Posts Tagged ‘schools’

A rare bit of good news.  We had an IEP meeting last week at the Department of Education office, and everything went right.  Due process wasn’t trampled.  Laws weren’t blatantly broken.  Best of all, Blitzen’s absurd classification was corrected.  She’ll now have better options if she attends public school someday.

Not to state the obvious, but kids in care are disproportionately diagnosed with behavioral, emotionally and learning disabilities and have epically bad educational outcomes.

Carrie and I work in education and have genius relatives with huge expertise in special ed.  We have a team of education experts through our agency.  We’re persistent, ferocious and well-resourced.  Despite that, it took 2.5 years to change a mistake that everyone agreed was egregious and obvious.

Let’s save the big conversations about American education for another time when we’re ready to consider institutional racism, economic violence, adultism, corporate influence, our desire to separate Children Destined for Success from Troubled Kids and the anachronism of 19th century factory-model schools in an information age.  But are there little things we can do to support kids in care long before we succeed in reinventing public education?

Blitzen has had many addresses and attended many schools.  Her records haven’t moved with her.  Can we encourage school stability for kids in care?  Can we better share access to records from school to school?

As foster parents, Carrie and I were extremely limited in our ability to access due process and remedy errors, negligence and incompetence.  Any time we made requests or appeals, the first response was a variation on “Only the birth parent can request that.”  Eventually we’d always get Blitzen’s mom’s signature, but it became a way for the DOE to delay, postpone and avoid action. Can we make it easier for foster parents and social workers to advocate for kids?  Does anyone have policy fixes that we should be supporting?  (I assume the Annie Casey Foundation has recommendations if I look carefully enough.)

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I’ve mentioned before that Blitzen has an incorrect diagnosis on her IEP.  If she is going back into the public school system, we must have it changed, we must.  So, Blitzen has to be evaluated, again.

We had a plan, it was – as you might imagine – thoughtful.  But carelessness and inattention rule the day, and a 24 year old intern was sent to do the delicate work of ensuring educational opportunity for Blitzen – work that we were told would be performed by a phd with years of experience dealing with children of trauma.

The young eager do-gooder thought it wise to begin her discussion with a distrustful, traumatized, resistant child in care with low self esteem by peering into her big fat file, rattling a few pages, glancing up and saying, ‘So, it says here that you have a history of tantrums, how is that going?’  Then she started prattling on about how this was all going to finally help Blitzen do well in school.

The senseless whippersnapper really should have just said – Oh, I see in this file that is kept by a bunch of white bureaucrats so that they can write down lies about you and your family and then share the information with whoever the heck wants to look at it, including me a total stranger that you have never laid eyes on before, that you are not only very dumb but also a very bad little girl.

Well, as you can imagine, this interaction really relaxed Blitzen. She was eager to please and ready to do her best work with the understanding that this person was here to engage her and guide her, here was someone that could see that she is a creative, talented, smart, curious child, here is someone that clearly has no hidden agenda that would endanger her or jeopardize her precarious place in the world. Here was someone that she could trust. Rainbows and unicorns magically appeared and all was right in the world.

OR perhaps Blitzen was sucked into the vortex of fight or flight* by her hard-wired, survival driven synapses and overactive adrenal system that resulted in 2 hours of drama, hysteria and very very little ‘evaluating’.

Are you crying or are you screaming? I cried, Andrew screamed (Andrew is not really a screamer but he has a look that is really loud and capable of withering a person completely). Blitzen has another appointment, in a place that she is comfortable in (her own school) with a professional.  But I fear it is too little, too late.

* in Blitzen’s case, we should really call it fight AND flight – she is amazingly capable of doing both of these things simultaneously.

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Blitzen said this morning that she doesn’t like school any more.  Now, I know this is just about being 11.  I am not overly concerned.  When I asked Blitzen what was going on, she replied, “I am not going to tell you, Carrie, because you are just going to cause trouble.”  Hmmmm….I find it a little bit funny that Blitzen sees me as a trouble-maker.  I think I might be flattered.

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“It wasn’t yoga, Andrew, it was a contortioner”.  Blitzen said in that special 10 year old voice that communicates that everyone over 12 is just too dumb to live.

“Do you mean a contortionist like we saw on America’s Got Talent?” Andrew asked.

Blitzen said, “Yes, and she could put her foot under her chin.  Then we made a people pyramid and my teacher helped me so I could be on top.”

Frankly, I have no idea what went down yesterday but I do love Blitzen’s school.

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We’ve had several very teary, sad evenings because of homework.  Blitzen struggles with math and reading but especially reading.  And she has gotten to the point at school where reading is kind of a part of everything, not just language arts. 

Last night she sobbed and sobbed over her poetry assignment (she loves poetry and is good at creating it!) but the poems were long-ish and had some words that she didn’t know.  She just kept weeping and saying, ‘All the other kids can read the big words but I can’t and I never will.’  It was utterly heartbreaking.

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Was calm, a first.  The child rose with no grumpiness, cheerfully accepted assistance with her hair and was happy with the finished product.  I allowed her to wear those little church/kitten/kiddy heals she has and she brought both flipflops and sneakers as back up.  Progress presents itself in the most unusual ways and on the most surprising days.

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I got the following email today:

Lots of B tears today, I’m told, and lots of long teacher hugs.  She really loved this school year. 

Indeed she did.  So glad that she gets to go back to such a wonderful, nurturing place next year.  When I think about how anxious and unsure we were about school at this time last year, it seems millions of miles away.  What a difference a year makes.

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