Cost of IEP Advocates
Your child is struggling. As a mom, you’re stressed and you’re frustrated. You want to hire an IEP advocate. But, you’ve heard that they are expensive. How do you know? What do you do?
How Much do Advocates Charge?
Ok, so the meat and potatoes of this post. The answers you came for.
Fact is, it can be just about anything. Some states have a decent amount of agencies that offer free assistance. And some areas, particularly large metropolitan areas, have advocates who charge more than some attorneys. Plus everything in between.
I know that may not be helpful, but it’s the truth.
And, the free advocates have a reputation for being, uh, not so great. But I worked as a free advocate. I was paid by an agency. So did Blake, Michelle and Jenny (from the Facebook group). And we’re all damn good advocates.
The key to being successful at this whole IEP thing is how big your tribe is. You have to be excellent at working with other parents, sharing information. Even social introverts like me have had to overcome shyness and speak up. You can find good advocates at a good price.
At doctor appointments and therapy sessions, talk to those other moms in the waiting rooms. That’s where some of the best resources are found: networking with other parents.
My Thoughts on Hiring an IEP Advocate.
If you will indulge me for a moment, and let me add a little op-ed in here about hiring an advocate. Because I have been through this conversation 100s of times.
The “Well, we really wanted to hire an advocate, we just cannot afford it right now.”
When you hire a good advocate, it is NOT just about having someone sit with you in the IEP meeting. You are paying for every bit of information that is inside my brain, as well as the dozens of advocates who I network with. There are only a few thousand people in this country who know the IEP process well. That’s what you’re paying for. A good advocate has the ability to strategize and develop a plan for your child. We’re great at troubleshooting and problem solving.
You are paying me to know who is the best person for your child’s IEE, and which IEE evaluators are going to find exactly what the school districts want them to find. You are hiring me to bounce ideas off of other advocates, as we develop a strategy for your child’s situation.
You are paying me to know just about every APS within 50 miles of here, and which ones you should consider for your child. You are paying me to know the history of the school district, to know what they are capable of, both good and bad. And how to effectively use the IEP process to get to your desired end result.
What to look for in a Special Education Advocate.
I have a separate blog post about How to Become a Special Education Advocate. You’ll want to read that and see if your potential advocate has those skills and qualities.
I personally do not care for the personality trait of bulldozing into meetings, coming in with guns blazing. I have found that a strong but collaborative approach works best. If your potential advocate talks about “getting” the school or has a very abrasive attitude and personality, I’d stay away.
I never advise the “Wait and See.”
Whether it’s you who is saying this, or the school, I never think it is a good idea to “wait and see.” I have yet to see a bad situation resolve on its own.
I can’t even count the number of times I have seen this scenario:
Potential client: We cannot afford an advocate, so we’re just going to keep on going on our own.
Me: Sorry to hear that, call me if you change your mind.
Then, 6-12 months later, I get a desperate phone call, maybe on a Sunday, maybe even on Thanksgiving.
Same previous potential client: We really need your help! ‘Name’ has now been arrested/suspended/302’d.
Yes, this has really happened. A “wait and see” client waited and saw her child 302’d by the school the day before Thanksgiving.
And then, because the case is so much more complex, it’s more time consuming. Which mean more expensive, and perhaps now they even need a criminal attorney.
It’s a sacrifice. The money that you are spending on an advocate is going to take away from something else. I certainly wish it wasn’t that way. But sometimes we are left with no choice.
Is FAPE really free?
I get it. Believe me, I get it.
Your child is entitled to FAPE, and if you’re paying me, it’s not free.
It really grinds my gears when I hear someone say “$500 for an IEP meeting? Pffft, no way.” Because I will spend easily 10-20 hours on your child before we ever get to that meeting. I will review records and research options for you. I write letters for you. And then I attend the meeting and do the follow up for you.
After I pay taxes and child care for my own children, I am barely breaking even. It is about so much more than the hours I am with you.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, I get it. You shouldn’t have to pay an advocate $500-$1000 just to get your child what he is federally entitled to. I know the frustration. Just don’t take it out on the advocate, k? We genuinely wish that our jobs would become extinct.
But for now, they are necessary. I’m not judging anyone’s family situation or household budget or what you can or cannot afford. I just find many families who really could come up with $500 or so for an advocate, but say they cannot.
The system is stacked against low and middle-income families, that is for sure.
Good luck in finding an advocate, and the blog posts below offer much more assistance.
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