When you are concerned about your son or daughter’s educational programming and wonder if it needs to be changed, it’s a natural next step to wonder if hiring an educational advocate is a good idea. You either have worked with the IEP team and been unsuccessful going it alone, or you don’t know where to start in advocating, worrying about creating an adversarial relationship with those who work directly with your child. In either scenario, you are now considering hiring an expert to help you navigate the special education system.
What can you expect? The first thing is easy. I’ll ask you to tell me about your child.
After an initial “conversation/consultation” (30 minutes) via phone or in-person, you will be sent a contract (newly updated and available for review) and provided references and encouraged to connect with another family I have worked with.
If you choose to work with me, you will then provide records (preferably in a binder, but I can open PDFs, if needed) and a retainer check. I won’t read HIPPA or FERPA protected records/information without a contract in place, for the privacy and protection of your child.
Terms of each advocate-client relationship are unique. Some cases will require a team meeting, observation, and/or collateral contact. Other new cases require extensive record review, but not initial attendance at a meeting. Depending on each child’s unique needs, we’ll come up with a number of hours realistically my advocacy work will take and discuss it. It is my ethical responsibility to review records (school and independent evaluations, IEPs, progress reports, etc.) before I can tell you if the IEP proposed makes sense, or not. And, if not, what needs to be changed. Records review isn’t done in front of the TV or “on the fly”; it’s a professional service.
I am happy to have a limited contract and advise about a specific item, but I need some context in order to do that. I can’t read 85 pages of reports and documents for free. Record review can be part of the 30 minute pro-bono consult, but is not included in it.
After I review your child’s records, we’ll sit down and talk or have a conversation on the phone about next steps. Some families need not only advocacy around the IEP, they need case management around accessing resources, and bringing together those resources, accessible outside of the school. Especially for kids with autism or serious emotional disabilities (or both), the term “it takes a village” is appropriate. Families often don’t know about the resources available to their children and even oftentimes supports for moms, dads, and even siblings. Part of what I do is help families define what they need for their child, and, if needed, apply for and access additional supports. I often participate, when asked, in CBHI, DDS, or DMH care coordination meetings in addition to IEP meetings and regularly meeting with neuropsychologists and other evaluators with you and your child.
For some types of cases, I flat-rate specific types of work. This is cost-effective for families and easier for me as far as billing (who really enjoys keeping track of every 6 or 10 minute conversation? Emails, don’t even go there… I don’t want to be a lawyer relying on billing software to account for every minute of my work day).
When you engage the services of an advocate, as the parent you dictate what it is you need. That may be checking- in or regular consultation after the initial work has been completed. One thing which is much appreciated by me is the fact I keep connections with the families I work with for many years. This can be the type of work which is not only successful professionally, but spiritually fulfilling and visually exciting. Seeing kids grow and thrive and families learn the advocacy skills to support their children’s learning (and growth) is deeply rewarding as an educational advocate.
I hope this helps those of you wondering what hiring an educational advocate actually entails.
I take limited pro-bono cases and reduced-rate cases during a given school year. That is all my practice, and budget, can handle.