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School Issues and Special Education Advocacy


School Issues and Special Education Advocacy presented by Cheryl Theis Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund IEP Advocacy Essentials The Clock is Ticking – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: School Issues and Special Education Advocacy

School Issues and Special Education Advocacy
presented by Cheryl Theis Disability Rights
Education Defense Fund
Todays Goal Increasing Education Advocacy
Competency for foster parents/Kincaregivers
  • Children in foster care confront significant
    obstacles along their educational journey... Much
    has been written about childhood suffering,
    family disruptions, and systemic obstacles that
    partly explain these compromised outcomes.
    According to the experts, filling the information
    gap is critical for turning around "the perfect
    storm of resulting school failure" and promoting
    school success
  • (The Center for the Future of Teaching and
    Learning, May of 2010)

Barriers to Needed Services
  • Complex laws and regulations make system
    difficult to understand/navigate
  • Lack of access to training or technical
    assistance can result in failure to address
  • Assumptions that someone else will do it
  • Hope that things will resolve on their own or
    over time
  • Fear of labeling
  • Compassion fatiguecaregiver burnout

Foster Youth face unique and daunting challenges
right from the start
  • Children who have consistent, knowledgeable
    advocates are the most likely to receive
    appropriate services and supports.
  • Almost HALF of Foster Children have identified
    special education needs, and 70 are receiving
    some form of mental health care. 45 of young
    children have special medical needs and/or
    developmental delays.
  • Involved, committed parents often struggle to
    navigate special education systems to get needed

Foster Youth with Disabilities face unique and
daunting challenges
  • Foster Youth often have no such advocate.
  • Foster Youth may experience multiple changes in
    placement and support relationships.
  • Problems in school and lack of appropriate
    intervention and support not only impact
    educational success they blow up placement
    and prevent permanency and success for many

What We Know
  • Significant need to
  • Train foster parents, Child Welfare Workers,
    CASAs, Dependency Attorneys and Judges and other
    stakeholders re effective advocacy,
    interventions for children in care
  • Increase interagency collaboration
  • Focus on providing connections and stability over
  • Demystify the process in culturally appropriate,
    outcome focused ways (i.e., help is available,
    AND help makes a difference!)

Risk of Special Educational Needs
  • Trauma of abuse, neglect, being removed from
    caregiver may predispose children to
    social/emotional/behavioral difficulties.
  • Highest rates of abuse and neglect occur in
    infants and toddlers where impact can be
  • 16.1 per 1000 children under age 3
  • High rates of developmental delay in this
  • 23-61 of children known to CW have delays in
    development, communication, behavior skills

Unaddressed Learning Needs Cost Us ALL
  • Disabilities related to emotional functioning,
    attention and impulse control, inability to
    read/succeed academically contribute to social
    problems of teen pregnancy, unemployment,
    homelessness, crime, addiction.
  • 70 of Californias prison inmates were in
    foster care system at some point.
  • 42 have an identified disability.
  • 80 had indication of disability (so only half
    identified in school).
  • Half had no regular employment prior to

High Cost for Missing Needs
  • Children NOT identified as needing early
    intervention and support continue to struggle
  • More likely to - miss developmental milestones
  • -enter school already behind peers
  • -be retained- leave school prematurely, or -
    be subject to expulsion if learning challenges
    manifest in behavior difficulties
  • Greater chance of removal from general
    education/public schools
  • Experience placement/caregiver change due to
    changes in educational placement, disrupting
    connections and permanency

Effect of Multiple Placements
  • Children who experience multiple Foster Care
    placements and who needed Special Education were
    less likely to receive those services than
    children in more stable placements.
  • REMEMBER lack of support at school can DRIVE a
    change in placement at home!

Impact Changes of Placement
  • Numerous placement changes are associated with
  • Problems in childrens ability to form
  • Externalizing internalizing behavior problems
  • Trauma symptoms
  • Academic problems
  • Juvenile justice system (esp. for males)
  • Increased chances of reentering foster care after
  • TIP Put parent training on disability/special
    needs and how to access HELP into adoption,
    reunification/FM case plans!

Key Factors that support Stability of Placement
  • Support and training for foster parent and kin
    care providers
  • Intensive support and behavioral interventions
    for youth with who cannot have their needs met in
    a lower level of care
  • Educational Stability, including developmental of
    an effective IEP or 504 plan where necessary
  • TIP A 504 plan CAN be written for a
    preschooler who needs accomodations in
  • From Foster Care Reentry and Placement
    Stability Outcomes Understanding Californias
    Performance and Practices to Improve Outcomes,
    presented to The Leadership Symposia on
    Evidence-Based Practice in Human Services,
    January 30, 2009, San Diego, CA)

Laws What we need to know
  • There are many laws that protect children
  • We do not have to know them allwe need to know
    where to go for help!
  • Information can be overwhelming, but knowing how
    to navigate system is essential

Key Laws that Protect Education Rights of
Children in Foster Care w/Disabilities
  • IDEA The Individuals with Disabilities
    Education Act
  • Provides for Specialized Education for Children
    with disabilities who require individualization
    of program, early intervention for those under 3.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • Civil Rights/Equal Access law, Applies to any
    program receiving federal funds. Provides for
    equal access to participation in school,
    afterschool, childcare, extracurriculars.

Key Laws that Protect Education Rights of
Children in Foster Care w/Disabilities
  • NCLB No Child Left Behind
  • Requires highly qualified teachers, teaching to
    standards, tracking of annual performance,
    provides rights to students in failing schools,
    requires school districts to take specific steps
    to address school performance issues.
  • FERPA Federal Education Rights Privacy Act
    (FERPA) Ensures parent/ed rights holder access
    to Education Records within 5 calendar days of
    request, protects against unauthorized
    information sharing

Key Laws that Protect Foster Children with
  • California Specific Laws
  • AB 490 Foster Children and Education Access
  • Hughes Bill Education, Addressing Serious
    Behavior Issues for Children with Disabilities.
    NOTE Behavioral difficulties even for bright
    children can create spec ed or 504 needs!
  • AB 3632 Bringing County Mental Health or
    California Childrens Services into Special
    Education Program via Interagency Agreements (Can
    come in for children in preschool if needed!)
  • If a child in your care/caseload is subjected to

IDEAThe Special Education Law
  • Part B for children ages 3 until the 22nd
    birthday (or diploma)
  • Access Point SCHOOL DISTRICT Special Education
  • Emphasis Providing FAPE (Free and Appropriate
    Public Education) in Least Restrictive
    Environment by individualizing the education
    program using an IEP (Individualized Education
  • Getting Help Parent Training and Information
    Centers (see resources)
  • Special note Transition Planning is Required,
    but often not coordinated with Child Welfare
  • Anyone can refer a childEd rights holder must
    consent to services
  • Procedural safeguards give parents/ed rights
    holder avenues to disagree and work out problems.

IDEA (Special Education)
  • PART C Infants and Toddlers under Age 3
  • Early Intervention Services
  • Access Point REGIONAL CENTERS/DDS Early Start
    Programs (WITH EXCEPTIONS).
  • Emphasis Providing Early Intervening Services
    for children with, or at risk of, developmental
    disabilities (some children will stay on as
    Regional Center Clients after age 3, if they meet
    DDS criteria).
  • Recent changes to eligibility mean higher bar,
    and sometimes waiting for delay to get large
    enough. Identify risk factors clearly (prenatal
    exposure, birth difficulties, early trauma)

  • PART C Early Intervening Services
  • California Early Start
  • Teams of service coordinators, healthcare
    providers, early intervention specialists,
    therapists, and parent resource specialists
    evaluate and assess an infant or toddler and
    provide appropriate early intervention services
    to children eligible for California's Early
    Intervention system.
  • IMPORTANT IDEA 2004 specifies that ALL foster
    children under 3 be referred to Department of
    Developmental Services/Regional Centers!
    Screening may be appropriate, but should
    include review of all relevant information.
    Phone dismissals NOT sufficient. Parent,
    Physician, CWW can referbut Ed Rights Holder
    must consent to service.
  • SPECIAL NOTE Effective July 2009, eligibility
    for Early start is more restrictive, but children
    can still qualify for prevention plan services.

  • PART C Getting Help
  • Local Regional Centers The Early Start Central
    Directory of Early Intervention Resources is a
    comprehensive resource for parents, family
    members, service providers, and members of the
    public that provides information on the early
    intervention resources available in California by
    county. http//
  • Family Resource Center Network (FRCs)
  • http//
  • Problems with Regional Center Decision? Call the
    Clients Rights Advocate (CRA) http//

IDEATransition from Part C to Part B Services
  • Important Children transition from Part C to
    Part B at 3rd birthday, and process and timeline
    is legally defined. School District must assess
    to see if eligible for services.
  • At least 6 months before child will turn 3,
    transition process should begin.
  • Key Do not wait until Child starts elementary
    school to ask School District to Assess! Ages
    3-5 are critical times in which to intervene and
  • TIP Any dependent turning 3, whether regional
    center client or not, with disability or
    suspected disability/delay should be referred to
    School District for assessmentsee DREDF sample
    letter to request assessment. Eligibility also
    means access to preschool, services AT NO COST TO

DisproportionalityThe Over-identification Issue
  • Great concern over identification of larger
    numbers of children of color, poor children,
    foster and homeless children in special
  • IDEA is intended to keep children in their Least
    Restrictive Environments, not provide a way to
    eject students from school!
  • Without identification of needs, result is often
    school exclusion, school failure, and failure to
  • Identification is NOT the issueLRE is the issue!

DisproportionalityThe Over-identification Issue
  • Do NOT let SST (Student Study Team) meetings
    delay process of assessmentthese can be done
  • A 504 plan is NOT a consolation prizeit is a
    powerful tool to level the playing field for many
  • For some, early identification results in LESS
    need for special education LATER!

DisproportionalityThe Over-identification Issue
  • Under IDEA, School Districts are required to
    locate and identify all children with
    disabilities in their area.
  • Failure to Assess a Child may be a Child Find
    violation (Complaint can be filed)
  • This includes identifying students eligible under
    504 as appropriate.
  • Children in foster care often NOT assessed
    because history is held against them (lack of
    progress attributed to frequent school changes,
    attendance, etc, or no one initiates referral for

Removing Barriers What Can We Do?
  • Reviuew Health Education Passports frequently
    (critical for students with a 504 plan, with a
    Medical management Plan (eg diabetes, asthma)PUT
    education, incl. preschool info, in!
  • Have children assessed EARLYEarly intervention
  • Foster Parents can act as Parents for Education
    purposesBUT consider if this is
    appropriateevery change of placement then means
    new advocate comes into play!
  • Use the Caregiver affidavits to update court on
    whats happening with education for child!

Removing Barriers What Can We Do?
  • Remember that children in foster care have a
    right to privacy! Sharing information needs to
    be sensitive to this.
  • Provide essential information (assessments,
    medical reports) to School Districtbut REDACT
    information not relevant to Education Needs!

Removing Barriers What Can We Do?
  • Utilize existing laws and processes
  • -If behavior is an ongoing, serious concern, ask
    for a behavior assessment compliant with the
    Hughes Bill (Behavior can be shaped, modifed and
    changed using positive behavior support plans!)
  • -If child has mental health needs (does NOT have
    to be identified as Emotionally Disturbedjust
    have an IEP), ask for AB3632 referral to County
    Mental Health.
  • If not eligible for Special Education, ask if
    eligible for a 504 plan (removes barriers in
    general ed)
  • Use caregiver affidavits, court reports to make
    courts aware of what is happening on the
    education side!
  • We need everybody at the table, and every tool in
    our toolkit!

Educational Planning, IEPs and 504 Plans Must
Build In Accountability
  • It is NOT sufficient to identify a need.
  • A need MUST include a plan for ensuring that it
    is met!
  • Individuals and/or Agencies must be identified as
    responsible for action components, and
    participate in the process.

Essential ProtectionsAB 490
  • Mandates that educators, school personnel, social
    workers, probation officers, caregivers,
    advocates, and juvenile court officers all work
    together to serve the educational needs of
    children in foster care.
  • EC 48850(a)

Using AB 490 on the ground
  • If concerned about a recently placed childs
    educational progress, Ed Rights holder should
    ORDER RECORDS (5 Day rule). Check to see if
    current school has received records from previous
    school (including BOTH Special Education if
    applicable, and Cumulative File).
  • Often, SSTs and progress reports have not
    considered childs previous performance.
  • Note If Child has IEP or 504 plan, comparable
    program must be implemented immediately (no

AB 490 Implementation
  • USE the Foster Youth Liason for the school, and
    go to County Contact if no response.
  • Exp A child comes into your care or caseload,
    and school wont enroll without immunization
    records, or paid library fines.
  • See resources for list of all AB490 county
    contacts http//

Special Note Children placed out of County
  • Educate caregiver about the issues here
  • Adoption Assistance in county where made
    dependent is responsible for AB3632 for exp.
  • Access to some county mental health programs via
    school/IEP can be trickycall DREDF if problems

Advocacy Essentials
    written, it was never said and will never be
  • Work out problems at the local level through
    letter WRITING.See Letter
    to a Stranger
  • Make requests IN WRITING.
  • Expect responses IN WRITING (PWN).
  • Expect Timelines to be met. Tip Send letters
    with proof of delivery
  • Document conversations and calls.Date, time,
    who, title, contact info, what was discussed,
    what is understood, what is the expected result.
  • Keep examples of concerns Report cards, STAR
    tests, preschool reports, notes, drawings, work

IEP Advocacy EssentialsThe Clock is Ticking
  • IEP key timelines ALL CALENDAR DAYS
  • 15 days to assessment plan or refusal via PWN
    from date School District receives assessment
    request for ANYONE
  • 15 days for ed rights holder to sign plan
  • 60 days to complete assessment and hold first IEP
  • 30 days after receipt of Ed Rights Holder written
    request to have IEP follow up
  • Services start IMMEDIATELY after IEP is signedno
    waiting lists allowed.
  • 5 days after receipt of written request to
    provide records (if cant pay for copies, say so,
    district must provide FREE)
  • Immediate enrollment (NO DELAY) for foster
    children in school
  • Behavior emergency w/restraint, serious requires
    24 hour notice to parent and 48 hour IEP or
    documentation of why not under HUGHES BILL
  • AB3632 assessment is 50 days from date of signed
    assessment plan
  • Annual IEP to report on progress
  • Triannual (every three years) complete
    reassessment unless documented why not required.

For a copy of todays PowerPoint presentation and
links to additional resources, visit the DREDF
website at http//
  • A network of Parent Training Information (PTI)
    Centers is available in every state across the
    country. PTIs provide technical assistance and
    training to parents/guardians of children with
    disabilities, and professionals who serve these
    students and their families. Here is a list by
  • http//
  • Contact DREDF at
  • Phone 510.644.2555
  • Toll Free 800.348.4232
  • Fax 510.841.8645 Email Web