Foster children and education are a challenge for foster parents. We don't know how long they attended school, if at all. Did they have any support with the trauma? They may know but try to hold it together from all the changes and focus on adapting to their new surroundings. However, the child having a learning disability is also a strong possibility, making the deck stacked against them much higher. Does your child have a learning disability? The education can achieve the deck stacked against them for quality with a special education IEP. Learn how to get the best possible services for your child.
What is an IEP?
The IEP (Individualized Education Program) falls under the Federal law called (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) IDEA to provide students with learning disabilities receive a fair and appropriate education. IEP procedures can be confusing, stressful, and terrifying to parents. The process comes full circle at the IEP meeting, usually the most stressful part of an IEP.
Why does the process seem difficult for foster parents?
Looking at the IEP process, why does the process seem to be against parents? Learning the process will even the odds by helping you prepare for an IEP and allow for a successful and effective IEP meeting.
What are the IEP Process Steps?
Identify that a problem exists and cannot be solved.
Educate yourself about the IEP process
Assess and test the student
Analyze the test results
Prepare for the meeting/get and give input in advance.
Meet to review the information and create (or deny) an IEP
Evaluate the plan and alternatives
Execute the plan or alternative
Repeat the process at least annually
Why do foster parents seem to be at a disadvantage?
1. Being outnumbered by school staff. The school district is paying everyone at the meeting besides you.
2. The other attendees are speaking educationese, legalese, and medicalese, which is difficult for you to understand.
3. Your foster child is one student of many for them, but this is their job.
4. You are emotionally involved because this meeting is about your fosteer child. As a result, it is harder to be objective. You feel you have more to lose; becoming defensive or losing your temper is easy.
5. As a foster child, we are taught to respect, obey and fear principals, teachers, and administrators. We were to look up to them as authority figures, and you may not see yourself as an equal when sitting at a table with them.
6. You are asking for special treatment for your foster child, and it is implied that your request will take away from another student, whether it be budget-related or teaching time from other students.
7. Most of them attend IEP meetings weekly or monthly. You may attend once or twice a year, so they have more cumulative experience.
8. You are not being paid to be there; they are. Therefore, you may need to agree to get back to work quickly.
9. The school district has an attorney. You may know of an attorney!
10. You may not be sure what is “wrong” with your foster child or youmay know but they may not listen or say it doesn't apply to their academic needs.
11. You cannot judge whether the school's recommendations will help your foster child.
12. If your child attends the meeting, hearing certain things may upset your foster child, then you.
13. If the school rejects the IEP, you may feel like you have just lost your lifeline and failed your foster child.
14. If you had argued or advocated before, threatened legal action, or complained about an IEP, the relationship inside the room might be adversarial. Even if the meeting is cooperative and collaborative, and all are working together, it may be like a hostile meeting!
How do you even the odds?
1. You must prepare for the IEP and review test scores before the meeting.
2. You need to study negotiating before the meeting.
3. You need to be organized and have everything written down.
4. You must bring a short list of topics you want to discuss, such as a particular teacher/problem or adjustment in materials.
5. You need to prepare a written plan of what you feel your need to be successful in an academic setting
6. You need to cite evidence and experts as proof of the validity of your plan and follow the IEP.
7. You need to understand the legal reasoning for your request, read the parent guide they should have provided you and know your rights.
8. If the meeting focuses on negatives, you must redirect the discussion by pointing out your foster child's strengths. For example, discuss successes your foster child had outside of school.
9. You need to stay calm and bring someone with you to take notes so you can focus on the meeting.
10. Bring an advocate or a relative who is acquainted with your foster child and can be less emotional and more objective.
11. If you are not happy or confused with the IEP, do not sign off on the IEP. Instead, explain that you need time to review the IEP before signing. Again, stay calm when making this request.
12. If there is any area you are unsure of, you need to postpone decisions until you are sure to do the research.