Educating Youth in State Care

Coordinated efforts between agencies can make a difference to ensure educational success in the lives of children in foster care and youth involved in Juvenile Justice Services.


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Youths at School

Juvenile Justice Services

JJS receives legal custody of a youth when a Juvenile Court Judge commits a youth for Observation and Assessment, Community Placement, or Secure Care.

Courtroom Chair

Utah Juvenile Court

The Utah Juvenile Court has exclusive jurisdiction over youth, up to 18 years of age, who violate any federal, state or municipal law, and any youth who is abused, neglected or dependent.

Juvenile Competency Curriculum Guide

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Special Education

Students with disabilities in state custody should continue to receive special education and related services. If caseworkers or out-of-home caregivers have concerns about the educational performance of a student in state care, they should initiate a request for an initial special education evaluation to the school administrator.

Referral Requirements

Parental Issues

Children 0-5 Years 

Addressing Needs 



Youth in Custody Programs

The Utah Youth in Custody Program provides education to children in the custody of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), Division of Juvenile Justice (JJS), or in a juvenile detention facility.

The funding is appropriated to individual school districts that provide education programs for youth from kindergarten to 12th grade. For more information about the YIC program, please visit the Utah State Office’s Website on Youth in Custody.

No. School districts or charter schools must apply for YIC funds and the funds are allocated based on the number of YIC students in the district. School districts or charter schools may subcontract with local non-district educational service providers for the provision of educational services.

There is a continuum of educational placements available to children in care. Appropriate placements are tailored to the needs of the child. School districts provide teachers in secure and residential treatment settings, as well as in mainstream school settings. Districts also provide mentors, who make sure students in care don’t fall through the cracks.

Click Here to see list of YIC programs, contact names, numbers, and locations.

It depends on the type of placement. If DCFS has custody of a child placed in a preliminary placement or in the home of a kinship caregiver who is a licensed foster parent, the children are eligible for Youth in Custody education services.

Important Info
A child placed with a kinship caregiver who has legal custody of the child is not eligible for participation in YIC programs.

Important Info
If the school is unsure whether the child is eligible to participate in YIC programs, they should contact the caseworker. If the child is initially eligible to participate in YIC programs, the caseworker should keep educational staff informed of changes in the custody status of the child.
The Utah Juvenile Court, Utah State Office of Education and the Department of Human Services are committed to ensuring that the educational needs of youth in care are met. In 2014, all three agencies committed formally to this process by signing an information sharing agreement. Click here for a copy of the Memorandum of Understand between these agencies.


When a child in state custody must transfer to a different school, the caseworker contacts the YIC program in the receiving district (if one exists) and fills out necessary forms, including fee waivers.

The receiving school has the responsibility to request educational records, including special education records, from the former school within 5 days. It is important that special education records are specifically requested for students to ensure that students with disabilities are identified and served as per their IEP. If not specifically requested, special education records may not be transmitted to the receiving school as they are generally kept in a separate location than other general education records.

Yes. If a child can safely remain in their home school, caseworkers should make every effort to keep them there.

The DCFS Child and Family Team determines whether the child would be in danger if the child remains at the school of origin, or if the school can provide adequate safety measures to protect the child. Caseworkers may consider “no contact” or “protective” orders against the parent or caregiver from which the child was removed.

Ideally, if transportation and other issues can be addressed, a child should remain in their home school in order to allow consistency in their education.

If a foster child is enrolled in school and it becomes necessary for the child to move to a new foster home (outside school boundaries) during the course of the school year, the child should be allowed to remain at the school they were attending.

Prior to removing a child from their school, caseworkers should coordinate with the school to assess what impact moving schools will have on the child. Caseworkers should make every effort to cause the least disruption with the child’s education (e.g., waiting until the end of a semester or year to move a child from the school).

The school should be aware that although a child is removed from their home, the child is not required to withdraw from their home school, even if they are placed in a living situation outside the boundaries of the school or district.

  • The student must be accompanied by a parent or guardian (proof required).
  • A completed and signed copy of the YIC/DHS Intake Form (only for YIC school districts).
  • Student birth certificate.
  • Student immunization record.
  • Student Educational Program (SEP)/Student Educational Occupational Plan (SEOP).
  • Name and location of the most recent school attended.
  • All pertinent educational records, including:
    • Transcripts
    • Psychological profiles
    • Special education records, including:
      • Eligibility Determination and Evaluation Summary Report
      • Individual Education Program (IEP)
      • Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)
      • Consent for Initial Placement

Children awaiting foster care placement (eligible for McKinney-Vento) must be immediately enrolled in school even if they lack the records normally required for enrollment.

This list above represents common criteria required at intake. If you have further questions about what is required to enroll a child in school, contact the school registrar.

If a school district determines a child is a threat of harm to themselves or others, they may place them in a school placement referred to as Home and Hospital. This means the child receives face to face instruction which is limited to a few hours per week. The child remains on home and hospital until the school district determines an appropriate educational school placement.

If the child has an IEP; however, the new school district, in consultation with the parents (i.e., someone who meets the IDEA definition of a parent) is required to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to the student including services comparable to those in the IEP, until the new school district adopts the IEP or develops and implements a new IEP.

These placements include:

  • Traditional mainstream classrooms, possibly with mentoring support.
  • Self-contained Youth in Custody classrooms, where the child receives instruction tailored to their needs and educational progress.
  • Residential treatment center or group home setting.
  • Home and Hospital (see description above).

Placement, for students with disabilities eligible under IDEA, is determined by the IEP team, based on the student’s IEP, rather than the YIC program. There is a continuum of placements for students with disabilities in addition to those described above including regular classes, regular classes with supplementary special education and related services, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions.

Yes. Children who are awaiting foster care placement are considered homeless and eligible for McKinney-Vento services. This includes children in short-term, shelter facilities or homes. Children who are already in foster care, on the other hand, are not considered homeless.

Under McKinney Vento, local education agencies must comply with the following provisions:

1) Homeless student may not be segregated in a school or in a separate program within a school, based on the child’s status as homeless.

2) The state and its local educational agencies must adopt policies and practices to ensure transportation is provided, at the request of the parent or guardian (or in the case of the unaccompanied child, the liaison) to and from the school of origin.

3) An educational agency must immediately enroll a homeless child in the school in which enrollment is sought, even if the child is unable to produce the records normally required for enrollment.

4) School placement decisions must be made on the basis of the best interest of the child including keeping the child in their school of origin.

5) Every educational agency must designate a local liaison for homeless children.

Who’s Who?

Caseworkers should work with the Child and Family Team, as well as the school, to determine where child will go to school and ensure the child is receiving adequate educational services.

A youth in care may enroll in any charter or public school in any school district, including a district where the youth does not reside if enrollment is necessary as determined by DCFS (Utah Code 53A-2-207-12).

Caseworkers should seek to keep the child in their home school when possible. When a child needs to change schools, the decision regarding the child’s educational placement depends on the type of out-of-home placement and the receiving school district.

  • School districts with YIC programs: The caseworker is required to contact the YIC coordinator for the district. The caseworker must complete the required intake forms for the YIC program.
  • School districts without YIC programs: The caseworker must contact the individual school and complete required enrollment forms and coordinate with school personnel to refer the child to the appropriate school principal or staff member for assessment of educational needs.
  • Children with disabilities: For a child with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), placement is determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Both the caseworker and the out-of-home caregiver should be invited to parent/teacher conferences, IEP meetings, special education meetings, disciplinary hearings, etc. and should attend these types of school functions to ensure they are appropriately informed on the educational needs of the child.

If both the caseworker and caregiver cannot be accommodated, educators should meet with the out-of-home caregiver, since they are responsible for ensuring the child’s attendance and helping with their schoolwork. Educators should not assume the out-of-home caregiver will pass information to the caseworker.

Educators should check with caseworkers prior to making educational decisions for the child. For example, caseworkers should be included in discussions on changes to the IEP or if educators are considering placing the child in a new classroom. Educators, foster parents, and caseworkers should work together to decide what will be best for the child.

It may also be useful to invite other individuals involved in the case to attend school functions. If no court orders prohibit the parent/guardian from attending and if there are no safety concerns, they should be included in any school functions that discuss the child’s academic progress.

DCFS/JJS Representative: As the legal custodian and/or guardian of the child, DCFS/JJS has the right to educational records and information regarding the child while the child is in state custody.

Out-of-Home Caregiver: As the daily caregiver of the child and a designee of DCFS/JJS, the out-of-home caregiver may have access to the child’s educational records while the child is in their home. The out-of-home caregiver is responsible for ensuring the child’s school attendance and helping with their schoolwork.

If there is a question regarding the out-of-home caregiver’s right to access the educational records of a child in their care, the school should contact the caseworker to coordinate a release of the record to the out-of-home caregiver.

Parent/Guardian: If a child is in the care of the state of Utah, the parent/guardian should be treated as a non-custodial parent. This means under Family Educational Rights and Privacy (FERPA) laws, a parent/guardian has a right to review the educational record unless a school is presented with a court order that precludes the parent from accessing the student’s records and states that parental rights have terminated.

If the parent/guardian requests the school provide them with the educational record, the school must comply with FERPA requirements. The school should coordinate with the caseworker prior to providing the records in order to determine whether a court order exists that limits the parent/guardian from access to the school record. If a court order exists, the caseworker should provide a copy of the court order to the school.

For students accessing special education services, the caseworker should be included as a participant in all meetings, but may not sign as a parent. The biological parent may still sign in many cases. When that is not possible or appropriate, the out-of-home caregiver serves as the parent, unless an educational surrogate parent is assigned (if no foster parent is available). Unless parental rights are terminated or if a judge has made a specific order denying the parent access to educational records, the parent/ guardian has the right to consent to evaluation and placement, and attend eligibility, IEP, and placement meetings as well as access special education records.

For Special Education purposes, when an educational surrogate parent is assigned by the School District to represent the child and sign as the parent on an IEP, they should be considered a member of the Child and Family Team and treated as such. The caseworker should have the educational surrogate parent sign the confidentiality agreement that is used when sharing information with any member of the Child and Family Team, and should share any information that would be pertinent to the educational surrogate parent in assisting them to make appropriate educational decisions for the child.

When a JJS case manager or a DCFS caseworker contacts the school for information, the school should request that the person seeking information provide verification of their identity prior to providing them with any information. Each caseworker has a state-issued identification they can provide upon request.

When the identification of a caseworker has been verified, the school should provide the information requested in a timely manner. The school should treat DCFS/JJS agents as they would any other custodial parent.

Both the out-of-home caregiver and the caseworker need to be informed if there are concerns that arise regarding the child’s behavior and attendance.

For concerns that require a meeting with school administration, both the caseworker and out-of-home caregiver should be informed of the meeting and be invited to attend.

It is essential that the school communicate with both the caseworker and the out-of-home caregiver so both are aware of the concerns.

If an emergency situation arises during school hours and the school needs an immediate response, the school should first attempt to contact the out-of-home caregiver. As soon as possible after the emergency situation has been remedied, both the school and the out-of-home caregiver should contact the caseworker and inform them of the nature of the situation and emergency.

Any educational concerns should be discussed during a DCFS Child and Family Team Meeting so team members may assist in making an assessment of the child’s needs and any critical decisions to remedy behavior and attendance problems.

Educational staff may also contact the caseworker and request assistance in convening a DCFS Child and Family Team meeting at any time. The caseworker will coordinate with team members and make any necessary arrangements for the DCFS Child and Family Team meeting.

The school should first contact the out-of-home caregiver. As soon as possible, the caseworker should also be contacted.


Educational staff have an obligation to keep a student’s status confidential.

DCFS and JJS have strict guidelines that must be followed in order to protect the confidentiality of the children and families served. The requirements on confidentiality fall under the Government Records and Access Management Act (GRAMA). DCFS and JJS are restricted from sharing any information, including names and photos, which would allow others to identify the child and family as clients.

As a partner agency that serves children in the care of DCFS or JJS, educational staff have an obligation to keep a student’s status as a “youth in custody” confidential to the extent possible and should implement procedures that allow them to do so. The information should only be shared on a “need to know” basis. For example, students should not be referred to as a “foster child” or “in state custody,” especially around other school staff or students.

If a YIC staff member or a caseworker needs to meet with a child, special care should be taken to be discreet on how it is presented publicly.

Where possible, the child should be allowed to function as an ordinary student in the school setting.

If a child is absent due to a custody related activity, the absence should be treated as any other excused absence (e.g. court hearings).

The Utah State Board of Education and school districts offer a myriad of services to students in need of credit recovery. Services include the Electronic High School, summer and after-school direct instruction programs, computer-based credit recovery, and independent study packets.

Post-secondary educational services are available for children who have been in foster care, and in some cases, children who have been adopted from foster care after the age of 13. There are specific criteria in order to qualify for funding. More information is available at the Just for Youth website

If you want more information regarding the program, how much funding may be available, or the criteria to qualify, please contact the relevant agency:

  • Educational Training Vouchers (ETV) – Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS).
  • Federal Pell Grants – Post-Secondary Educational agency (college, university, etc.)
  • After-care Funds – Local DCFS office, Transition to Adult Living (TAL) coordinators for the region.
  • Workforce Initiative Act (WIA) funds – Utah Department of Workforce Services.
  • Scholarships for Foster Care Children – Several universities around Utah have made scholarships available for Children who are in foster care or emancipated from foster care. Contact the college or university for more details.

Yes! Children in custody can and should participate in extracurricular activities.

  • Obtain approval: Requests for the child to participate in extracurricular activities should be directed to the caseworker and the Child and Family Team.
  • Fees: Most fees required by the school for these activities should be waived.
Important Info
If you have questions about a specific fee, consult the State Coordinator for the Youth in Custody program at the State Office of Education. Travis Cook (801) 538-7711
Important Info
If there is a fee that is not covered by the fee waiver or if the activity is not a school-related activity, the DCFS Child and Family Team will discuss the situation and come up with a plan for how to cover the fee.

Yes. Fees for school lunch should be waived for children in state care.

Title VII programs are provided for Indian children in the public school system, including children in the custody of the state. The specifics of Title VII programs vary, each school district determines how they want to administer and provide Title VII programs. Anyone interested in accessing Title VII programs should contact the school district and inquire if the district provides Title VII programs and how they can be accessed.

Special Education

At any time during the child’s placement, if the DCFS Child and Family Team, JJS, or the parent has reason to suspect that the child may have a disability requiring special education services, a request for an evaluation may be initiated to determine eligibility under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). DCFS/JJS are committed to ensuring that children obtain an education adequate to their needs and abilities. The caseworker is responsible for communicating with the school and tracking the child’s educational performance.

If caseworkers or out-of-home caregivers have concerns about the educational performance of a student in state care, they should initiate a request for an initial special education evaluation to the school administrator.

Students with disabilities in state custody should continue to receive special education and related services according to their current IEP regardless of where they are placed by DCFS or JJS.

Special education records must be requested, reviewed, and transferred with the student, both when they enter and leave state care to ensure continuity of educational services and the provision of a free, appropriate public education.

The IEP must be reviewed and revised at least annually and address the student’s educational needs. An IEP team determines the appropriate placement for the student.

If the child has an IEP, the new school district, in consultation with the parents (i.e., someone who meets the IDEA definition of a parent) must provide services comparable to those in the IEP, until the new school district adopts the IEP or develops and implements a new IEP.

Special education records are generally maintained separately from other educational records. Unless specifically requested, special education records may not be transferred with other educational records. Caseworkers and receiving schools/programs should routinely request special education records for students, to ensure that they are not missed during records transfers. Students placed in YIC programs still retain the right to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under IDEA and should receive special education and related services as per a current IEP.

Early intervention services (e.g., Utah Department of Health, Baby Watch) are available for children ages birth to three. The IDEA requires that by age three, children who are eligible under IDEA have an IEP developed and implemented by the school district.

Children in care can also access Headstart and Early Head Start programs if necessary. Head Start is a federally funded preschool program targeting children in low-income families to help prepare them for school; however, children in care, regardless of income, are eligible.

The IDEA defines a “parent” to include:

  • A biological, adoptive, or foster parent of a child
  • A guardian (but not the state if the child is in state care)
  • An individual acting in the place of a biological or adoptive parent (including a grandparent, stepparent, or other relative) with whom the child lives, or an individual who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare
  • An individual assigned to be an educational surrogate parent

For students requiring special education services, someone who meets the definition of a parent (e.g., biological or foster parent) or an educational surrogate parent appointed by the school district must serve as the parent regarding educational decisions. The biological or adoptive parent, when attempting to act as the parent and when more than one person is qualified to act as the parent, must be presumed to be the parent unless the parent does not have the legal authority to make educational decisions for the student. Parents, if not able to attend meetings in person, may participate using alternate means, including conference calls and video conferencing.

While a judge may assign an educational surrogate parent, a judge may not assign an employee of the school district or an employee of a state agency involved in the education and care of the student to serve as the educational surrogate parent. It is the school district’s responsibility to protect the rights of the student with a disability who is in state care and assign an educational surrogate parent when needed. An educational surrogate parent has all the rights and responsibilities of a parent under IDEA.

Under federal law (IDEA), the caseworker may not sign as the parent for special education decisions such as consent for evaluation and initial placement, participation during evaluation, eligibility determination, IEP development, and placement review. However, the caseworker should also be involved in meetings, but should sign as a participant and not as the parent. Both the out-of-home caregiver and the caseworker should be provided with copies of educational records.