Based on the extremely complex and legal nature of the early intervention process many families hire a Special Education Attorney or Advocate to help them navigate this crucial area. Based on this step many TACA families who hire an attorney seem to obtain more services as recommended by the professionals that consult to their families. This information has been shared by parents at the TACA support group meetings.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE, THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES FOR OBTAINING SERVICES IF YOU HIRE AN ATTORNEY OR ADVOCATE! This information is only provided as a guideline to other parents that may need assistance from a special education attorney. This information does NOT guarantee that you will receive services.
Also note, there are many parents in the TACA where both parents are attorneys as their career but they STILL HIRE ATTORNEYS to represent them on these important needs for two reasons:
1) Special education law is very specialized and you need to concentrate on it to be good and effective
2) Matters of the heart is hard to keep an level head (i.e., you won't be able to argue law when it comes to saving your kid.)
Home programs costs $20,000 - $75,000 a year or more. Considering (ON AVERAGE) children affected with autism have a 2 year or more home program -sometimes as long as 7 years. Hiring an attorney for $2,000-$10,000 is a good investment and a necessary expense when dealing with a school district or regional center that is not providing adequate/appropriate services for your child. (NOTE: 9 out of 10 parents in TACA are at odds with their school district. Only 1 out of 10 parents surveyed are happy with their school district. Survey was done January - June 2002. Based on input with parents these statistics have not changed.)
However – many families make this very personal choice. This decision is up to each family. It is suggested that families considering hiring a special education attorney should interview several attorney’s and consider going without one if at all possible. Please remember: This is a personal choice up to EACH FAMILY.
If you cannot afford an attorney - there are other ways to paying for them. There are several ways folks are getting funding for special ed attorneys. Here is my list:
1) Foundations: You have to do the research on your own. Type in FOUNDATIONS at Yahoo.com or Google.com.
There are foundations that pay legal fees for families in need. They do exists. It is some work to find them, but several families in TACA have done this successfully.
2) Loan: Get a loan from your bank. Talk to them about loans regaring education for your child - similar to a low interest loan for a child attending COLLEGE. These are affordable and available.
Read Who Pays for What?
3) Pro-bono work: MANY special education attorneys do pro-bono work - meaning free services for families in need. Most attorneys dedicate a percentage of overall services to providing needed attorney services to low income families. ASK FOR IT! Each attorney or firm may have different levels for qualifying for assistance. Please remember not all attorney's or firms offer this service to the community. For a list of attorneys go to our online Resources.
Try special education law workshops from Pepperdine or other local colleges to see about "attorneys who are learning the law" and see who has graduated a special education course. Maybe one of these professionals looking to be an attorney would attend your IEP as an advocate? Something to consider as an option.
4) Payment terms: Many special education attorneys will allow you to pay monthly a set fee that meets every budget. Organize this arrangement PRIOR to services commencement and in writing with the attorney.
5) Family: It is time to ask family for help. Instead of birthday and holiday gifts, the best gift is cash to help you with your child's needs. Better yet, ask for a loan for attorneys fees.
6) Protection and Advocacy Organizations offers information about California state no-interest loans for education fees and attorneys fees for families of special needs children. (Protection & Advocacy also exists in other states; search Google for it in your state)
Catherine Blakemore, Executive Director
Protection and Advocacy, Incorporated
100 Howe Avenue, Suite 235 - N - Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 488-9950; (800) 776-5746
PLEASE REMEMBER: THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES FOR OBTAINING SERVICES IF YOU HIRE AN ATTORNEY OR ADVOCATE! This information is only provided as a guideline to other parents that may need assistance from a special education attorney. This information does NOT guarantee that you will receive services.