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Public School Residency of Children In Kinship Care In Virginia

SchoolAs the summer begins to wind down, parents and children across Virginia are already beginning to prepare for the upcoming school year. For fortunate families this simply means buying school supplies and school clothes. But for some Virginia children, the new school year means a new home, away from their parents, living temporarily with an adult relative. Under a new law that went into effect this year in Virginia, those children can now more easily attend public school at their new homes.

Virginia Code § 22.1-3 provides that public schools in each school division are to be free to school aged children who reside within the division. Prior to July 1, 2013, a child was said to reside in a division for these purposes only if:

  • The child lived with a parent (natural or adoptive) in the school division;
  • The child was from a military family, and was living with a non-custodial parent or other person standing in loco parentis, pursuant to a Special Power of Attorney, in the division;
  • The child’s parents were deceased and the child was living with a person in loco parentis with someone who resided in the division;
  • The child’s parents were living but unable to care for the child, resulting in the child living with a person in the division (a) who had been granted guardianship or legal custody of the child pursuant to a court order or (b) with whom the child had been placed by an agency for adoption;
  • The child lived in the division as an emancipated minor; or
  • The child was homeless and living in the division.

Often times, when parents are temporarily unable to care for their children, they will decide to voluntarily place them with family members. However, for school-aged children, under the law prior to July 1st of this year, such an arrangement would present issues when it was time to enroll them in school. Under the limited language of Virginia Code § 22.1-3 (above), voluntary placement of a child with a relative did not allow the child to attend public school in the relative’s division, unless there was a court order granting the family member custody or guardianship, or an agency had placed the child with the family member for adoption.

This often presented parents with the terrible dilemma of having to essentially choose between (a) turning the child over to the court system or even giving the child up for adoption, or (b) keeping the child when they were unable to care for them.

However, under the change in the law that went into effect on July 1st, parents who find themselves in such predicaments do not have to make such a decision. The change in the law stems from SB 960, legislation that amended the Virginia Code to allow children who are placed with an adult relative to attend school in the relative’s division, without a custody or guardianship order or placement for adoption, under what is called a “temporary kinship care” arrangement.

Requirements of Kinship Care Arrangements

Under the new law, a school division may require one or both parents and the relative providing kinship care to submit signed, notarized affidavits (a) explaining why the parents are unable to care for the child, (b) detailing the kinship care arrangement, and (c) agreeing that one of the parents or the adult relative will notify the school within 30 days of when the kinship care arrangement ends. The school division may also require a power of attorney authorizing the adult relative to make educational decisions regarding the child.

The school division may also require a parent or kinship care provider to obtain written verification from the department of social services where the parent or parents live, or from both that department and the department of social services where the adult relative lives, that the kinship arrangement serves a legitimate purpose that is in the best interest of the child other than school enrollment.

Finally, if the kinship care arrangement lasts more than one year, the school division may require continued verification directly from one or both departments of social services as to why the parents are unable to care for the child and that the kinship care arrangement serves a legitimate purpose other than school enrollment.

This important legislation went into effect on July 1 of this year and will be in effect until June 30, 2016.