child law resources


Special Education

What is special education?

In 1975 the US Congress enacted a law – now called the Individuals with  Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] – which established specific legal requirements for school districts to serve children with disabilities.


What are the requirements for school districts?

They must provide each child with a disability with an ‘individualized’ program that includes support services necessary for the child to benefit from education.


How is that program developed?

The school and the family of the child meet in what is called an “Individualized Education Program” [IEP] meeting.


What happens at the IEP meeting?

All aspects of the child’s education, including goals and objectives, curriculum, support services and class and school placement are discussed and if agreed upon by the school and the parents, the IEP is completed, signed and then implemented by the school.


What if the school and parents disagree about the IEP?

Either party can request a mediation at which time the matter may be resolved or can then go to a due process hearing in which the hearing officer will take evidence and issue a ruling.


How does a student become eligible for special education?

The school has a duty to assess those students it feels may have educational challenges.  The family also has the right to ask for an assessment to determine whether the child is ‘disabled’ under the law.


What kinds of disabilities qualify a child for special education? 

Learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, autism, deafness, blindness, orthopedic disabilities, development delays, speech and language disabilities, traumatic brain injury, other health impaired (asthma, ADHD, ADD, epilepsy, heart conditions to name a few).


What are related or support services?

Related services are those services that help a student with disabilities “benefit” from his/her education and/or help the child attend a regular or “mainstreamed” class. Related services include but are not limited to, orientation and mobility services, parent counseling, psychological services, sign language interpreters, physical or occupational therapy, transportation, recreation, speech and language services.


How often is there an IEP meeting?

IEP meetings should generally take place before the start of a new school year, but can happen throughout the year.  Families have the right to request an IEP at any time.


How is the assessment done? 

The school must provide the family with an assessment plan which details the kinds of tests/analyses that will be used for the child.  The assessment is then done by a qualified individual and the results provided to the family and discussed at the IEP meeting.  The family has a right to secure its own outside assessment which the IEP team must review and consider. The school may have responsibility for paying for the outside assessment.


Are school districts responsible for private schools, including residential placement?

School districts can be responsible for placing a child in a private or even residential program.  Much will depend on the nature of the disability and other factors that you should discuss with your school and/or attorney.

Family Mediation

What is Family Mediation?

Family Mediation is a voluntary process involving a neutral third party who assists in helping family members come to an agreement regarding a family problem.


How does mediation work?

A neutral person invites the family members to meet and assists in working with the family in a respectful and calm manner, in coming to resolution about the family conflict. Most mediations last no longer than 2-3 hours and can assist the family in resolving the problem that brought the family to mediation or, at a minimum, help the family narrow the issues and begin to focus on next steps toward resolving the matter. The process of mediation helps families in difficulty to reach a mutually agreed upon resolution to a conflict.


When is Family Mediation appropriate?

There are times when a neutral third party can assist a family in identifying issues and potential resolutions. The conflicts could range from a child’s mental health and treatment concerns to substance abuse, delinquent behavior and truancy. Family dynamics are complex and children can be complicated. Our practice is designed to offer a neutral setting in which to explore issue identification and resolution and can include appropriate referrals to skilled professionals in the field in which your family needs help.


What is the difference between Family Mediation and family therapy?

Mediation is a structured process where a specific issue or issues are identified as a family problem and a neutral third party assists in resolving a specific dispute or problem in a short window of time, typically in one session, no more than three hours in duration. Family therapy addresses family dynamics involving the family unit over a period of time involving multiple sessions.

Child Protection

I am a parent of a child who has been taken from my care.  The social worker is saying that I have hurt my child.  What can I do?

The law provides for a court hearing within 48 hours of a child’s removal, where you can have an attorney present evidence as to your side of the case.


I am a relative or friend of a child who has been removed from his parent and would like to request placement. How do I do that?

If you as a family member, or family friend, sometimes referred to as a “non-related extended family member”, or NREFM, desire placement of a child removed from parental care you should immediately contact the child welfare worker and ask that you be assessed for placement. This process will include an in-home inspection; an assessment of the your ability to care for the child; and a criminal background and child abuse and neglect check.


I am a relative and wish to give the judge information about the child. How do I accomplish that?

The judge has the discretion to allow a relative to be present at the court hearing and to address the court. Relatives also have the right to submit information in writing to the court.


I am a foster parent or relative caregiver and would like to provide information about the child in my care to the judge. Is there a form or process?

Caregivers, including relatives and extended family, are entitled to notice of all hearings. A copy of a juvenile court form, called the JV-290 Caregiver Written Report, should be sent to you with notice of the child’s next hearing date. It should include instructions on how to file the form with the court. The form provides space in which to inform the judge as to the child’s health, education, social skills, and adjustment to his or her living situation, as well as your recommendations regarding the child.


I am a caregiver for a child for whom I would like to provide a permanent home, whether it be as a guardian or through adoption.  Is this possible and what is the procedure?

Most parents are entitled to receive social services to assist in correcting the problems that led to the child’s removal. The length of time a parents receives services can vary and is dependent on the case specifics. If the time period has run and the parent has not been able to get his or her child back, the social worker will need to find what is known as a permanent plan for the child. As a caregiver you typically are entitled to preferred consideration. You must inform the social worker of your desire to offer a permanent home to the child.


What is an ICPC and why would one be necessary?

If you are considering having a child who lives in another state come live with you and your family, the caseworker may inform you that an “ICPC” is necessary. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a statutory agreement between all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. The agreement governs the placement of children from one state into another state. It sets forth the requirements that must be met before a child can be placed out of state. The Compact ensures prospective placements are safe and suitable before approval and is used where a possible placement for a child is in a different state.


I am a father whose child is involved in child welfare proceedings. The social worker keeps telling me I need to go to court to become a “presumed” father. What is a “presumed” father and why is it important in my child’s case?

A “presumed” father may or may not be the biological father of a child. In a dependency action a man who asks the court for recognition as the child’s father may be considered “presumed” as a father to a child where he has demonstrated a full commitment to parental responsibilities, “emotional, financial and otherwise.” A father who come before the juvenile court must established he is entitled to presumed father status in order to fully participate in the proceedings.


I know a minor who is not legally in this country and wants to gain legal status.  Is there anything that can be done?

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) provides legal protection for certain undocumented immigrant minors who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by allowing them to legalize their immigration status and become lawful permanent residents. This is a complex and changing area of the law and there are certain strict requirements an undocumented minor must meet in order to be considered.