On Demand Audio

Educational Rights and Advocacy for Students in Foster Care

(412 reviews)

Produced on June 20, 2016

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Course Information

Time 1h 30m
Difficulty Intermediate
Topics covered in this course: Education Public Interest

Course Description

Children in foster care face significant barriers to obtaining appropriate educational supports and services. Students in foster care often experience high rates of school mobility, which can interrupt the development of foundational skills, inhibit academic progress, and lead to credit loss. In addition, a strikingly high number of children in foster care struggle with educational delays and disabilities. Because of high mobility rates and questions regarding parental consent, they often have trouble gaining access to the specialized supports and services they need in order to be successful in school. Many child welfare professionals, parents and foster parents struggle with accessing school records, maintaining students in their schools of origin, and obtaining critical early intervention and special education services.

 In this training, Cara Chambers, Director of The Legal Aid Society's Education Advocacy Project, and Staff Attorneys Melinda Andra and Gwyneth Horton provide an overview of educational issues affecting students in foster care. The presenters review procedures for accessing students' school records under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, including the recent changes set forth in the Uninterrupted Scholars Act. They examine federal laws that require foster care agencies to preserve school stability for students in foster care, thereby reducing or eliminating the negative effects of frequent school changes. The session also explores the barriers that foster children with disabilities face when trying to gain access to the special education services to which they are entitled.


Learning Objectives

I.     Identify factors that inhibit school success for children in foster care 

II.    Understand the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act as it pertains to educational records for students in foster care

III.   Review federal laws that require foster care agencies to preserve school stability for students in foster care, including the Fostering Connections Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act

IV.   Explore the barriers that students in foster care face in obtaining appropriate special educational services, including issues with parental consent and high mobility rates

Credit Information

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Cara Chambers

The Legal Aid Society

Cara Chambers is the Director of The Kathryn A. McDonald Education Advocacy Project (EAP) at The Legal Aid Society. EAP provides education advocacy for children who are involved in New York City’s child welfare, juvenile justice, and persons-in-need-of-supervision (PINS) systems. Prior to joining EAP, Cara was an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, where she worked on commercial litigation and provided pro bono representation on a number of child welfare and special education matters. Before attending law school, Cara worked for five years as a bilingual teacher in the New York City public school system. Cara earned her law degree at Georgetown University. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Bilingual Education from Fordham University. 

Melinda Andra

The Legal Aid Society

Melinda Andra is a Staff Attorney at The Legal Aid Society’s Kathryn A. McDonald Education Advocacy Project (EAP). Melinda received her law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 2003. Before coming to EAP, she worked for the Juvenile Rights Practice of the Legal Aid Society representing children in child protective and delinquency proceedings. Melinda has ten years of experience working as a public school teacher.

Gwyneth Horton

The Legal Aid Society

After interning for The Legal Aid Society’s Kathryn A. McDonald Education Advocacy Project (EAP) during law school, Gwyneth Horton joined the project as a Staff Attorney in 2007. Prior to law school, Gwyneth worked as a paralegal at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. Gwyneth received her law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2006.


Kenneth K.

Wish I could have had access to this when I was in law school.

Dina D.

It was refreshing that the speakers had differing opinions on the hypotheticals and their approach. Great to hear both sides presented!

Thomas B.

Thank you!

Chinyere O.

Comprehensive! Well organized. Fine delivery. Excellent program!

Christine O.

Helpful to have video option.

Ann E.

Extremely well presented and excellent speakers. Best session I've had on Lawline.

Robyn R.

Presenters were very knowledgeable, organized, and engaged this format well with their use of hypotheticals.

Amy B.

Fantastic presentation. Covered a wide varity of topics. Loved the hypothetical debates to review each section.

Rachel L.

The instructors are highly knowledgeable but their presentation skills could be enhanced - less reading from notes and monotone would enliven the course.

Deborah H.

I found the hypotheticals presented to be especially useful.

Wendy S.


Lisa D.

good presenters

Gar H.

Good, interesting.

Andrew C.

Good format with the three informed speakers.

Virginia J.

Great topic and presentation. Presenters are very interesting .

Kim F.

Excellent. Really appreciated the point - counterpoint to highlight the tensions and limits of the laws. Really appreciated having different lawyers present. Kept it interesting.

Holly R.

Solid information, good presentation. Thanks!

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