The Answer Book: Education rights for youth in foster care

You have the right to stay in school and graduate.

Table of Contents

Do I have the right to attend school?

Yes! Your right to go to school lasts until your 22nd birthday or until you get a high school diploma, whichever comes first. You should be able to remain in your school even if you move to a different town when you go into foster care or move to a new home. If you have to change schools, you have the right to enroll and start classes immediately.

Do I have the right to stay in my own schools if I change homes?

If someone tells you that you cannot go to school, or tells you that you must change schools, talk to your foster parent and/or contact your social worker, your lawyer or the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts at 1-888-KIDLAWS. Talk to your social worker and lawyer about getting permission from DCF and your school to stay in your school and about whether transportation can be arranged to get you safely to and from school.

On the other hand, if you move towns and you want to change schools, you may be able to do that, too. Either way be sure to speak up about where you want to go to school.

What if my school suspends me or tries to expel me?

If your school keeps you out of school for a day or more (suspends you) or tries to keep you out of school permanently (expels you), immediately contact your social worker, lawyer, or the Children’s Law Center (1-888-543-5298). They may be able to work things out so you can stay at that school and not miss classes or important exams. Also let the judge know. The judge will want to make sure you stay in school and graduate.

Can I get help to make sure I graduate from high school?

If you are behind in classes, talk to your social worker, foster parent, teacher, and guidance counselor.You may be able to get outside help or a tutor.

Your teacher, parent, caregiver or social worker (or YOU if you are 18 or older) can request a special education evaluation. If the testing determines you have special learning needs, you will be able to have an Individual Education Program (IEP) written for you stating all the services you will receive to help you succeed in school.

Who can help me prepare for MCAS?

MCAS stands for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. It is a test that all students take. If you are worried that you are not going to pass MCAS, contact the school guidance counselor. Your school may be able to give you the extra help you need or your counselor may know about other ways to get help outside of the school. If you have not done well on the MCAS, the school is required to offer you help. Make sure your social worker assists you in getting this help if the school does not offer help to you.

If you passed all your high school course requirements, but have not passed the MCAS, you do NOT need to keep going to high school in order to get your diploma. You can simply retake the MCAS in order to meet that requirement for a high school diploma. Contact your local One Stop Career Center to set up an appointment and learn about the options. A list of the sites can be found at Through these centers, you can be set up with tutoring at a local community college. After tutoring, you go back to your high school to take the test. The retake dates are usually in November and March. If you pass, you will be eligible to receive your diploma from your high school!

You can also look up MCAS information on the Internet:

Check out this website from the Department of Education. It has practice tests, answer keys, student work examples, and information about the MCAS graduation requirements. – All Free!

How can I get my GED (now called HISET)?

If you leave school without graduating and want to earn your GED, now called HiSET (High School Equivalency Test), you need to meet the requirements for taking the exams and then pass exams that cover 5 subject areas. Call the Massachusetts Adult Literacy Hotline at 1-800-447-8844 to find HiSET preparation programs near where you live or see

For exam requirements, visit

For comparison of HISET and GED go to:

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