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Relative Caregivers Rock!: Kinship Discussion at Center in the Park!

Posted: December 13, 2012

The “Center in the Park” on Germantown Avenue was brimming with questions and answers on a recent evening on October 18th, as panelists from the Education Law Center, Parent Power, and the Philadelphia School District addressed the ABC’s of “Standing Up for Your Child in School for Kinship Caregivers in Philadelphia”.

by Brenda Rich at Turning Points for Children, Philadelphia, PA

After some welcoming remarks from Senator Anthony H Williams’ office, Senator Shirley Kitchen, Lynn Harris, Executive Director of Center in the Park, and from Jack Luke representing Turning Points for Children, the program began with presentations from three expert panelists:

Hallam Roth of the Education Law Center provided the following information regarding school enrollment. A relative or family friend that is taking care of a child has the right to enroll that child in their school district. This is true even if the caregiver does not have legal guardianship as long as the caregiver provides the following documentation:

For all Students:

  • Proof of age of the child (For example: birth certificate, notarized statement by the parent, or a prior school record indicating the date of birth are all acceptable.)
  • Immunization records (Documentation can be in written form from the child’s doctor’s office or previous school; or can be confirmed verbally by the child’s doctor’s office or previous school, with written records to follow.)
  • Proof of residency (Examples: a deed, a lease, current utility bill, current credit card bill, property tax bill, vehicle registration, driver’s license, DOT identification card.  Districts can require more than one form of documentation, but they should be flexible and consider your family’s situation.)
  • Discipline Statement (Sworn statement from the person enrolling the student attesting to whether the student has been or is suspended or expelled for offenses involving drugs, alcohol, weapons, infliction of injury or violence on school property. The student cannot be denied enrollment because of an incident that happened in a different school district or in a charter school.)
  • Home Language Survey (more information )

Additional Requirement for Students Living with a Resident Adult other than a Parent:

If you are supporting a child but do not have legal custody or guardianship, you must also provide EITHER:

  • A sworn "1302" Statement that you are not receiving personal compensation for caring the child (TANF, SSI, etc. are okay), that you will be responsible for the child, and that the child is living with you year-round (not just during the school year). For details on what a district may request to substantiate the sworn statement, see these Guidelines;
  • OR, if the biological parent/legal guardian of the child is involved, willing, and able to sign, another option is the Delegation of Parental Responsibility form.

NOTE:  A school may ask for, but not require, additional documentation as a condition of enrollment. Children should be enrolled and admitted to school within 5 days of providing the information above.  For more details on enrollment requirements, including documentation that schools can NEVER require for enrollment, see the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Basic Education Circular on Enrollment.  If the child you are caring for is denied enrollment, or if you cannot access this information on the internet, call ELC at 215-238-6970.

Regarding a child with special education needs, she also said that a parent who has questions or concerns can always request an IEP meeting or evaluation. At the IEP meeting a parent can ask for particular services or supports, or ask the IEP team for suggestions to improve their child’s education plan. If the school says they cannot or will not provide something for the child, ask for a written explanation of their refusal (this is often called a “NOREP”). Remember: If a parent disagrees with a school’s decision regarding special education or does not think their child is getting what they need to make progress in school, they can request an IEP meeting, mediation, or a due process hearing at any time. For more information about these rights, see ELC’s Parent Guide to the Right to Special Education in PA

For additional information about the educational rights of children in Pennsylvania, check out the Education Law Center website.

Sylvia Simms formed “Parent Power” three years ago when she noticed that parents were not engaged with the schools. Children do better when parents are engaged. She noted that Title 1 funding stipulates that 1% of funds to the schools are to go to parent engagement. Parent Power aims to help children and families learn how to form relationships with school personnel.

Claudia Avarette, with the Philadelphia School District, encouraged involvement with the School Advisory Committee (SAC), which produces strong parental/family engagement. [A School Advisory Council (SAC) is a forum for exchanging ideas about how to improve student achievement among a school's stakeholders: principal, teachers, school staff, parents, students and community members. SACs provide the overall leadership structure at over 75 schools in Philadelphia.] She also promoted “Parent University” in partnership with Peirce and Harcum College. Parent University assists parents in supporting their children to achieve academic success, by providing opportunities for them to collaborate with schools and the District to fully participate in their child's education. The curriculum design accelerates student and parent learning outcomes and strengthens parenting skills and knowledge.

The Parent University
is free to parents who have students in the Philadelphia School District. It provides:

  • Classes and workshops for parents
  • Family Literacy, Financial Literacy, Health/Wellness & Cultural Enrichment
  • Information on the School District of Philadelphia and community resources that are available to parents and their children
  • Multi-lingual programs
  • Certificates, professional certification and college degree attainment

Classes and workshops are conducted at the Education Center, located at 440 N. Broad Street and other sites across the city. 

Internet Essentials program: In an attempt to help bridge the digital divide, cable giant Comcast has partnered with the School District of Philadelphia to launch a new program to bring low-cost broadband Internet service to Philadelphia families. Families who are eligible for a free lunch under the National School Lunch program are eligible to apply for the Internet Essentials program. If approved, families will be provided with broadband Internet access for $9.95 plus tax a month, incur no price increases, activation, equipment or rental fees, and receive a voucher for the purchase of a Dell or Acer computer for $149.99. For more information.

The evening ended with an informal support group of caregivers who gathered with Kinship Committee Member Jen Russell, attorney with the Senior Law Center for a more intimate opportunity for questions and answers.

Representatives of the Kinship Care Committee who were present this evening were:
Marlene Henkin (Senator Anthony H Williams’ Director of Operations); Timika Lane, (Chief Counsel for Senator Anthony H Williams); Lynn Harris (Executive Director at Center in the Park); Marie Marthol-Clark (Health Promotion Coordinator at the Center in the Park); Jean Hackney, (Vice-President of Grands As Parents); Chartan Nelson (Executive Director of Grand Central, Inc); Jen Russell (Attorney at the Senior Law Center); Hallam Roth (Attorney with the Senior Law Center); Joy Woods Jones (Coordinator at Temple University’s Intergenerational Center); Alysia Williams (Coordinator of Temple University’s Family Friends respite program); Arlene Segal (Support Group facilitator at SOWN); and Brenda Rich (Turning Points for Children).

Thanks to these and other Kinship Care Committee of Philadelphia participants. The Committee was formed two to plan the Helping Hands Conference of 2011.  Since then the Kinship Care Committee has continued to meet and host Kinship Discussions, similar to the one held at the Center in the Park’s event, in communities across Philadelphia. Planning is NOW BEGINNING for the next Kinship Care Conference, in May 2013!  Stay Tuned!