In late 2017, the Special Education Workgroup of the Children’s Commission’s Foster Care and Education Committee designated as a top priority the educational needs of students placed in Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs) while under the conservatorship of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. On April 18, 2018, the Children’s Commission convened a round table meeting to focus on this issue. Stakeholders representing RTCs, Child Placing Agencies, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Child Protective Services, Texas Education Agency, school districts, charter schools, as well as the legal and judicial community each provided a unique perspective on the current state of education for students placed in RTCs, with a particular focus on special education.
It is clear from the round table discussion that there is no one size fits all approach for students residing in RTCs. Some students placed in RTCs attend the local school through the nearby district. Others attend on campus charter schools. Students with disabilities in need of special education can receive services through a school district or charter school. Other students may access the general curriculum without additional supports.
The primary goal of the round table discussion centered on how the child welfare and education systems can improve coordination and communication regardless of where or how the student attends school. This includes developing a plan to address education, providing special education in the least restrictive environment, designating education decision-makers, and planning for school transitions.
The report includes information about system strengths and promising practices. The primary recommendation in the report is for the Special Education Workgroup, with the assistance of other experts as needed, to develop a resource, guide, or training on the education of students placed in RTCs. Other recommendations include identifying training opportunities for lawyers and judges to clarify the education decision-maker and surrogate parent roles as well as updating an existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) between state agencies.