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School Issues and Special Education Advocacy presented by Cheryl Theis Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

Today’s Goal: Increasing Education Advocacy Competency for foster parents/Kincaregivers:

Today ’ s 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::

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 concerns Assumptions that “ someone else ” will do it Hope that things will resolve “ on their own ” or “ over time ” Fear of labeling Compassion fatigue—caregiver burnout

Foster Youth face unique and daunting challenges right from the start::

Foster Youth face unique and daunting challenges right from the start: WHAT WE KNOW: 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 support.

Foster Youth with Disabilities face unique and daunting challenges:

Foster Youth with Disabilities face unique and daunting challenges …WHAT WE KNOW: 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 children.

What We Know::

What We Know: Significant need to: Train foster parents, Child Welfare Workers, CASA ’ s, 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 time. Demystify the process in culturally appropriate, outcome focused ways (i.e., help is available, AND help makes a difference!)

Risk of Special Educational Needs::

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 lifelong: 16.1 per 1000 children under age 3 High rates of developmental delay in this population: 23-61% of children known to CW have delays in development, communication, behavior skills

Unaddressed Learning Needs Cost Us ALL :

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 California ’ s 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 incarceration

High Cost for Missing Needs::

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:

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:

Impact: Changes of Placement Numerous placement changes are associated with: Problems in children ’ s ability to form relationships Externalizing & internalizing behavior problems Trauma symptoms Academic problems Juvenile justice system (esp. for males) Increased chances of reentering foster care after reunification *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 Include::

Key Factors that support Stability of Placement Include : 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 childcare/preshool! From: Foster Care Reentry and Placement Stability Outcomes: Understanding California ’ s 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::

Laws: What we need to know: There are many laws that protect children We do not have to “ know ” them all—we 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:

Key Laws that Protect Education Rights of Children in Foster Care w/Disabilities FEDERAL LAWS: 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:

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 Disabilities:

Key Laws that Protect Foster Children with Disabilities 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 Children ’ s 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 RESTRAINT or SECLUSION, CALL DREDF!

IDEA—The Special Education Law:

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

IDEA (Special Education):

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)


IDEA 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 refer—but 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. See: www.dds.ca.gov/.../PreventionProgramPolicies_Procedures09.pdf


IDEA 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://www.dds.ca.gov/EarlyStart/Home.cfm Family Resource Center Network (FRCs): http://www.dds.ca.gov/EarlyStart/FamilyResources.cfm Problems with Regional Center Decision? Call the Client ’ s Rights Advocate (CRA) http://www.dds.ca.gov/ConsumerCorner/Advocacy.cfm

IDEA Transition from Part C to Part B Services :

IDEA Transition from Part C to Part B Services Important: Children transition from Part C to Part B at 3 rd 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 support! *TIP: Any dependent turning 3, whether regional center client or not, with disability or suspected disability/delay should be referred to School District for assessment—see DREDF sample letter to request assessment. Eligibility also means access to preschool, services AT NO COST TO FAMILY.

Disproportionality: The Over-identification Issue:

Disproportionality: The Over-identification Issue Great concern over identification of larger numbers of children of color, poor children, foster and homeless children in special education. 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 progress. Identification is NOT the issue—LRE is the issue!

Disproportionality: The Over-identification Issue:

Disproportionality: The Over-identification Issue Do NOT let SST (Student Study Team) meetings delay process of assessment—these can be done together. A 504 plan is NOT a consolation prize—it is a powerful tool to level the playing field for many students. For some, early identification results in LESS need for special education LATER!

Disproportionality: The Over-identification Issue:

Disproportionality: The 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 assessment).

Removing Barriers: What Can We Do?:

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 EARLY—Early intervention works! UNDERSTAND WHO HOLDS EDUCATION RIGHTS! Foster Parents can act as Parents for Education purposes—BUT consider if this is appropriate—every change of placement then means new advocate comes into play! Use the Caregiver affidavits to update court on what ’ s happening with education for child!

Removing Barriers: What Can We Do?:

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 District—but REDACT information not relevant to Education Needs!

Removing Barriers: What Can We Do?:

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 Disturbed—just 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, IEP’s and 504 Plans Must Build In Accountability :

Educational Planning, IEP ’ s 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 Protections: AB 490:

Essential Protections: AB 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”:

Using AB 490 “ on the ground ” If concerned about a recently placed child ’ s 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, SST ’ s and progress reports have not considered child ’ s previous performance. Note: If Child has IEP or 504 plan, comparable program must be implemented immediately (no delay).

AB 490: Implementation:

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 won ’ t enroll without immunization records, or paid library fines. See resources for list of all AB490 county contacts http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/pf/fy/ab490contacts.asp

Special Note: Children placed out of County :

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 tricky—call DREDF if problems arise!

Advocacy Essentials:

Advocacy Essentials DOCUMENTATION RULE OF THUMB : “ If it was never written, it was never said and will never be done. ” Work out problems at the local level through letter WRITING . See www.wrightslaw.com “ 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 samples

IEP Advocacy Essentials The Clock is Ticking…:

IEP Advocacy Essentials The 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 meeting 30 days after receipt of Ed Rights Holder written request to have IEP follow up Services start IMMEDIATELY after IEP is signed—no waiting lists allowed. 5 days after receipt of written request to provide records (if can ’ t 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 today’s PowerPoint presentation and links to additional resources, visit the DREDF website at http://www.dredf.org/special_education/trainings.shtml:

For a copy of today ’ s PowerPoint presentation and links to additional resources, visit the DREDF website at http://www.dredf.org/special_education/trainings.shtml

PowerPoint Presentation:

A network of Parent Training & Information (PTI) Centers is available in every state across the country. PTI ’ s 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 region/state: http://www.taalliance.org/ptidirectory/pclist.asp Contact DREDF at: Phone 510.644.2555 Toll Free 800.348.4232 Fax 510.841.8645 Email iephelp@dredf.org Website www.dredf.org

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