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Rights and Responsibilities: Parents Can Ensure That Children Get Help


If your child has a mental, emotional or behavioral problem--or if you suspect that your child needs special assistance--there are things you can do to ensure he or she receives the proper help.

Below is a partial list of rights, made available by the Ventura County Special Education Service Area Consortium, that you have as a parent:

* If you think your child has a problem that has not been addressed by his or her public school, you have a right to request, in writing, that the school district provide an evaluation of your child. The district then has 15 days to present an assessment plan to you.

* You have the right to be fully informed, in language easily understood and in your primary language, of all procedures, assessment results and rights of appeal.

* All handicapped children--including those with mental, emotional or behavioral problems--have the right to a free and appropriate education, including placement in a non-public or non-sectarian school if the public school cannot provide an appropriate program.

* If you are uncertain about a proposed educational plan for your child (called an Individual Educational Plan), you are not required to give your consent. In some cases of disagreement, you may get an independent assessment of your child at public expense.

* Under recently passed legislation, your child is eligible for county mental health services if an identified mental, emotional or behavioral problem interferes with his or her education.

The following organizations and programs may be able to provide additional services or information:

* Interface Children-Family Services of Ventura County provides low-cost education classes for parents and counseling for children, youth and families. Next month, the organization will offer support groups for entire families. Services are provided at numerous sites throughout the county and are available in Spanish. Fees are on a sliding scale basis. For more information, call 485-6114.

* Some Ventura County elementary schools have a Primary Intervention Program which pairs volunteers with children who require special assistance. Ask your child's teacher about PIP as well as any additional services that might be beneficial.

* TASK, short for Team of Advocates for Special Kids, is an organization partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education that provides advocacy training and educational information to parents of children of all ages and disabilities. Workshops are held throughout Southern California. A free workshop will be held Feb. 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ojai, 409 Topa Topa Drive. To register, call Nancy Moir at 649-1994. Educational questions should be directed to TASK's Anaheim office, (714) 533-TASK.

* SELPA, the Special Education Local Plan Area, is responsible for the governance, administration and coordination of state and federal funds to the local school districts in Ventura County. Three, free SELPA workshops are scheduled to help parents understand the Individual Education Plan: Jan. 30 at the Thousand Oaks Library; March 4 at the Ventura County Schools Conference Facility at the Camarillo Airport; and April 29 at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura. Each meeting is from 7:30 to 9 p.m. To reserve child-care or interpreter services, call Fran Arner-Costello at 388-4215.

* The Child and Adolescent Services System-Family Network is a new, statewide parent network made up of families with children and adolescents who have mental, emotional or behavioral disorders. The goal of the network, which holds meetings approximately every two months at various locations throughout the state, is to provide improved access to child and family services that are sensitive to cultural, ethnic and lifestyle diversities. The group also offers information about family and child rights, and provides recommendations for support of legislation affecting emotionally disturbed children and youth. To be placed on the organization's mailing list, write to Phyllis Meyers, CASSP-FN, State Department of Mental Health, 1600 9th St., Sacramento, Calif. 95814.

* The next meeting of United Parents is scheduled for Jan. 14 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Camarillo library, 3100 East Ponderosa Road. For more information, contact Ellen or Norm Linder at 523-8558. Spanish-speaking callers may contact Juan Avila at 498-9760.

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