is planned and delivered under the supervision of school district staff and on school grounds.

(3) "Remote learning" is when daily learning activities are delivered through remote learning modalities, including, but not limited to, distance learning, hybrid classrooms, rotating schedules, and other methods that allow for the delivery of basic education services during the COVID-19 epidemic. Remote learning activities may be synchronous or asynchronous. 

(Basic education services refers to services provided by the Washington public school system.)