P&A Centers: A Source of Legal Help

At a glance

  • The Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System advocates for the legal rights of people with disabilities.

  • Each state has its own P&A center.

  • If you need legal help, the P&A center could be a good resource.

If you have a dispute with the school about your child’s education, it can be hard to know where to look for help. One useful resource is the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System and Client Assistance Program (CAP). Congress created the P&A System and CAP to advocate for the legal rights of people with disabilities. Find out if these resources could help you and your child.

What Protection and Advocacy Centers Offer

P&A centers provide legal representation and advocacy services to anyone with a disability. These centers help all kinds of people, from those who use wheelchairs to children with developmental delays. Children and adults with learning and thinking differences may qualify for assistance. Here are a few examples of situations in which a P&A center may offer help:

  • Your child hasn’t been evaluated even though you requested an evaluation.
  • Your child was suspended or expelled from school because of behavior related to learning and thinking differences documented in an or .
  • Your child was placed in an alternative school and isn’t receiving the services she needs.
  • Your child is receiving services at school, but they aren’t meeting her needs.

CAP agencies are like P&A centers, but they focus on government (“VR”) programs. VR programs help people with disabilities find jobs or careers. If your child is having problems getting help from a VR program, a CAP agency may offer legal or advocacy help.

Keep in mind that although these centers offer help, sometimes the wait lists can be long. And you are not guaranteed legal help. The centers usually will screen your case. But the only way to find out if your state’s P&A center can help your child is to contact them.

Where to Find a P&A Center in Your State

Every state has a P&A center. Some have a combined P&A and CAP center. There is also a Native American P&A center in the four corners region of the Southwest. You can find the P&A center in your state by visiting the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN). (The NDRN is a network of all the P&A and CAP centers across the country.)

P&A and CAP centers are important resources for parents of children with learning and thinking differences. There are other places to get help, too. Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) give parents information about the process. You can also take a look at other legal resources.

Key takeaways

  • P&A centers may offer legal help if you have a dispute with the school about your child’s education.

  • The only way to find out if your state’s P&A center can help is to contact them.

  • The Client Assistance Program is like P&A but focuses on vocational rehabilitation (job training and career services).