MUSD board approves initial updates to foster care policies

A student draws with colored pencils while sitting at a desk. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board last week unanimously approved preliminary changes to its policies regarding students in foster care.

The board discussed and approved a first reading of its policy on the admission of students in foster care on Feb. 8 during its biweekly meeting. The updates highlighted the need for departments to collaborate in a foster child’s care and education, as well as recommending children stay in their home school while they are in care. The policy was last updated in 2018.

Board member Torri Anderson and Vice President Dr. Gary Miller each commended the update, noting how it would help unify departments for student success.

“(The document) does streamline the process and it does protect our children because it keeps them in a secure, safe environment that they’re used to and not having to uproot them,” Anderson said during the meeting.

That streamlining would occur in the form of encouraging a working collaboration between local and state agencies directly involved in the child’s care and education. This includes Department of Child Safety, Arizona Department of Education, the child’s home school and, if applicable, tribal agencies.

This would establish a designated point of contact for the district to coordinate a child’s immediate enrollment in school, as well as ensuring the child has access to transportation and free meals to ensure as little disruption as possible.

Another update to the policy included the recommendation that students remain enrolled at their home school for the duration of their time in care, unless it is not in their best interest. According to Sheryl Rednor, assistant superintendent of academic services for MUSD, this is critical for the student’s overall well-being.

Sheryl Rednor [submitted]
“Staying in their home school provides educational stability, as well as maintains the child’s social-emotional well-being and relationships,” Rednor said. “Unplanned school changes can result in these students falling behind their peers academically, with a higher risk of dropping out of school.”

This sentiment was shared by Miller, a recent addition to the board and a foster parent since 2009.

“Meeting people where they are is the cardinal rule,” Miller said. “It’s very important to meet the kids where they are and try not to uproot them to go somewhere else, so long as they are in a safe, secure and stable environment.”