New school year, new advocate?

This is the time of year parents who have educational advocates may think about changes… Keep in mind the following as you decide if you are going to continue your relationship with your child’s educational advocate. First and foremost, advocates aren’t lawyers. We also aren’t licensed (I think we should be).  Every advocate operates their practice differently.

Make sure any potential advocate’s billing practices are transparent. For example, it’s apparently common practice for advocates to maintain consultative relationships with other professionals with the advocate billing the client for the time the professional bills the advocate. At minimum, ensure a potential advocate’s contract indicates how that consulting professional’s time will be billed and at what point authorization for funds would be required.

However, in my practice (as I believe to be best practice) I suggest that parents enter into professional relationships/contracts with whom they choose and billing should be separate. Don’t blur lines- do a “gut check” if an advocate wants to talk to an attorney and you don’t. If an advocate is in over their head, I’d argue it is their responsibility to tell you as much.

Bottom line: check references and keep communication lines open with your advocate. Make sure you are comfortable with their strategy. (Make doubly sure they have a strategy!)  Another thing to remember: A good advocate simply does not work in their own school district if their children are still in the special education system.  While there are occasional exceptions to that rule (ie: your kids are safely ensconced in private placements or your kids are 22+), it is in most cases a major no-no.  It crosses boundaries, and I have witnessed it (with friends) negatively effect the advocate’s and the family’s credibility.  You can’t be fighting for your own kid, fighting for your neighbor’s, and running your Special Education Parent Advisory Council.  CONFLICT.  Be a parent advocate where you live for your own kids, not an advocate for other people’s.

Partner with your educational advocate to work towards the educational programming your child requires. It’s up to the advocate to keep emotion out of meetings and formal correspondence. That’s why we’re here- to let you be mom and dad. We will guide you in the best direction based on our education and experience.

Happy new school year, all.

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