This is a press release submitted to the Las Vegas Sun. It has not been verified or edited by the Sun.
Volunteers needed to advocate for foster children with disabilities in local schools
Published on Fri, Feb 1, 2013 (2:44 p.m.)
Some of the most vulnerable children – children in the foster care system with disabilities – need someone to make sure they get necessary services to excel in school. A six-year-old program is providing that support but needs more volunteers to meet the growing demand for children who have no one else to help them in local schools. Sponsored by the non¬profit Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, the Educational Surrogate Parent Program trains volunteers to serve as student advocates during school meetings and for special education issues.
Interested adults are invited to attend an orientation/training meeting on Wednesday, February 20, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Pueblo Room at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89155. No experience is necessary – only a desire to be an advocate for foster children. Training and support will be provided to Educational Surrogate Parent Program volunteers throughout the life of their assigned case. Under federal law, employees of the school district and social workers are prohibited from volunteering. For more information or to attend the training, contact Legal Aid Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702/386-1070, ext. 170.
Eighty volunteers helped more than 130 students last year, but Educational Surrogate Parents are constantly needed. There are hundreds of children in the foster care system with disabilities in the Clark County School District and more enter the system all the time, according to Barbara Buckley, executive director of Legal Aid Center which runs the Educational Surrogate Parent Program through its Children’s Attorneys Project.
“We have found over the years that having an Educational Surrogate Parent is a critical piece of the education puzzle for children in foster care,” said Buckley. “This program was created to address a gap in educational services available to children in foster care. There is still a failure to evaluate children or develop an appropriate education plan for children who are diagnosed with behavioral, learning, and physical disabilities. Education Surrogate Parents truly make a difference in the lives of these children.”
Volunteers will learn advocacy skills, school district procedures, Individualized Education Programs, and laws governing special education and how to use the law to support children with disabilities. They also will learn how to support children in the foster care system with behavioral issues and special education needs such as learning and physical disabilities. Experienced Educational Surrogate Parents will attend the sessions and share their experiences.
A majority of Educational Surrogate Parents’ time is spent ensuring their students are eligible for special education services and making sure students’ educational plans are appropriate and being followed by schools. Educational Surrogate Parents often write letters, make phone calls, and attend school-related meetings on behalf of their children. Volunteers can expect a time commitment averaging 25 hours per school year.
About Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada
Established in 1958, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada is a private, nonprofit, 501(c) (3) organization that ensures equal access to justice through free legal advice and representation for those who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Service areas include domestic violence, child abuse, consumer fraud and social security. Free classes are offered in bankruptcy, divorce, custody, small claims, guardianship and foreclosure. Funding is provided through private donations, government grants and pro bono hours donated by local attorneys. Please visit www.lacsn.org for more information or to make a donation.
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