An Unfortunate Reality
Unfortunately, due to the COVID learning environment, children with disabilities did not receive the services needed to be successful, and did not receive an appropriate or inclusive education. This has led to students with disabilities falling substantially behind, and families are at a loss as to how to get appropriate future needs met, as well as getting “make up” services for the lost COVID time.
One example is our friend Sam.
Sam’s mom was told that her son would not be allowed to continue to attend his current middle school, and that a change in placement would happen in the next few weeks. Sam’s school district has had difficulty in providing the necessary support to his teachers to follow his individualized education program, which leads to Sam not having the support he needs to be successful. Now, despite his parent’s objections, he is being forced to attend a segregated school where only children with disabilities attend, and academics are not a priority. Sam's parents' only recourse is to hire a lawyer and advocate for their son to be able to attend his public school with his friends.
Sadly, Sam's story is not unique.
MoDE Foundation has been able to offer support and funding to help keep Sam in his home school with proper supports.
Students in special education need your help!
Children with disabilities who meet the criteria under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Usually this comes in the form of services at public schools. Getting these special education services is not always easy. Families are often in a situation where they know their child needs more help, but navigating the special education system is difficult. Many parents do not have the expertise needed to appropriately collaborate with school districts to effectively advocate for what the child needs.
Thankfully, there are professionals that specialize in disabilities and the special education process to help these families. Unfortunately, most families can not afford to hire one of these professionals. The typical cost of a professional advocate consultation is around $75 an hour. As a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting can be anywhere from two to six hours or more, the cost for an advocate to attend (approximately $300-$900) is extremely prohibitive for most families, which is ultimately detrimental to the child. If a collaborative outcome can not be attained with an advocate, then the family would need a lawyer, which is typically a minimum of $2,500.
Having a professional advocate at the table benefits not only the family, but also the school district. An advocate can help assist families and school districts to collaborate for better outcomes.
There are many families that live and work in your community, and may even be some of your employees, that are struggling emotionally and financially to get appropriate services for their child.
In order to help families navigate the waters of special education, we need your support!
Missouri Disability Empowerment Foundation has created the Special Education Legal Advocacy Fund. This fund will be used to provide grants to tackle systemic issues present in the current special education system in Missouri by providing funds for professional advocates and lawyers to assist families with these issues. To be able to do this, MoDE Foundation needs your help in funding these grants. Our goal is to be able to start awarding grants late 2021/beginning of 2022.
Want to help, but unsure of the amount? Here is a guide to help.
$75 - Approximate cost of an initial consultation with an advocate.
$300 - Approximate cost of a child's two hour special education meeting.
$750 - Approximate cost of a child's longer special education meeting.
$2,500 - Approximate cost of a child's minimum legal fees.
$10,000 - Approximate cost of a child's entire due process case.
Why is this fund needed?
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Video with Audio Description.
Christian and Kate B.
"Having an advocate completely changed the dynamic of our meetings. Our daughter suffered through multiple denials and lack of services; however, once our advocate was involved, then there was someone on our side of the table that knew the laws and could refute the claims made by the district."
"The difference between advocating for my daughter before we hired a professional advocate as compared to after we hired one could not be more dramatic. My daughter’s benchmarks had no baseline info, and she was being tracked into a segregated classroom even though we knew that was not best for her. The advocate provided us with expertise and gave us the confidence to pursue what we knew was best—and we won an inclusive placement!"
"The special education system is complex and can be overwhelming for parents to have the knowledge and experience needed to advocate for their child. This fund will allow parents to bring professionals to the table that will provide training and insight on how to advocate and work with IEP/504 teams as well as the school district."