Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 by Team Northwoods

New law means faster access to school records for child welfare workers

A new law giving child welfare workers better access to school records for foster children is an absolute win for kids. This provides a great opportunity for human services agencies to consider how the law might change the document management process for child welfare workers.

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act, signed last week by President Barack Obama, creates an exception for child welfare workers in the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). On the plus side, child welfare workers won’t always have to obtain parental consent or seek court orders to access to school records and report cards, which could prove vital to decision-making and continuity of service. This will help avoid delays when transferring youth in foster or kinship care to a new school so they don’t miss school days or have to repeat coursework at multiple schools. Ultimately, this will help the more than 400,000* American children in foster care achieve a quality education.

Providing this type of seamless access to documentation for foster children will mean social service agencies will be able to do exactly what they’ve always desired; spend less time pushing paperwork from one system to another and more face-to-face time supporting youth victimized by abuse or neglect.

In fact, many caseworkers will further this effort by making use of today’s technology to facilitate transfer of records and documents in real time. Instead of requesting, waiting, copying, and re-sending pages and pages of documents, social service agencies can take advantage of electronically disseminating information to the new school, collaterals, and their own case file with a click of a button. For the child welfare professional who is out in the field, this promises to be a big help.

Improving outcomes for children in the child welfare system begins with giving caseworkers the necessary tools and means to do what is best for kids. The Uninterrupted Scholars Act along with modernizing processes within social service agencies does just that.

To learn more about the law, check out Fostering Media Connections’ video explaining the Uninterrupted Scholars Act.

*Source: Children’s Bureau