Represent!

Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Rep. Karen Bass promotes new law to help foster kids stay in school

Congresswoman Karen Bass of Los Angeles is behind a law that will allow social workers access to  education records of foster children.
Congresswoman Karen Bass of Los Angeles is behind a law that will allow social workers access to education records of foster children. Kitty Felde/ KPCC

One of the bills awaiting President Obama’s signature makes an important change to the laws that govern children in foster care. Democrat Congresswoman Karen Bass of Los Angeles championed the measure.

Bass co-founded the Caucus on Foster Care Youth when she arrived on Capitol Hill two years ago.

The first piece of legislation from the caucus seems minor, but Bass says it has big consequences. It allows a social worker access to a young person’s educational record. Bass says the original restrictions in the federal education code were designed to protect a child’s privacy.

"The problem," says Bass, "is that the average youth in the foster care system attends three-to-five high schools. And what winds up happening [to] kids, if they’re transferred and transferred, they wind up repeating course after course after course." Bass says when you do that to a 14- or 15-year-old, they stop going to school.

Bass says the idea for the legislation emerged from a nationwide listening tour, in which foster kids and social workers weighed in on steps Congress could take to improve the nation’s foster care system. That listening tour continues through this year. 

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