Click to set custom HTML
Guidelines for choosing an advocate
Guidelines for choosing an advocate
(From The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates)
Unlike attorneys, no certification authority exists to certify advocates at this time. However, many special education advocates have years of experience and training. When you interview an advocate, you should ask about their education and training. You should also ask whether the advocate stays current in the field by getting updated training and education through workshops, conferences, and continuing education programs. Do not hesitate to ask for references from the advocate. You are the one making the hiring decision.
Select an advocate with special education experience.
Experienced advocates can often help you obtain the educational services your child needs. Advocates may have specific skills and knowledge about evaluations, various disabilities, IEPs and other educational negotiations, behavioral supports and discipline, document management, fact investigations, and other areas. They may have alternative dispute resolution skills, such as mediation and facilitation skills. Advocates should be familiar with the local service providers, evaluators, local school districts and the options they offer, and local customs. They should know and understand IDEA and other laws/regulations affecting the education of students with disabilities. Ask your advocate about his or her experience and specific skills. You need to be an informed consumer and ask the questions that are important to you.
Select an advocate who understands your child.
You should expect an advocate to spend time visiting with your child. Each child is a unique human being and has individual educational needs. Your advocate should be able to explain to you how your child's disability will affect him or her at school. Advocates are not diagnosticians and they are not education evaluators. But, a working knowledge of your child's disability, or a willingness to become educated about your child's disability, is a quality a good advocate should have.
Advocates and attorneys.
Nonlawyer advocates are not attorneys or members of the bar. Some advocates and paralegals are supervised by attorneys. Some work in forms or with public interest organizations. Others work independently in their own offices. You can ask an advocate if they work with an attorney. But, it is not necessary that a lawyer oversee an advocate, or that an advocate even have a relationship with an attorney. Many experienced advocates work completely on their own or with other advocates who are not licensed attorneys. You should decide what you want in an advocate and what kind of assistance you need.
Select an advocate who understands his or her professional limits.
Professional advocates may give you legal information and help you negotiate and resolve disputes. But, they are not lawyers, and cannot give you the same type of legal advice as attorneys or act as your lawyer. An experienced, well-trained advocate should help you recognize when you should seek an attorney's services. Should your next step be a due process hearing, you should check your state laws regarding assistance from an advocate. In some states, nonlawyer advocates can represent parents in administrative due process hearings. In others, they cannot, and may only assist the parents. An advocate cannot represent you in state or federal court. If you are contemplating due process, you and your advocate should discuss your case. You should think about whether you need to hire an attorney based on your individual situation and needs and the laws of your state. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to make this decision and you should make the decision you believe is most appropriate.
Other questions you might ask.KK
- What is the advocate's special education advocacy experience? Does he/she have experience in situations similar to yours? Has he/she worked with this school district or similar ones?
- How does the advocate believe your situation should be handled? What is the estimated time frame for completing the work? What will the advocate do?
- How will you be expected to assist and work with the advocate?
- How will you and the advocate keep each other informed about the case?
- What does the advocate charge and how will you be billed? How are fees determined? Will you be billed on a hourly or flat basis? What is the total estimated fee?
- Who keeps the copies of your child's records at the advocate's place of business, and how your child's files will be maintained and returned to you when you need them?
- Will be comfortable working closely with this person
- Are confident the advocate has the experience and skill to handle your case
- Understand the advocate's explanation of what your case involves
- Understand the proposed fee agreement
To schedule a free telephone consultation, contact Karen:
203 257 6520