The Cost of Getting What You Need: Many Children Left Behind

wealthThis is my 17th year in this area of practice-notably special education law and other disability related areas of law practice. While I have always done a considerable amount of pro bono work, the need in recent years has been overwhelming. What has always been true, since we opened our doors, is that obtaining access to special education and other services, including access to legal representation, can be costly and out of reach for many families. Not that I needed to be reminded of this fact since it is a daily issue in the office. We must pick and choose those pro bono cases and reject others since this is a private law practice and there is a need to keep the doors open and our families fed. Parents seek out our services to assure that their children are getting what they need to be as successful as they can be given whatever challenges they face. This can cost a lot of money, not simply in legal fees, but in the hiring of experts, therapists, and time to pursue the services needed. Regardless of the parents’ income, it can be an exhausting and endless pursuit.

Today I read an opinion piece from the New York Times entitled “No Rich Child Left Behind”. The article pointed out that more affluent parents are increasingly focusing their resources-their time, money and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school-on their children’s cognitive development and educational success. The article wasn’t focused at all on special needs children but on the increasing disparity between opportunities available for rich and poor children in this country. That access can make all the difference in ensuring educational success. This is particularly true for children with disabilities.

In my special education practice this is very evident. Children from affluent suburbs spend every available hour in remedial programs or therapies outside of school paid for with good insurance policies or their parents’ money. Many families come to me with a host of reports from several outside therapists in addition to the interventions their child receives at school. They are seeking to close the gap or at least keep the achievement gap from swallowing their child whole. Some are simply trying to help their child and family survive in the face of a devastating diagnosis. This income disparity may provide help to parents but it doesn’t keep tragedy from striking families in the form of autism, severe mental illness or life threatening physical problems. It simply makes it slightly easier to access help and services. Typical students of higher income families, as the article points out, are able to access opportunities that will assist them on the road to success.

The article is worth the read and to grab a few sound-bites wouldn’t do justice to the complexity of the problem facing the growing educational disparity between children of upper and lower incomes.

New York Times, 4/29/13, Sean Reardon

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About Micki Moran

Micki Moran is the founding partner of The Child and Family Law Center, Ltd. She dedicates her practice to providing legal assistance to children and families who are in need of representation in the areas of special education, disability law, juvenile and young adult criminal law, abuse and neglect, guardianship, and mental health issues. Micki's practice is founded on the principle that children and their families require and deserve excellent legal representation with a multidisciplinary approach that works with multiple systems of care and creates communities that support and improve the quality of all peoples' lives.
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