Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) commemorated President Obama's signing of the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (S.3472). The Uninterrupted Scholars Act is bipartisan legislation that Hastings co-sponsored, which amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to grant a child welfare agency direct and unencumbered access to the academic records of young people in their care, while respecting the child's right to privacy.
"As a member of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, I applaud the President for signing the Uninterrupted Scholars Act into law," Hastings said. "I co-sponsored the Act because it will provide critical educational support to the more than 424,000 young people in foster care today.
"Foster youth and their child welfare agencies should not encounter issues accessing the student's own educational records. Specifically, restricted access to records such as transcripts and report cards makes it harder for caseworkers to ascertain what is in the best interest of the student. This widens the academic achievement gap between the child and their classmates by contributing to inappropriate school placements, enrollment delays, lost credits, and drop-outs.
"Foster youth are one of the most at-risk groups of all student populations. Currently, fewer than 3 percent of young people in foster care who graduate from high school will earn a college degree by the age of 25. S.3472 will create more opportunities for academic success for students in foster care, bridging that gap between them and their peers."
The Uninterrupted Scholars Act was proposed in response to a field visit to Florida by the Caucus in March, 2012. As part of a National Listening Tour, the Caucus participated in a series of site visits and roundtable discussions with service providers, local politicians, and representatives of foster youth driven advocacy groups in Florida's 20th Congressional District.
"The Tour shed much needed light on the everyday challenges faced by foster youth, particularly in Broward County. I was proud to draw well-deserved attention to the members of our community who work tirelessly to give young people in foster care a voice and fight for a better child welfare system.
"For many foster youth, the child welfare system is all they have. The difficulties they confront are exacerbated when that system fails them. Signing the Uninterrupted Scholars Act dismantles one of the obstacles preventing them from achieving their dreams and aspirations, which is in everyone's best interest."
S.3472 was passed by the 113th Congress on January 3.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.