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Family and Children's
Resource Program

Vol. 21, No. 1
January 2016

Minimizing School Moves

When they change schools, children in foster care have to cope with the emotional consequences of instability and adjust to new teachers, classmates, curricula and rules (Christian, 2003). School change itself may lead to repeating a grade, which in turn can reduce the likelihood of completing high school at all (Smithgall, et al., 2004).

There are several things agencies and workers can do to minimize school moves. One is to prevent foster care placement disruptions. Careful matching of foster parent strengths and child needs before placement, adequate training of foster parents (especially on the topic of behavior management), the delivery of appropriate services to the child and family, and supporting foster parents all contribute to placement stability.

When placements disrupt, try to keep children in the same school. Developing an adequate number of foster homes in the area your agency serves is one way to do this. Making special transportation arrangements is another (Courtney, et al., 2004).

If school moves are necessary, time them carefully. Moving children from one school to another can cause them to miss critical tests or other important events. If circumstances permit, delay the move until a planned school hiatus (e.g., summer, spring, or winter break). This will minimize the impact on the student's academic progress.

Minimizing School Moves

Adapted from Ward & Herrick, 2010

When they change schools, older students may risk losing credits. Districts often have different course requirements or credit policies. In some cases, school officials may not review records carefully enough to recognize when transferring students have taken comparable courses.

When a young person transfers to a new school, request a complete transcript of all coursework, as well as other activities (e.g., service learning) that could qualify the student for credits. Have the transcript ready for review so credits aren't lost and the student can be placed in the appropriate classes.

References for this and other articles in this issue