IDEA Child Find Mandate

“That’s a Child Find issue.”

“You need to report them for Child Find!”

If your child has an IEP and you network with other parents, chances are you have heard these phrases. Or, maybe you’re trying to get an IEP, and you’ve been told you should be able to, because of the “child find. provision” So what is IDEA Child Find?

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Child Find is a provision of IDEA and applies to US children ages 0-18.

What is Child Find?

It’s a mandate that is a part of IDEA. And, interestingly, it is a part of IDEA parts B and C. So that means that it’s kind of a big deal!

It was so important to the authors and legislators of IDEA that they took the time to make sure that it includes kids of all ages. Both parts-babies with IFSPs, and preschoolers and school age children with IEPs.

In a nutshell, what it says is this: States are not only required to provide special education and services to kids who qualify as needing such services, but that each state is actually obligated to find and identify all these kids. All of them. Bold mine.

Child Find in IDEA

Here is a snippet of the wording from Part B (school aged kids):

exact child find wording in IDEA part B

See that? They are required to “Identify, locate and evaluate” all these kids. They didn’t leave anyone out. Doesn’t matter if they are homeless, not in the public schools…they’re responsible.

It even says in the statute that they are legally obligated to find these kids if they are “passing from grade to grade.” How often have you heard, “His grades are fine, he doesn’t need an IEP!”

Here it is from Part C (babies and preschool):

child find wording in IDEA part c

Again, they took the time to make sure that all kids are included. Homeless, foster care, Native American reservations….doesn’t matter. All ages 0-21. Every.single.child.

Find them, identify them, evaluate and serve them.

So why isn’t that happening?

Child Find is a Mandate

I know I’ve told the story several times about a local teacher who I am friends with. This teacher was told, at a faculty meeting along with all the other teachers, “Hey, stop referring all these kids for evaluations. We can’t be evaluating all these kids all the time. RTI them.”

Yep, sad but true.

So while schools are legally bound by IDEA to identify these kids, teachers are being told to do just the opposite. Must be great for morale. (because most teachers do want to help our kids, they just don’t have the resources to do it)

And, as I’ve said a zillion times, the Special Education System is stacked against parents. We just have to keep fighting. It shouldn’t be a fight, but it is. And, at least know that the statute is on your side for this one.

Parents and IDEA Child Find

All you can do as a parent is what we know. And that is:

  • Do all your requests for IEP evaluations in writing.
  • If the school refuses to evaluate that, demand that on a PWN.
  • Do everything in writing and keep a good paper trail.
  • Consider filing an IEP complaint.
  • You might want to call your state’s Disability Protection and Advocacy agency. Tell them your concerns and you can specifically ask, “Doesn’t this go against what IDEA says about Child Find?”
  • Read your Procedural Safeguards and use them if you need to.
  • Network with other parents. If you find enough “similarly situated” parents, consider contacting an attorney or doing a group OCR complaint.

Wait, before you do any of that.

A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I’d hate for any parent to read my blog, not have all the information, and go in with guns blazing. And then be wrong! I’m all for causing a fuss and making things right for our kids. But you don’t want to end up with egg on your face.

Because OSEP does have several Guidance Letters out about Child Find.

So double and triple check that you have all the information that you need. For example, ICE and immigration detention centers are a hot topic right now.

However, Child Find does not apply to those children.

Due Process and Compensatory Education

Perhaps you’ve found yourself in Due Process with your school district. One of the many reasons that I never recommend to parents that they go to Due Process without an attorney, is because of comp ed.

If, during your DP hearing, it is determined that the school should have identified your child earlier than they did, you can then ask for comp ed.

There is more thorough advice in that Due Process link above.

But what I’ve heard from a Hearing Officer is that when it comes to asking for things, parents don’t know what to ask for.

If it was determined that your child should have had an IEP two years before they did, what would you ask for? How do you put a value on that? A good special education attorney knows.

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