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 attention issues 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 attention issues documented in an IEP or 504 plan.
- 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 vocational rehabilitation (“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 attention issues. There are other places to get help, too. Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) give parents information about the special education process. You can also take a look at other legal resources.