Anyone can call themselves an advocate…

I sat in a mediation recently.  The special education director asked me my qualifications (a silly question since I had done two classroom observations, provided her my CV, and been CORI’d in her district).  While I was able to answer in a way which likely made her wish she hadn’t asked, I do understand *why* she asked.  (Disclaimer:  I did not ask her a) if she had ever met the child we were there to discuss or b) what degree she received in what decade, and c) the qualifications she holds to determine appropriate services for a child with autism, when she didn’t invite a BCBA  to the table).

Someone on LinkedIn updated their profile.  It reads something along the lines of “highly-skilled, seasoned special education advocate”.  It then notes she has held this position since January 2012 and her training is solely “FCSN Parent Training Institute”.  Did I mention she charges $125/hour?  Perhaps real-life experience in advocating for her own child’s needs, but I take issue with how she characterized her practice.    I have never sat in a team meeting with her but I have seen her repeatedly dispense inaccurate information (ie: bad advice) to parents on-line.

We all start somewhere, but it blows my mind that person charges a (low-end) attorney rate, and families who might not know better will pay it.  Having been badly burned by another “advocate” recently who passed along a case because she knew her client was impossible to deal with, and likely knew would not pay me as she never paid her, I am wary and a bit cynical.

I get why educational advocates get bad raps, even though I suspect the vast majority of us are fair and balanced in our billing/PR and in our financial billing, and get along just fine with the majority of school districts (ie: staff, admins, and sometimes their attorneys) we work with on a daily basis.  Not because I’m looking to gain favor, but because I am a nice person, when these folks get married or have babies, I often-times send a gift.  If a loved one passes, I offer genuine condolences.  It’s called humanity.  We all are just doing our jobs, some of us with more integrity and respect than others.

I’m no fan of “big brother”, but there should be oversight and licensing for educational advocates.  There, I said it.  It might be unpopular, and I don’t know under what agency, but there should be checks and balances in place to protect families.