Answer: If the child welfare system still has custody, then the student falls under ESSA’s Title I foster care provisions. The child welfare agency or the court may place the child with a family member on a trial basis, or even longer-term, but still keep the case open. If that is the situation, then ESSA still applies. It doesn’t matter if the child is with a foster family, relative, group home, etc. If the child welfare agency has placement and care responsibility, ESSA applies. Here is the legal definition of “in foster care”:
Under the Fostering Connections Act, “foster care” means 24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians and for whom the child welfare agency has placement and care responsibility. This includes, but is not limited to, placements in foster family homes, foster homes of relatives, group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, child care institutions, and preadoptive homes. A child is in foster care in accordance with this definition regardless of whether the foster care facility is licensed and payments are made by the State, Tribal or local agency for the care of the child, whether adoption subsidy payments are being made prior to the finalization of an adoption, or whether there is Federal matching of any payments that are made. (45 C.F.R. §1355.20(a)).
If the court places the child with a family member and closes the case, so the child welfare system no longer is overseeing the placement, then the child no longer is in foster care. At that point, the child could be covered by the McKinney-Vento Act if the family member is living in a homeless situation. This publication provides some more information that might be helpful.