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Cost of child advocate?

mrl12 profile image

I'm working with a child advocate for my daughter's IEP. He seemed very knowledgeable, though expensive. He estimated 4-5 hours prep and 1-2 hours for the meeting at his hourly rate of $150. We paid $600, covering the pre-meeting estimate, but then he sent a bill for another $800 for another 4-5 hours of work (including the meeting.) I asked him just how much we can expect to pay for all of this and he was not able to give us an actual number. Just kept in saying that it's worth it for my kid, or that we can reduce the accommodations I'm asking for to minimize costs.

Does this sound like a typical experience working with a child advocate? What was the total cost you ended up paying? Do you think you could have done it on your own?

12 Replies

That sounds very expensive! We didn’t use an advocate. We had the psychologist who diagnosed our daughter attend the IEP meeting with us. Our psychologist charged her hourly fee which was about $200/hr and the IEP meeting was over in about one hour.

Just curious.. are you having struggles? Did you have an administrative professional ( not a principal) at the meeting?I know there are parent group that can help.

mrl12 profile image
mrl12 in reply to Onthemove1971

We had struggles with the school at the end of last year. Things had gotten pretty strained between the school and myself and my daughter. I struggled to get her evaluations that I felt she needed (learning evaluations, especially for dyslexia screening, and occupational therapy evaluations.) We did finally get the evaluations, fortunately.

With the way last year went, with my daughter struggling so mightily and falling so far below her peers, and with an eligibility/IEP meeting coming up, I thought that might be good to have to help us get the support she needs. I have heard people here saying good things about having an advocate.

But, now I'm wondering if the advocate we chose is worth it. I think my plan now is to meet with him tomorrow to go over the draft IEP and my recommendations for revision. If that conversation goes well I'll have him attend the IEP meeting. That will cover the original estimate we agreed on. And hopefully the meeting goes well and we won't need an advocate.

Ideally, the school staff and I can get on the same page to understand and support my daughter's needs and will be able to work together going forward.

Onthemove1971 profile image
Onthemove1971 in reply to mrl12

Did you have a Special Education supervisor at the meeting or just the principal?

I have both "hats" on.. I sit in over 30 IEP's for work and I have a child who receives service at his high school.

Having an advocate changing the dynamic at the IEP. You could always start with help and if you feel it is helping stay with it. But if it makes things harder you could go it alone.

It would be best if your daughter could get the things she needs. Sorry it is such a struggle.

mrl12 profile image
mrl12 in reply to Onthemove1971

We haven't had the meeting yet, but the invite includes the school psychologist, principal, reading specialist, special education teacher, a learning consultant, and two behaviorists.

My issue is that they're focusing solely on behavior and improving behavior, but not addressing the cause of my daughter's behavior (sensory processing issues, possible learning disability such as dyslexia which we need to get a screening for.)

Onthemove1971 profile image
Onthemove1971 in reply to mrl12

YES, the special education administration is there to " supervise" all if those people and if they are not doing what you want that is who you invite. I am sorry this is so painful.

I would also make sure you bring in writing ( of course keep a copy) that you want as assessment for any suspected learning disability. The learning specialist she assess for the issues you are talking about.

Once the services are on the IEP, your daughter should get more services.

Best of luck! Let us know how it goes.

Our advocate was very expensive ($260/hr) and we ended up paying probably around $3K. For us, I believe it was worth it, bc the school was denying us an IEP bc my son’s problems were behavioral and social but not academic. Our advocate knew the laws and what angle to take, but also she personally knew the SpEd director for the district, and was able to get her to attend our IEP meeting (she seemed to have a lot of decision-making power). The advocate pointed out inconsistencies in the school’s assessment and conclusions, that I did not see clearly. Without the advocate I feel sure we wouldn’t have gotten the IEP. We had a 504 the prior year, which amounted to very little… the services / accommodations connected to the IEP feel much more substantial.

Hope your meeting and pre-meeting go well!

There is no special education director listed on the invite and our advocate never mentioned anything about it. He had me write to the case manager to request names and roles for the attendees but didn't request that any specific role be in attendance. Should that be a red flag?

I requested that the occupational therapist be invited because all of her recommendations were left out of the draft IEP.

$260 an hour is expensive! Was your advocate an attorney or non-attorney? It's absolutely criminal that anyone should need to hire an advocate to get a school to provide what a child needs. Children of low income parents are just SOL.

Based on my limited experience I don’t think it’s a red flag for your advocate - I think it was a lucky coincidence for us- and maybe more likely since our advocate had been working in the field in our area for so long (20 years+?}. She was not an attorney. We are in SF Bay Area where everything is horribly overpriced. I agree totally with you, and echrista below. It’s a shame that advocates are needed and yet another advantage for kids from a privileged background :-(. At our school it feels like many parents are asking for an assessment and potential IEP - so I get that the admins and service providers are overwhelmed. I think that their default is to minimize the parents’ concerns and provide the minimum possible, so as not to add burden to their already strained resources.

One easy tip I got along the way is to bring a picture of your child to the IEP meeting. I printed a full page pic and slid it in to the cover of my binder - keeps the child “in view” during the meeting. Hope all goes well for your daughter!

This discussion is so much bigger. Most of us specialist spend our lives ( and own $, with many extra hours in the evenings and weekends), to work with kids and families. All Specialist and parents come is different types. I have been working for over 13 years and I can say we start every IEP with Parents concerns and try to address them. I am also a parent and feel I am not heard at my son's high school. There are no easy answers. I have also worked with advocates that scream and yell and are nothing but rude, even to the parents. The goal is to help children with what is impacting their education. How to do this is the real issue.

Totally fair point. I didn’t mean to discredit the people who have dedicated their careers to helping children and families.

Our advocate charged a rate of $95 per hour and a standard higher rate for 2 hour chunks attending any IEP meeting. Between the prep work and actual meeting and follow up call to review the IEP we ended up spending a little over $1,000. Was it worth it? Heck yes. My son after getting practically nothing got all of the services he needs. It hurt to pay out the invoices when they were coming in but we got all we needed. They just don't take parents seriously at these meetings. They say their little script and move on. It felt like having the advocate there elevated the meeting to a whole new level of seriousness. If you can afford it worth every penny. Otherwise try to source a probono advocate thru a local community service agency. Good luck!

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