Center Celebrates Its Huge Legislative Successes!
Four New Laws Protect Most Vulnerable Children and Youth
The Center’s enormous legislative successes this year saw passage of four significant initiatives for children and youth critically in need of support.
Raise the Grade – Close the Educational Achievement Gap for Children in State Care
Public Act 13-234, Sections 124-125
What this legislation does: Requires state agencies to share, track and report academic progress of children in state care. A Raise the Grade pilot program in three districts will identify children who perform substantially below grade level, and ensure assistance to improve academic performance.
Why it is important: Many of the thousands of children in foster care or under juvenile justice supervision have experienced abuse, neglect and abandonment. They have high rates of absenteeism, academic failure, special education needs, and disciplinary infractions. School records may not have followed them from one placement to another.
Why it makes sense
: Connecticut has not tracked or published data on the academic performance of these children. The new law requires that every child’s case file include updated information on academic progress, absenteeism and disciplinary actions; and requires DCF and CSSD to report on plans to ensure that all children receive an appropriate education.
Alternative School Reform – Quality Education for High-Risk Students
What this legislation does: Secures state evaluation of all alternative education programs to ensure uniform quality statewide.
Why it is important: Students who attend alternative programs are a high-need, high-risk group, yet the state has no set standards for education or support. The simplest information – how many programs exist, how many students are served – is unknown.
Why it makes sense: Lack of oversight has created a vast disparity in the quality of alternative school programs. Some have dedicated teachers who engage and educate struggling students; others offer a dismal educational experience. The evaluation will help establish a minimum standard to assure that high-risk students have the opportunity to be properly educated.
Developmental Screening for Abused and Neglected Infants and Toddlers
Public Act 13-234, Section 156
What this legislation does: Ensures that every abused and neglected infant or toddler will be regularly screened for developmental and social-emotional delays, and referred to the state’s early intervention program as indicated.
Why it is important: Abused and neglected infants and toddlers are at significant risk of developmental delay and impairment. Of children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, 50% may have significant communication and cognitive delays. Only 5 to 8 percent receive early intervention services.
Why it makes sense: Universal screening and referral is a low-cost, high-impact reform. Federal law requires states to screen all abused and neglected children for eligibility for Birth-to-Three, a family-strengthening model that provides in-home services at no additional cost to DCF. The new law ensures that abused and neglected children are also screened for delays and referred for early intervention that can dramatically decrease the need for services later in life.
Homeless Youth – Access to Birth Certificates for Schooling and Employment
Public Act 13-142
What this legislation does: Allows homeless youth over age fifteen to get a copy of their own birth certificate with help from a school homeless liaison or a shelter provider – without a parent’s or guardian’s consent.
Why it is important: There are hundreds of homeless teens in Connecticut who want to enroll in school, get a job, or sign up for a job training program. They have been unable to secure the documents they need to enroll or submit an application.
Why it makes sense: Teens who are on their own must be able to act to secure their own future. To protect youth from identity theft, requirements for providing proper identification remain in place.