Congress Passes Uninterrupted Scholars Act

Before the end of the 112th Congress, one of the most scrutinized and criticized, lawmakers passed The Uninterrupted Scholars Act, S. 3472, which amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to make it easier for caseworkers to gain access to the educational records of foster children.

At a town hall meeting held last night in California, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chair of the Foster Youth Caucus, sought to inject some optimism into an otherwise gloomy conversation about the "fiscal cliff" by pointing out that Congress was able to come together on a bipartisan basis to enact this piece of legislation that will make a difference in children’s lives. Because of difficulty obtaining educational records, many foster children have to repeat classes or even grades, sometimes discouraging them to the point of dropping out.

The law addresses inconsistent provisions of federal law. Under the Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008, caseworkers were required to oversee the educational stability of foster youth, while FERPA made it difficult for them to obtain the information they need.

The law allows caseworkers legally responsible for the care and protection of the child to gain access to the educational records. They may redisclose information to other agencies only for the purpose of meeting the child’s educational needs. Additionally, educational records may be released pursuant to court order without notice to a parent when a parent is a party to a court proceeding in a dependency matter. Nonparty parents would still have to be notified before records could be released.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law upon his return from Hawaii.

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