Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Personal Experience with an IEP Not Implemented

Today I will tell you about my personal experience as a IEP Advocate for a girl in High School. This girl was in Foster Care and had been out of school for 5 years due to a very upsetting home situation. No one was able to give me her previous IEP until well into the end of the story below. If I had her IEP on file I could have made the school use it until her new one was signed.

When I first started working with the student it took me about three months for the school to enroll her. Every time myself or her group home would call to find out when she'd start they'd tell us that she wasn't enrolled. It took us enrolling her a number of times before they finally found that she was listed in another part of the computer system and that was the hold up. Also, due to the fact that she needed evaluations I had to push for them to provide tutoring in the group home until the start of school.
(Throughout the process below keep in mind that I went through every step that I could including: calls to state for advice, dated letters, speaking with the special education director, rejected a portion of the IEP) Everything short of mediation and due process which is still pending based on an upcoming meeting to discuss ESY.

I would like to think I am a pretty patient person. I really try to advocate for only services that I feel are needed and always try to see the schools point of view. I can't tell you how hard I had to contain my anger in this child's case. After speaking with the Director of Special Education, dating many letter and emails, he said it was all set and they were going to look at placing her in the following couple weeks. I said, based on the lack of communication from the beginning I expect to hear from you before you proceed to placing her so I can look at the classroom. I was told, of course, we'll let you know so you can prepare her before she's moved.

Well, I called the group home a week later and I was told: she was put in the high school at the beginning of the week in the general education classes. I was once again ready to blow. This was a girl who hadn't been to school in 5 years and has significant special need issues. She was placed in a huge High School in regular classes.

Luckily her IEP meeting was the next week. I though for sure we'd get this straightened out then. The day of the meeting no one from the team attended but two members. The Facilitator was not even there and sent someone in her place. As a advocate at this point I could have said: I would like to note that the team is not present and therefore I would like to reschedule. But, due to the emergency nature of the meeting I said: Lets have the meeting, get into place what we can and reconvene with the team in a couple weeks. At the meeting the girls SW, and the two team members who reviewed the evaluations (two out of five that were supposed to be done) all said she needed to be moved into special education asap. I said what does that mean because I need to write down when since it never happens. They said the following Monday. It was Friday at that point.

Three weeks later, the student still not moved and here we go again.
Nothing in the meeting was conveyed in the IEP I received. Talk about a slap in the face. The IEP had goals written that were laughable, the Vision statement said something that we didn't even mention at the meeting and it didn't have any of the supports we spoke about. There was one line that said: The team is concerned the student likes to rush through her work. We never even said that and rush..we were concerned based on her evaluations and psych. eval. that she was a danger to herself or others in stressful situations.

Cut to two months later, another emergency meeting with the Special Education Assistant Director (who after the meeting left the position and I wasn't told) and the student never moved from the classes she was now flunking with no supports at the school.

I had it with empty promises to move her into a support program, meetings that never happened, phone calls not returned, dated letters not acknowledged. Why was this happening? I found out the facilitator at her school was always busy with MCAS (not our problem), the facilitator that took over just up and quit. No one had the time, energy or forethought to put any type of program in place. Is it because she is a foster child? I never have been so fed up with a school team in my life.

What did I do:

I couldn't take it anymore. I would call the group home every other day to see if the child was moved and she wasn't. I would then call the school to see why but no one would return my call.

I decided one last ditch effort before filing a complaint with the state. Filing a complaint is an option but it takes time for them to review. I needed this resolved asap and I still can file a complaint if need be.

I went to the High School in person. When I checked in at the office I said: I am a state appointed advocate for a Foster child named..who is in your school. She was supposed to be moved into a special education support program and she has not been moved. I am not leaving until someone meets with me and explains what the hold up is.

They called down a couple people I hadn't met before. I told them the situation and they couldn't believe what was going on. By the time I left the school they had moved her that day.

Today, a few days later I received a letter to meet to clear up the rest of the issues.

The classroom they moved her to has a Social Worker, Special Ed. Teacher. She told me that she hears of a lot of students who may be coming to her program but never do. Jeez, I wonder why..What parent has the determination to go through what I had the past six months.

The best part of the story though is this: I received an email from the group home that the student was moved and really likes the new program. Where once she was thrown into school on her own she now has a place to go that is supportive and not as intimidating.

That makes my job all worth the while.


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