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Paige, a bright third grade student on the autism spectrum, sat at home for nearly two months waiting for a school placement that would meet her needs. 

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03.22.2013 | Join Advocates for Children and the Center for Attention and Learning at North Shore LIJ/ Lenox Hill Hospital for a two-part training series on learning disabilities, evaluations, programs and related services. View flyer

03.18.2013 | Today AFC testified before the City Council General Welfare Committee to urge city leaders to reject proposed cuts to early learning programs in New York City. View testimony

03.05.2013 | The International Visitor Leadership Program, which includes human rights activists from several countries in the Middle East and is coordinated by the Department of State, visited the offices of Advocates for Children of New York on March 5, 2013. The group met with AFC's Executive Director, Kim Sweet, and Special Education Policy Coordinator, Maggie Moroff, to learn how AFC works to increase access to an appropriate education for all students in NYC.

the delegation

02.20.2013 | AFC has a new guide to charter school discipline! This guide explains discipline for charter school students, what to do if your child has been suspended from a charter school, how to appeal a charter school's suspension decision, and your rights throughout the process. The guide also includes information for families of students with disabilities who have been suspended. View the guide

02.08.2013 | AFC has a new guide to kindergarten admissions for families of children born in 2008! This guide explains the kindergarten admissions process, answers frequently asked questions, and includes information for families of students with disabilities, ELLs, and students in temporary housing. View the guide

02.08.2013 | Today AFC testified before the Education Committee of the New York City Council about the cost of pupil transportation in NYC and the impact of the bus strike on the families we serve. AFC has heard from countless families struggling to get their children to and from school during the strike – a strike which for three weeks now has left great numbers of students with special education needs without the free, appropriate, public education they are entitled to under law. View testimony

01.30.2013 | Today, AFC submitted testimony urging the New York State Legislature to ensure that the state budget protects access to high-quality Early Intervention services that are driven by children’s needs, not by their health insurance coverage....View testimony

01.25.2013 |  

Background: 

Brain research demonstrates that the stimulation and interaction a child receives during the first five years of life are critical to permanent brain development. As part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Early Intervention (EI) program provides evaluations and services to infants and toddlers who have developmental delays or disabilities and their families. Early Intervention is cost-effective and helps infants and toddlers at the time when services can make the biggest difference.

Budget Proposal: 

Governor Cuomo’s 2013-2014 Executive Budget proposal would restructure Early Intervention, linking EI services with health insurance coverage. While we support the goal of requiring private health insurance companies to contribute to the cost of EI, we are concerned about parts of the proposal. Among other provisions, the budget proposal would:

  • Allow a health insurance representative to be part of the team that develops and reviews a child’s Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP), giving the health insurance company a voice in determining a child’s EI services for the first time. 
  • Require EI providers to join health insurance networks, negotiate their reimbursement rates with health insurers, and exhaust all appeals of claim denials by health insurers before being paid by EI, likely leading to a further reduction in the number of experienced EI providers available to serve children. 
  • Require children to be evaluated and served by evaluators and service providers within the children’s health insurance network, without a clear process for obtaining an exception for children who need specialized service providers.

The Executive Budget proposal would also change the EI evaluation system. Children who already have a diagnosed physical or mental condition likely to result in a developmental delay would no longer have the right to a full initial evaluation, making it harder to determine the type and amount of services that would be appropriate.

TAKE ACTION: 

Call or e-mail your state legislators and tell them that you are concerned that the Early Intervention proposals in the Health and Mental Hygiene Article VII Budget Bill would make it harder to access high-quality EI services. Tell legislators that they should not allow health insurance representatives to participate in IFSP meetings; should reject the proposed restrictions on the evaluators and service providers available to serve children; and should ensure that providers are paid at sufficient rates so that they continue working with young children. A sample e-mail is below.

To reach your state legislators, call the Senate switchboard (518-455-2800) and Assembly switchboard (518-455-4100) and give your zip code. Alternatively, you can find your NY State Senator here and your NY Assembly Member here. E-mail lists are available here and here.

Key legislators include: 

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried:
GottfriedR@assembly.state.ny.us or 518-455-4941

Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon:
hannon@nysenate.gov or 518-455-2200

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:
Speaker@assembly.state.ny.us or 518-455-3791

Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos:
skelos@nysenate.gov or 518-455-3171

Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey Klein:
jdklein@senate.state.ny.us or 518-455-3595

Sample e-mail: 

Protect Early Intervention
As a [parent of a child who receives Early Intervention services], I am very concerned about the Early Intervention budget proposals. First, just as health insurance representatives do not participate in meetings between doctors and patients, health insurance representatives should not be able to participate in IFSP meetings. The role of health insurance companies should be to help pay for services, not to decide what services are appropriate. Second, I am concerned that the proposal would restrict access to services by requiring the use of in-network evaluators and providers without a clear process for getting an exception. Young children should have access to the most appropriate EI providers regardless of their health insurance networks. Third, I am concerned that the requirements that EI providers negotiate their rates with health insurance companies and file appeals of health insurance claim denials will drive experienced providers from the EI field, making it harder for young children to access the services they need. Fourth, I am concerned that children who already have a diagnosed physical or mental condition likely to result in a developmental delay would no longer have the right to a full initial EI evaluation, making it harder to determine the type and amount of services that would be appropriate.

Please ensure that the budget addresses these concerns and protects access to high-quality EI services.

For more information and updates, please sign up for the Advocates for Children of New York listserv or contact Randi Levine at rlevine@advocatesforchildren.org.

Forward this alert to others who may be interested in taking action.

01.23.2013 | New York City’s school bus drivers are striking. A few weeks ago, we urged you to follow the story and get updates from the DOE on alternative options for families that rely on yellow bus service to travel to and from school. AFC is continuing to push the Department of Education for a solution that works for all of our youth; we want to make sure that you are aware of some more specific resources available to help get your children to school during the strike.

  • If you don’t know yet, and need to determine if your child’s bus route has been disrupted by the strike, see here
     
  • For general information about the use of MetroCards and reimbursement for driving or taking a taxi or other car service see here. A few things to note about these options: 
     
    • MetroCards are available for all students who use yellow bus services through school offices. 
       
    • MetroCards are available for some parents of students who use yellow bus services to allow them to accompany their children to and from school. 
      • Parents of all preschool and all school-age children with IEPs are eligible. 
      • Parents of general education students in grades K-6 are eligible. 
         
    • Parents of students in grades K-6 who receive yellow bus services will be reimbursed for driving costs at a rate of 55 cents per mile upon completion of reimbursement forms. 
       
    • Parents of students in grades K-6 who receive yellow bus services may also be reimbursed for cab fares upon completion of reimbursement forms. 
       
    • Families of students who are eligible for yellow bus services who cannot utilize public transportation and cannot afford to pay carfare costs up front and then seek reimbursement should reach out to their school administrator or CSE for further assistance. If the family qualifies for free or reduced price lunch and the child receives specialized transportation, protocols have been set up to arrange to have families’ fees for car services assigned to and paid by the DOE. A list of car service providers is available on the DOE website or by calling the Office of Pupil Transportation’s Customer Service number at (718) 392-8855. Families who can demonstrate financial hardship regardless of Title 1 status should reach out to their schools as well. If that is not successful, contact your Committee on Special Education. 
       
    • Students who have IEPs that require paraprofessional or nursing support for transportation should continue to get those services. Speak with your school directly about this. 
       
    • Students who don’t generally have paraprofessional support on their yellow buses, who are traveling during the strike to school by subway or through a car service, and whose families are, for whatever reason, unable to accompany them, but who still may need an adult other than a parent to travel with them by train or by car, should also speak directly with their schools to determine what arrangements can be made under the circumstances. 
       
  • For information specific to finding an accessible ride, go here
     
  • For a copy of the travel reimbursement forms in multiple languages, see here.

As always, we urge you to continue checking back on the DOE’s website or contacting 311 for updates and to advocate with your schools and central DOE offices if you need assistance (see here for AFC’s tips on advocacy). If you are confused or encounter unexpected obstacles obtaining MetroCards, reimbursement, securing accessible transportation services, or arranging for other forms of assistance, contact the AFC Helpline at 1-866-427-6033 for information and assistance or send specific information about your case to us at josep@advocatesforchildren.org.

01.15.2013 | More than 152,000 New York City students, including 54,000 with special education needs, depend on school buses to get them to their classes each day. In the event of a strike, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) urges the City to take every possible action to ensure that these students do not become victims of a labor dispute and that they have a safe, alternative way to get to and from school... Read full statement