Contact Information 
District Office
1 West Broad Street
Suite 100
Hazleton, PA 18201
Phone: (570) 453-1344
Fax: (570) 459-3946
Hours:  8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m
.

Capitol Office
47 East Wing,
Main Capitol
PO Box 202116
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2116
Phone: (717) 260-6136
Phone (Toll-Free): 855-282-0611

Fax: (717) 782-2921
Toohil Bill Focus of Committee Hearing on School Stability For Foster Children
10/6/2014
HARRISBURG – Legislation that would improve the school stability for more than 21,000 foster children in Pennsylvania, including a bill sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne), was the focus of a hearing held today by the House Children and Youth Committee. Toohil is a committee member.

House Bill 569 would require the courts to make educational decisions in the best interests of a child who has been removed from his or her home. Companion legislation, House Bill 973, sponsored by Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe/Pike), would require county children and youth agencies to plan for a foster child’s educational stability. Both measures favor the child remaining in his or her current school.

“School stability is an issue that is impacting thousands of foster kids across Pennsylvania,” said Toohil. “These children are being bounced from school to school without there being any input from them. This instability in their school lives can have a dramatic negative impact on their futures as adults.”

To download Toohil’s broadcast quality comments, click here.

To view a video of the entire hearing, click here.  

Committee members heard testimony from representatives of educational, human services and legal organizations, along with a constituent from Toohil’s district who spent years in foster care before being adopted.

“When in foster care, I went to five different schools,” testified Brittany Bullock, 20, of Conyngham. “It is hard for me to put into words what it meant to have to restart my life, over and over and over again. New places, new faces – as soon as I started to feel comfortable, I was forced to move again. I was always the new student. It interrupted my education. It interrupted my life.”

To download Bullock’s broadcast quality testimony, click here.  

According to the National Legal Center for Foster Care and Education half to three-quarters of foster children change schools, with a third changing schools five or more times. Only half of these children complete high school by age 18. In addition, only about 20 percent who graduated high school are able to attend college.

“I have consistently heard from students, foster parents, child welfare professionals and school support staff about the importance of children in foster care remaining in the same school, even when their living placement changes,” Maura McInerney of the Education Law Center told committee members. “Over the years, we have seen what a profound difference school stability makes in the educational trajectory and life outcomes of children in foster care.”

“The requirements in this legislation for strong and mandated cooperation between child welfare agencies and the courts is a significant step in the right direction,” said Joan Benso, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children president and CEO. “House Bill 569 cements the shared legal authority of county child welfare agencies and the courts to help ensure education stability by requiring their oversight on school placement. House Bill 973 stresses the important role child welfare agencies play by requiring them to develop education plans based on the best-interest determinations of the courts.”

“The primary focus needs to be on implementing a process between schools and county children and youth agencies for more open communication and collaboration to ensure educational stability for the children being served,” said Michele Haydt, Monroe County Children and Youth Services program manager. “Ongoing training for educational liaisons is also an important factor to consider to improving outcomes.”

Toohil said committee members plan to hold additional meetings with stakeholders to work on improving the legislation with a goal of passing it early in the 2014-15 session, which begins in January.

For more information on Toohil and her legislative priorities, visit www.RepToohil.com or www.Facebook.com/RepToohil.

Representative Tarah Toohil
116th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office
717.260.6136
RepToohil.com / Facebook.com/RepToohil
Share |