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Navigating the Systems to Support


Navigating the Systems to Support Foster Children with Developmental Delays and Disabilities and Improve Education Outcomes Topic Facilitator: Cheryl A. Theis. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Navigating the Systems to Support

Navigating the Systems to Support Foster
Children with Developmental Delays and
Disabilities and Improve Education
Outcomes Topic Facilitator Cheryl A. Theis.
MA Education Advocate and Director Foster Youth
with Disabilities in Transition (FYDT)
Course Objectives
  • Introduce laws that provide educational support
    and access for children in foster care
  • Identify barriers that can interfere with a
    childs access to these
  • Discuss advocacy strategies and resources that
    improve outcomes and remove barriers

Filling the Information Gap
  • 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, 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

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 youth.

Despite Good Intentionsthe System(s) can be the
  • Children in Foster Care often experience numerous
    changes in placement and schools. Lines of
    responsibility and accountability are unclear.
  • Schools Child Welfare Agencies do not
    coordinate efforts or share information. .

Risk of Special Educational Needs
  • Trauma of abuse, neglect, or being removed from a
    caregiver may predispose some children to social
    or behavioral difficulties.
  • Highest rates of abuse and neglect occur in
    infants and toddlers
  • 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

High Cost for Missing Needs
  • Children who are NOT identified as needing early
    intervention and support continue to struggle.
  • More likely to - miss developmental milestones
  • -enter school already behind
  • -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
  • May have placement change at home due to changes
    in educational placement, disrupting connections
    and permanency

What We Dont Know
  • When asked about the possible benefits of early
    intervention services for foster children
    nearly all of the experts said 'we don't know
    who or how many' are assessed, referred, or
    receive services."
  • There is no research that assesses the value and
    feasibility of expanding eligibility and access
    to early intervention services for all young
    children in foster care"

What We Do Know
  • All experts agree that there is a significant
    need to train foster parents, Child Welfare
    Workers, CASAs, Dependency Attorneys and Judges
    and other stakeholders about effective advocacy
    and interventions for children in foster care, to
    increase interagency collaboration, and to focus
    on providing connections and stability over time.

Unaddressed Learning Needs Cost Us ALL
  • 70 of Californias inmates were in the foster
    care system at one time.
  • 42 percent of inmates have an identified
  • 82 percent had indications of specific learning
  • Only half had been identified in school, without
    adequate development of supports and services
  • Half had no regular employment prior to
  • And many never reach their potential and offer
    their unique contributions!

Risk Factors for Foster Children Accessing
  • Children in foster care are at high risk of
    having a medical, social or behavioral
    disability. (NSCAW Study)
  • 3 to 7 times more physical and mental problems
    and developmental delays as other children.
  • More likely to be maltreated by caregivers than
    their non-disabled peers.
  • Health vulnerabilities and psychological risks
    can occur put children at risk though problems
    may take time to show up.
  • The abuse and/or neglect that a child experiences
    prior to placement in the foster care system can
    create a variety of health challenges.

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

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
  • From Foster Care Reentry and Placement
    Stability Outcomes Understanding Califoriais
    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
  • Labels can provide access to service!

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,

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, 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
  • 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!)

IDEAThe Special Education Law
  • Part B for children ages 3 until the 22nd
    birthday (or diploma)
  • SCHOOL DISTRICT is Responsible.
  • 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 right holder must
    consent to services

IDEA (Special Education)
  • PART C Infants and Toddlers under Age 3
  • 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.

  • 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 Centers (FRCs)
  • http//
  • Clients Rights Advocate (Regional Centers)

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

DisproportionalityThe Over-identification Issue
  • There is great concern over the 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.
  • 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
  • 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)
  • Children in foster care are often NOT assessed
    because their history is held against them (lack
    of progress attributed to frequent school
    changes, attendance, etc).

Removing Barriers What Can We Do?
  • Ensure that all foster parent, CASA, CWW and Kin
    Care training programs include training on
    Special Education in a hands on, user friendly
  • Connect above to resources in their county
    (FRNs, PTIs, Foster Care Liasons, etc)
  • Provide sample letters, documents
  • Emphasize LRE
  • Present resources, not judgements!

Removing Barriers What Can We Do?
  • Update Education Portion of Health Education
    Passports frequently (critical for students with
    a 504 plan, for example)
  • Encourage caregivers to have children assessed
    EARLYEarly intervention works!
  • IDENTIFY who holds Education Rights at every
    placement. Foster Parents can act as Parents for
    Education purposesBUT consider if this is
    appropriateevery change of placement then means
    new advocate comes into play!

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 and changed!)
  • -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!

Important Foster Youth Need Consistent
  • Schools do not understand how the Child Welfare
    system works.
  • Laws that provide educational rights, access and
    nondiscrimination to children in school presume
    and depend on Parental involvement and advocacy.
  • Child Welfare depends on reports from Educators
    to make decisions but no clear bridge between
  • Foster Parents may be appointed by default, but
    changes in placement mean changes in surrogate.

Interagency Collaboration is Essential for Foster
  • Critical that the School District invite, with
    adequate notice, other agencies and persons who
    ARE or MAY need to be involved
  • Child Welfare Caseworker (participate by phone!)
  • Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
  • Biological Parent if Family Reunification is in
    processEncourage Foster/Kin Caregivers to
    partner with Bio-parents whenever possible.
  • Consider, where appropriate Free training on
    Education Advocacy for Children with Disabilities
    can be part of a case plansee Resources for CA
  • IEP meetings must be held at MUTUALLY AGREEABLE
    times. If it doesnt work for key player,

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, 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
  • Often, SSTs and progress reports have not
    considered childs previous performance.
  • Note if Child has IEP or 504 planmust be
    implemented immediately.

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
  • See resources for list of all AB490 county

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.

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 for every county across the
    country. PTIs provide technical assistance and
    training to parents/guardians of school-age
    children with disabilities, and professionals who
    serve these students and their families. Here is
    a list by region/state
  • http//
  • Contact DREDF at
  • Phone 510.644.2555
  • Toll Free 800.348.4232
  • Fax 510.841.8645 Email Web