Foster Care Children Eligible for Free Lunch

From Howard Davidson at the ABA:

“I wanted my colleagues to know about an important provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-296), enacted on 12/13/10. The Act, in Section 102, amends a key provision of the National School Lunch Act (42 USC 1758) to make any foster child categorically eligible, without the necessity of an application, for free school meals if their “care and placement is the responsibility (of an agency that administers a state IV-B or IV-E plan)” or if a “court has placed (the child) with a caretaker household”.

In a 1/31/11 guidance letter issued to child nutrition program directors across the country by Cynthia Long, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (DOA) child nutrition division, she indicated that all a local educational agency need receive is documentation from an appropriate state or local child welfare agency indicating that a child is a foster child under state responsibility or has been placed in a caretaker household by a court. These provisions, according to her letter, are effective as of 10/1/10.

As I read the new provisions of the law, in addition to all foster children placed by a child welfare agency being eligible (regardless of whether they are IV-E qualified), a child placed by a court into a kinship home or other “caretaker” household would also be eligible.

Ms. Long urges school systems to implement this as soon as possible, and not to wait until the next school year. DOA will be providing “prototype applications” for foster/kinship children, and supporting materials, to all state child nutrition programs in the near future, and they are working with HHS to notify state child welfare agencies of this legal development. Ms. Long’s letter also urges the nutrition directors to reach out to their child welfare agencies to develop or strengthen communications that will help facilitate local implementation.

Thanks to the First Lady (who powerfully advocated for Congress to pass this law before it adjourned), we have a new area of support – free nutritional food access at school for foster and kinship care children – that should now be the focus of attention of children’s attorneys, guardians ad litem, court appointed special advocates, and judges. At court hearings, the issue of whether children are actually accessing these free meals should be raised. A result should be an important step towards improving the well-being of abused and neglected children.

My colleagues here at the Center will stay on top of the implementation of this new law.”

-Howard Davidson
Director & Acting Director, Commission on Youth at Risk
ABA Center on Children and the Law

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