Just a warning – this is a venting post – read with caution as I just needed to get this bit of the story out once and for all.
Did you ever try so hard at something and still failed at it? I have. The measure of a person is if they get back up, brush off the scrapes to their egos (and possibly bodies) and try again until they succeed. Sometimes I get up, sometimes I stay down – but either way – I always try. My daughter does too.
So now we are about eight weeks into this adoption thingy. We are still in the foster parent stage. I can say that this process of becoming a foster parent has been both equally rewarding and frustrating. Hug a social worker today- they are overloaded, stressed out and still manage to cope with it all with dignity. And if you know one in my neck of the woods – hug them twice for having to put up with me. I can be feisty.
I have learned a lot about teenage girls. As a foster parent trainer, parent to boys and former teacher, I thought I had a pretty good idea on how kids worked. I was wrong. So very very wrong. But, truth be told, there is much joy (and frustration) in the learning process. I would not trade it for the world.
I have also learned that I am not a fan of the education system at times. Which is the purpose of this blog post. In fact, I think that those people who allow children to fall through the cracks of the education system should be held accountable. Held accountable in ways that are probably best not written about on a public blog. (if you know me – you know exactly the devious plans that come up in my head when it comes to this sort of thing)
The story of the big bad high school who huffed and puffed and almost blew my daughter down is as follows….(ok maybe not that bad – as I am sure that most kids in this particular district have a better story – but this is my blog and I have creative freedom here – cut me a break)
To start – She was placed in a home prior to ours. Her 25th(ish) home since she was 8ish years old or something ridiculous like that.(we don’t have the complete history yet so we guess based on what we know to this point). With being placed in that home – she had to switch schools – again – for like the 25th (ish) time or something ridiculous like that. So you have this teenage girl – who is already a grade behind – starting a new school (for like the third time this school year) – and she started at the end of the year. March-ish.
So enter the school with it’s fangs and angry eyes and claws and stuffs. This particular high school (which is not in the wonderful independent school district that my boys attend) decided that placing her in an English class was too much trouble as their English classes were “full” – can you tell I am a bit bitter over this? How are they “full” – considering that my daughter definitely needed this class. I could strangle someone. It is just frustrating. Full. I just don’t understand. I can’t even begin to understand.
I can tell you that if she would have been placed with me when this happen, I would have lost my mind over this decision and a superintendent would have been contacted – along with a lawyer, an advocate, and anyone who may have listened. I think I mentioned that I can be feisty. But alas – hurricane Dusty was still forming offshore at this point in the story.
It gets better (or worse depending on your level of sarcasm). So two weeks into this new school – her IEP meeting is scheduled. The IEP meeting, required by federal statute, is convened at least once a school year to plan an educational program that is tailored to the needs of each child. The child’s “team” attends the meeting: teachers, therapists, parents, school administrators, and any other invited parties. As she was not placed with me – I was not invited – despite multiple attempts on my part to participate as she would be placed with me for the remainder of her education. (The bitterness is starting to flow like the dark side but that is neither here nor there – what was done was done – there is no going backwards.)
If you don’t know what an IEP is – here is a brief synopsis: An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child’s individual needs. Every child who receives special education services must have an IEP. That’s why the process of developing this vital document is of great interest and importance to educators, administrators, and families alike.
The IEP has two general purposes:
- to set reasonable learning goals for a child, and
2. to state the services that the school district will provide for the child.
Each child’s IEP must contain specific information, as listed within IDEA, our nation’s special education law. This includes (but is not limited to):
— the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, describing how the child is currently doing in school and how the child’s disability affects his or her involvement and progress in the general curriculum
— annual goals for the child, meaning what parents and the school team think he or she can reasonably accomplish in a year
— the special education and related services to be provided to the child, including supplementary aids and services (such as a communication device) and changes to the program or supports for school personnel
— how much of the school day the child will be educated separately from nondisabled children or not participate in extracurricular or other nonacademic activities such as lunch or clubs
— how (and if) the child is to participate in state and district-wide assessments, including what modifications to tests the child needs
— when services and modifications will begin, how often they will be provided, where they will be provided, and how long they will last
— how school personnel will measure the child’s progress toward the annual goals.
Let’s just say, once she was placed with me – I received a copy of said IEP. You know, the written statement, required by a federal statute, that is specifically designed to meet her very specific needs? To say, upon reviewing the IEP, that I came unglued would be understatement. There were some choice curse words, a lot of calls to friends to vent and a thrown paper or two as I was making valid points to those that would listen about this IEP.
As a former teacher and current child advocate, I am VERY familiar with the IEP process. This IEP left a lot to be desired. A lot.It was a hot mess. (I am being politically correct here as to not seem like a psycho about to explode about this issue.)
Well the IEP – I can fix that when she transfers to the school district that my boys attend. I am fairly certain the guidance counselor there will also come unglued about her circumstances. At least I would hope she would. What I can’t fix is the fact that she struggled in almost all of her classes, was lost and confused through most of the end of the school year and is now cramming 6 months worth of 2 classes (one being the English class that the school failed to place her in) into 2 weeks of summer school. I can’t fix that. I can just help her through it. And keep my frustrations in check. A lot.
Upon being placed in my home, I had to get her school information switched over to mine. Oh my goodness – what a mess. It would have been a comedy if it wasn’t such a tragically hot mess of an issue. A month in, I finally got to speak with someone who was vested in my daughter and her needs. Mr. C. – named protected for privacy issues – was absolutely wonderful with helping me help her. Seriously – this man went above and beyond. Though it was a little too late in the year (like the beginning of May) – his help at least facilitated her passing what classes she passed. He was a gem – an no nonsense gem of a teacher who I wish I could pay to follow her through high school. In all honesty – without him – she would have just been another student who failed ninth grade. Another kid that slipped through crack. It is heartbreaking.
Let me stress – if you are a parent, foster, adoptive or other, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE advocate for your child. Here is a wonderful link with some tips and pointers – read it – become educated on the process and do it …Tips to advocate for your child
So now we are finishing up summer school – and hopefully through all the hard work – 10th grade is on the horizon. It will be fine and work out – but in the meantime, we work – we fail and we keep getting up. Our egos a little more bruised but with a healthy determination (and some threats of banning a cell phone until good grades start rolling in) – we will be fine. She will be fine. The failures will continue but next time, she will have back up in the form of mom and the ability to get up on her feet and put up a fight for what is right. All I have to do is manage to keep my cool and not slip into “Philly mode” when dealing with the next three years of school. Wish me luck. I am pretty feisty.