What Happens Next in DC Child Find Policies is Up to Parents and Allies of Children with Disabilities

Frederick Douglass QuoteAfter a weekend of much needed rest and reflection, I have had some time to think not just about what independence means to me but what it means for my children. Frederick Douglass was not only a hero in the anti-slavery movement, he was also prolific in articulating great ideas expressed in speeches such as “The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro“. As we sit waiting for the Republican led-Senate to make its next move in regards to the country’s health care policies that have a major consequences on individuals with disabilities in all walks of live, including at school, I can’t help but reflect on Douglass’s words in saying,

“…your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity…mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour…”

Douglass is also famously known for saying, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” So beyond my reflections on the healthcare system and the pending doom of what comes next, I already know the truth of where, how and who should be on the forefront of the discovery of more loving ways to make policies. Beyond promoting a gendered politic that would suggest that women make better lawmakers than men (which isn’t always true), I believe that children-focused societies are the most balanced. This was the way of many precolonial indigenous societies in the Americas and Africa that have shared mother-focuses (or matriarchal) social structures that put the power in the hands of those closest with the children in utero and in rearing. These ideas put love next to the children (born and unborn) at the center of policy-making decisions. And so, the big picture question I’m meditating on is where is the love? And can love be taught?

Social Emotional LearningI don’t have the answer to these questions and seeking the answers prompted me to join the Collaborator Network of the Collaborative of Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to find ways to promote progressive pedagogy for early child development and how to raise the emotional intelligence with a focus on children. In a very Douglassian approach, CASEL promotes for school districts to develop partnerships with families and community members that are focused on improving education outcomes for children beyond academic performance, highlighting engagement, trust, and collaboration for the benefit of raising more emotionally sensitive and intelligent people. So, as I get more academically knowledgeable on the subject, I am equally in reflection of my own life experiences and internal intelligence to find some these answers.

Takoma-Education-Campus-Classroom-1-640x372
Pre-K Class at Takoma Education Campus

In the sixth grade at Takoma Education Campus (the school my children now attend), I chose to sing Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love at the annual talent show. This song was selected not just because my science teacher and mentor, Ms. Weaver, introduced me to it (because she also had us singing Bob Marley’s Buffalo Solider on nature walks) but because it spoke so accurately to my world view both then and now.  I truly believe the children are our future, and even as a child myself that was more on the receiving end than the delivery of these services, it made complete sense that the goal of education was to be guided and then let me lead.  As a parent of children with disabilities, it is important for me now to work hand in hand with their formal and informal educators (“the village”) to ensure that all children receive free appropriate public education, or FAPE.

Mandela EducationI have been thinking deeply about my role as a parent, especially as a single black mother, and how to professionalize advocacy efforts while not losing the human element of interpersonal relationships between families with a common interest to improve educational services and outcomes. For this to happen, it is critical to build trust, create a culture of skills and resource sharing and other such critical elements which are necessary for camaraderie and sustained efforts that fuels any movement.  And we truly are on the precipice of another local parent-led educational movement in the District of Columbia and other places around the country to take us to the next best level of implementation of the many landmark cases and laws when it comes to the education of children with disabilities.

From Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1963 to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1975 to the Developmental Disabilities Act of 1984 to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 there is a huge arsenal of laws that protect children and their parent advocates. Additionally, most recently, there’s the  March 2017 Supreme Court ruling in Endrew F vs Douglas County School District case and the series of local landmark cases and legislation including the Blackman Jones , the 2014 Enhanced Special Education Act and now recently the DL vs the District of ColumbiaIt’s like walking into battle in steel armor – while it serves as protective gear, it also requires skill and training to actually fight in such a heavy load…and truly, I dislike using violent examples to explain parent-school relationships in regards to our children’s education but it’s true to life.

These federal and local laws help to break down barriers against access to timely, professionally evaluated and accurately documented educational services as well as due process procedures when there are disagreements between families and the school system. Truthfully, parents have been at the forefront of the majority of education reform policies in the United States, particularly since the 19th century Industrial Revolution which introduced child labor laws, and of course in the many years before that in different forms in precolonial societies all around the world.  Today, there is a yet another need for parents to get on the forefront of legislative support to ensure budgetary commitment to translating case law into policy and practice when it comes to Child Find.  And if for no other reason (and there are many more), the Inclusive Prosperity Coalition exists to midwife this local movement.

freedom-schoolHowever, it is important to note that all parent-led advocacy is not progressive. After all, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos begun her troubling career as a school choice advocate, serving as the chair of the American Federation for Children that claims to want to expand the choice options of families by encouraging the pipeline that sends public funds to support unregulated private schools that may discriminate against certain populations of students including LGBTQ youth and children with disabilities. Yet, despite these negative consequences of things like school voucher programs, a recent study by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) entitled, “School Vouchers and Students with Disabilities: Examining Impact in the Name of Choice,” found that parents often choose vouchers regardless of if there are available civil rights protections and seem to disregard these implications due to the urgency of their child needing to change schools and many other important factors. Yes, it’s true, some public schools are performing that terribly which motivates parents (particularly African American families) to exit like runaways from plantations seeking less hostile environments to rear their children.

Black Power to Black Studies.jpgTo this end, it is important to also reflect on the history of access to alternative education outside of the traditional public school system and the activation of Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights Movement, which linked quality education to access to other pathways to full democratic rights such as the right to vote.  Additionally, starting in the 1970s, the emergence of organizations such as the Council of Independent Black Institutions as part of the Black Studies Movement, a movement well documented in the book, From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline (2010) by Fabio Rojas.  Alternative black education emerged in response to an often times hostile public education system. Ironically, contemporary articulations of this quest for liberated black education finds strange bed fellows with conservative architects of the school choice movement that promotes for profit schools for very different reasons of parents and students during the 1960s and 1970s that spearheaded the broader black studies movement from the civil rights era and beyond.

Democracy in ChainsSide note: I hope to soon read and review Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (2017), which speaks to the history of Chicago School of Economics trained James Buchanan, an early architect of the modern libertarian movement, and allegedly led the anti-Brown vs. Board of Education in Virginia in 1956 through a form of privatization that both suppressed voting and undermined the public education system.

It is difficult (if not impossible) to teach what one does not know. So, to show the children all the beauty that they have inside, as Whitney Houston’s song prescribes, we as parents must find it first in ourselves.  Maybe its the geek in me but I personally can’t think of anything more beautiful than rising to the occasion to roll up my sleeves and solve a problem that can change lives for the better…especially if those lives are children, including my own. And while a real challenge usually has some form of endurance training, I realize that the task in sifting through the ways to practically yet systemically improve DC’s Child Find policies is a protracted struggle, as in its a marathon and not a sprint.

I conclude with the disclaimer that I am not perfect, so I don’t expect other parents, legal advocates, educators, administrators and law makers to be perfect. I also don’t expect for us to come up with perfect processes nestled in perfect policies and procedures and impeccable monitoring and evaluation practices. None of those meet my top ten expectations of what will come next. However, I do expect real commitment to solving the work-in-progress DC Child Find system for preschool transition, transparency and an ethical approach to policy changes and budgetary allocations.  As my favorite move franchise (so much so that I named my son Jedi!) says: “May the force be with us.”

Stay tuned for next stage of our campaign to maintain Early Stages services in DC Public Schools and other areas of improvement in the DC Child Find for preschoolers.

In solidarity,

Chioma

Minutes from June 28, 2017 IPC Teleconference

What: Highlights and notes from the Inclusive Prosperity Coalition (IPC) teleconference

Date: June 28, 2017

Time: 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm EDT

Host: Chioma Oruh, Parent Advocate for the Inclusive Prosperity Coalition

Attendees:

  1. Guest Speaker Attorney Todd Gluckman of Terris Pravlik & Millian, LLP
  2. Angelo Telesford
  3. Hashim Coward
  4. Chioma Oruh
  5. Yolanda Corbett
  6. Mansoor Abdur-Rahman
  7. Ronda White

Discussions from Last Meeting:

  1. Calendar options – introduced usage of Google Calendar for the group.
  2. Going forward we will review calendar options to best serve ICP purpose

New Business

Introduction of Attorney Todd Gluckman Spoke about the implications of the D.L. vs. District of Columbia case. To read the Injunction and Order from last week’s ruling, CLICK HERE.

Some questions that were asked:

  1. Is there past funding received by the City under IDEA that will be available to assist families who were harmed? Answer: (Funding questions are not part of this injunction and will need to be taken up elsewhere)
  2. Who will monitor the City to make sure they comply with the injunction? Will the district be required to issue reporting regarding ongoing activities? Answer: (Todd noted that the first report is due to come out August 31, 2017.)
  3. Does this finding include preschool children? (See injunction)
  4. Does Todd represent families? What is the process if there are questions? Answer: (Call Todd if any questions on how to proceed with this.)
  5. What type of documentation should families collect in or to report violations? (at a minimum, name and contact information of the child and parent.)
  6. What is being required by the court to ensure DC informs parents of the decision and any steps families should take? How can we (ICP) address all legal support broadly so we do not miss anyone? (See injunction)
  7. What should we look for to make sure schools are in compliance and what should be done if noncompliance is found? Answer: (Make sure parents know how to have their children evaluated; make sure information is made available.)
  8. Is Todd’s office able to represent families? Answer: (This will be determined on case-by-case basis. There are special education attorneys available in the city; these should be brought to Todd’s attention).
  9. Is the city required to provide full disclosure to schools, parents and other affected populations as to what happened and what they can or should do? (See injunction)
  10. Is there a way that the ICP can communicate with all of the legal offices simultaneously instead of individually to seek assistance? Answer: (Stay in touch with Todd or provide a list of issues of concern for review.)

Note: D.L. vs. District of Columbia is a critically powerful decision. ICP should leverage this decision to maximize any efforts in the future. The court have found many of the same concerns as we have. In order to know how to best monitor and report problems or non-compliance, it is important that we review and understand the injunction.

Meeting extended: The group voted to extend today’s’ meeting to 7:45 pm.

First Fundraising Planning Meeting

  • ICP has been granted the use of weekend flea market space.
  • Concerning the flea market space, the following was discussed:
    • Budget
    • Printing of banners, flyers, etc.
    • Start date
    • Volunteers needed for manning flea market table
    • Volunteers schedule of hours

Tour of Office of Unified Command (OUC)

  • Smart 9-1-1. For information click here.
  • Points of contact at OUC are Wanda Gattison and Karima Holmes
  • Training families to understand how to work with first responders
  • Community tours of OUC
  • Yolanda and Kevin Donahue sons are good friends.
  • Yolanda also co-chairs an (HSCSN) recently invited Alex Williams come and speak about safety.
  • Angelo was at the meeting PALs Meeting – perhaps OUC can present at PAL.
  • Chief of staff  to the Chair for council of the judiciary  and public safety has two children with autism

Person-Centered Training Meeting and Supporting Families Council

Meeting ended at 7:45 pm EDT

Next week’s agenda

  • PAVE Back to School Special Ed Boot Camp (pending approval)
  • Upcoming Play Date – This weekend,Sunday July 2
  • Meeting with Nicole Preston, Special Olympics DC
  • Family Engagement Summer Event – Planning Committee Needed
  • D.L. v. District of Columbia Ruling and What next for DC Child Find
  • Confirmed: Attorney Todd Gluckman of Terris Pravlik & Millian, LLP, to give facts on the consequences of the D.L. vs. District of Columbia ruling and the future of DC Child Find process

Upcoming Events

  • CM Grosso’s Community Forum on the Challenges D.C. Faces in the Age of Trump on Monday July 10, 2017 from 6-8pm
  •  Supporting Families Community of Practice Meeting. At this meeting:
    •  Hear updates from the Family Support Council
    • discuss important disability rights laws
    • create a vision for employment for  our family and community.
    • When: Thursday, June 29, 2017; 9:30am-3:30pm
    • Where: Department on Disability Services, 250 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20024.
    • Metro: Federal Center SW (blue/silver/orange); Bus: P6; Parking: on street or $15/day parking garage
    • RSVP: Please RSVP to Jestina Heroe at jestina.heroe@dc.gov or 202-730-1586.
  • Family Engagement Summer 2017 partnership with Georgetown, Councilmember Charles Allen and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue (Last two weeks in July and first two weeks in August)
  • Quality Trust is hosting “Opening the Doors to Opportunity,” with the rescheduled information for the first session, Transition Planning in Special Education. It has been rescheduled for Thursday, July 27th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  It will be held at the Northwest One Neighborhood Library, 155 L Street NW, Meeting Rm. 2 (near Mount Vernon Square Metro).  Please be sure to RSVP at rwhite@dcqualitytrust.org or call (202)459-4002. If there are special accommodations needed, please specify when registering for the training.
  • Overview of The Begin Act, introduced by CM Robert White, Jr.
  • Fundraising Committee Report Back
    • Weekend Flea Market – Outreach and Fundraising Opportunity
  • Two separate engagement proposals submitted to our partners, Georgetown and PAVE
  • Call for Executive Leadership (Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary)
  • Creation of Subcommittees
    • Bylaws, Parent/Family Engagement, Policy and Advocacy

For any questions or concerns, or if you are interested in taking on a leadership role in the Coalition, please email motheringhands@gmail.com or call me, Chioma Oruh, at 202-697-3529.

Meeting closed 7:45 pm

Medicaid and Me

AHCA-2It is wonderful news to hear that the vote on the massive tax-cut for the wealthy bill (disguised as a health care bill) has been postponed for at least another week and a half. Yet as a mother and head of household of two young children with autism whose quality of care is heavily dependent on what happens to health care policy, I remain sober. Because we live in a world where it is sometimes hard to tell fact from fiction, here are some personal and objective truths as to why it is important to remain vigilant and engaged in what happens next with the American health care system:

Disability MattersThe truth is that my role as “parent” does not end my resume as a caretaker; and H.R. 1628, the American Health Care (AHCA) Act of 2017 bill, is a cruel contract that takes for granted the real life impact on able-bodied caretakers tasked to providing for our loved ones. In truth no matter what the family structure, or even if one has private insurance, the impact of the AHCA will be detrimental to everyone.

StatMedicaid

The truth is that Medicaid helps schools help children with a variety of health care needs. And whatever happens to this bill, it will alter the culture of care that schools are able to provide for our children. And for children with disabilities, especially students who are medically fragile but are able to attend school, their safety is compromised by this law. And for many more children that receive speech and occupational therapy, typically noted in an IEP, Medicaid not IDEA funds typically cover the cost of care.

katie_beckett
 

Katie Beckett (1978-2012) and her mother-advocate, to learn more about her heroic life, click here

 

The truth is that beyond Medicaid or Medicaid Expansion, state-sponsored waiver programs such as the Katie Beckett program, whose funding comes out of the District’s local budget, is compromised by the AHCA.  If Congress is successful in its aims to gut Medicaid and turn it into a block grant program, as has been suggested by earlier this year, it would put a lot of pressure on local funds to meet the needs of a variety of families. And the means tests, the same means tests that I already suggest whose metrics are out-dated, thus problematic, and are the reason I support Universal Basic Income, will now be used to weed out families such as my own that don’t neatly fit into the definition of “low income”. I will be forced off any public assistance, leaving me out to dry on the marketplace of predatory lenders because there is absolutely no way I would be able to cover the cost of care needed for my children with disabilities.

The truth is that the AHCA dehumanizes experiences such as my own that involves complex layers of care. Beyond being a mother of two brilliant boys with autism, Atty and Jedi, I am also the daughter of a larger-than-life African father who I have watched etch away little by little due to the impact of dementia. I am a sister to two protective and wonderful brothers – one with mild scoliosis but is overall high-functioning and the other, our superhero big bro, who struggles with bipolar schizophrenia. Beyond these, our mother has had multiple back surgeries due to chronic back pain caused by inflammatory arthritis.

The truth is that sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the pressure of being the most able-bodied person in my family and I live in constant fear thinking of what would happen if something were to happen to me. What would happen with my children? My parents? My brothers and their families? And even as I have lived largely in resistance to the culturally imposed family title of the ada, which in the Igbo language translates as “first daughter”. I am, indeed, the ada of my family and I inherit all the traditional and modern implications of this role and title.

Male DaughtersIn Igbo culture, the two most important roles in the family are the okpara (first son) and the ada, and both roles in the family are filled with duty and authority, expressed in the traditional concept of ofo. In times of ceremony or in the untimely death or bad health of a parent, both the first son and daughter are to take on the responsibilities of maintaining the household both financially and in carrying on cultural traditions.  And, then, in cases where there is only one able first son or daughter, then gender becomes a secondary notion and they are to adopt the role of keeping the household regardless of if they are male or female.  The concept of these traditional roles of the okpara (also known as di-okpala in some dialects) and ada (referenced as aku in some dialects) are captured by the scholar Ifi Amadiume, who explains these complex Igbo cultural traditions in the classic book Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in African Society (1987).

But I digress…the truth is that my culture and experience as a first generation American is considered a threat to those seeking to make America great, in the way that would only welcome me in shackles and not as a full citizen that requires all the benefits of citizenship for myself, my family and all Americans. The bitter truth is that even as my children are generations American from their fathers side and were born in this great city of Washington, DC, their access to full citizenship has also historically been stripped not just due to their blackness but because this has been the experience of individuals with disabilities of all races and cultural backgrounds.

StatMedicaid2

As Senator Chuck Schumer said earlier today, the truth is that “the ultimate reason this bill failed is that the American people just didn’t like it.” Beyond political rhethoric and real life socially impactful concerns from caretakers like myself, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the AHCA would reduce federal deficits by $119 billion over the coming decade and increase the number of people who are uninsured by 23 million in 2026 relative to current law. In the 49-page report released by the CBO yesterday, June 26, 2017, can be credited for slowing down the passage of this troubling law but it won’t likely stop some of the key signatures of the goals of the bill: to gut Medicaid.

paul-ryan-on-medicaidThe truth is that many Republicans, such as the House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-WI), have been dreaming of cutting Medicaid since college and that they have majority representation in the House of Representatives, Senate and the White House.  And while I pride myself in seeing the best in people, I cannot find the brighter side of these neoliberal policies that have no precedence anywhere else in the world and no major economy in Europe or with our neighbors in Canada reflect such a cruel approach to healthcare, which is truly a human right.

The truth is that beyond the CBO report, a large reason why public outcry has come out against the AHCA is because of disabilities self-advocates from the historic and proven might of ADAPT. About 60 members of ADAPT were arrested on Thursday June 22, 2017 in front of Sentor Mitch McConnell’s office. The graphic images of police officers carrying out protesting Americans in their wheelchairs and other medical devices sent a compelling visual around not only who is impacted by the AHCA but that they are willing to risk it all to stand up for their democratic rights. We as parents locally based in Washington, DC form greater alliances with ADAPT and our local powerhouse self-advocates organization, Project ACTION, because there is so much that comes out of solidarity and working together for a common cause.

Single-Payer

Finally, we are going in the wrong direction when it comes to healthcare reform. Truthfully, I was not a big fan of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because it did not go far enough.  But I was grateful for some victories of the ACA because of key benefits including critical therapies such as Applied Behavior Therapy previously not accepted by insurance companies, as well as forcing these same insurance companies to indiscriminately cover pre-existing conditions and long-term care.  It was my hope at the time that we would steadily move closer to proven effective single-payer systems adopted in Canada and several other countries around the world.  And, so it is crucial that we as parent advocates of children with disabilities learn more about efforts happening in real time to promote the “Medicare for All” bill introduced by John Conyers, (D-MI) that has already passed three times before 2017 and received support by over 100 Democrats in the US but failed each time in this 115th Republican led Congress.

Let’s all keep watching and speaking truth to power, together.

 

In solidarity,

 

Chioma

 

Minutes from June 14, 2017 IPC Teleconference

Minutes from June 14, 2017 IPC Teleconference

What: Minutes from the Inclusive Prosperity Coalition teleconference

Date: June 14, 2017

Time: 6:30 pm EST – 7:30 pm EST

Host: Chioma Oruh

Full Recording: Audio

Attendees:

  1. Doreen Hodges – Executive Dir. Family Voices; ABA Camp Options
  2. Chioma Oruh
  3. Mansoor Abdur-Rahman
  4. Nicole Preston, Director, Special Olympics Washington D.C.
  5. Colleen Reynolds, Organizer, Parent
  6. J’an Proctor  
  7. Latiya Loring

Report from Chioma since last teleconference on June 7, 2017

  1. Latiya and Chioma met with David Grosso, Chair of the Committee on Education, Washington D.C. Council, who is supportive of efforts by the IPC. Mr. Grosso also:
    • Suggests outreach to other parents
    • Wants data along with a Show and Tell 
    • Mr. Grosso will conduct hearing on the B20-0724 – Enhanced Special Education Services Act of 2014
    • He recommended making contact with Chancellor Antwan Wilson and Ombudsman Joyanna Smith
  2. There is meeting organized by one of the parent partners Parents Amplifying Voices and Education (PAVE).
  3. We have been invited to participate in a meeting with the Deputy Mayor.
  4. Goal for summer is to grow parent presence through exit and entrance school processing. More to come.
  5. Play date on Sunday June 4, 2017 and in attendance were Doreen, Latiya and Chioma for children in DC schools. Passed out toys; Need more discussion around this event. Is it ongoing?
  6. Brookings Institute (Dr. Clark McKown) helped figure ways to find space for special and emotional learning. Website is linked to agenda.
  7. Antwan Wilson, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, D.C. is part of an organization that leads social and emotional learning (SEL) movement. The site helps with a number of issues such as emotional intelligence, bullying and provides tools for teachers and educators to engage children. He also shared a contact with someone on Georgetown University.
  8. Latiya will provide information requested by Doreen – they will talk offline about health insurance.
  9. Latiya going to Eleanor Holmes networking event on June 15, 2017 –Chioma suggests developing a plan around the initiative.
  10. Chioma suggested some ways to capture and present data – she has some examples.
  •  Doreen Hodges was introduced.  
  1. Doreen is mother of her own children on the spectrum and the Executive Director for Family Voices of District of Columbia. This is the local affiliate for larger national family voices organization. Doreen helps families get qualified for different programs such as Medicaid, camps, etc.
  2. Family Voices staff are certified in special education and health care navigation. 
  • Options for parents:
  1. Summer camp/clinic, which is paid for via health insurance such as Medicaid,        Amerihealth, HSCSN and MedStar.
  2. Talked about options available for kids ages 3-12 on spectrum
  3.  Jacob’s Promise, Silver Springs, Md.  Jacob’s Promise is interested in branching        out into DC and sharing strategies.
  4. Camp available on a per day basis.
  5. Doreen helps families navigate system by qualifying for Medicaid.
  6. The district also provides unlimited respite and care children and families.
  7. Also helps families with special education complaints forms
  8. Going to Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings and other related issues
  9. Has team of ‘no money up’ front attorneys
  10. Program helps children from ages 0-26.
  11. You may reach Doreen at phone number 202-681-7761 for more info.
  12. Doreen is trying for a conference call Monday evening for anyone interested
  1.  Special Olympics just had the Young Athletes program for ages 2-7
  2.  Next event is adult unified tennis
  3.  ADA therapy is not just for children on the spectrum. It is also an  opportunity to  interact with children in the mainstream.
  • Chioma next spoke about:
  1.  Councilman Grosso says he will visit and support.
  2.  Fund raising needed – who are targets – lots of money in DC – what is the      target budget?
  • Key Hearing takes place tomorrow June 15, 2017.  Bill 22-0154 – at city council room 423.
  1. Molly Whalen, Executive Director of the DC Association for Special   Education, gave the overview last week’s teleconference. (June 7)
  • PAVE meeting taking place on June 23.
  • Family engagement summer – Chioma still working on proposal;  received commitments from Georgetown University, councilmember Charles Allen, deputy mayor Justin Donohue, (Smart-911)
  • Priority now is the planning committee whom Chioma will be following up with; they include
  1.  Joan Christopher – Georgetown University representative and trainer to  help train parents
  2. Council Member’s office
  3. Deputy Mayor’s office
  4. All are very supportive and interested in helping
  • Councilman Grosso says as soon as we have a calendar to please make him aware and he will make himself available to come and speak with parents
  • Back to School Event – PAVE is having a broader BTS event
  • Also want to focus on
  1.   Children’s Law Center
  2.   Outreach
  3.   Data
  4.   Survey
  5.   Focus group
  • Chioma gave call for leadership within coalition.
  1. Volunteers for leadership positions
  • Come up with bylaws
  • Abdur-Rahman offered to help in any area where needed; 
  1. Will begin transcribing audio into text for the immediate
  • Chioma will follow-up with everyone of the members
  • Sub-committees needed for:
  1.  Family Engagement event
  2.  Fund raising
  3.  Mothering hands
  4.  Bylaws
  5.  Other subcommittees as needed 
  • Q&A
  1. Request was made for adding a link to connect to the audio teleconference.
  2. Link will be posted in IPC website for the audio recordings/weekly minutes.
  • Closed meeting at 7:24 pm EST

Minutes from June 7, 2017 IPC Teleconference

Minutes from June 7, 2017 IPC Teleconference

What: Highlights and notes from the Inclusive Prosperity Coalition (IPC) teleconference

Date: June 7, 2017

Time: 8:00 pm EST – 9:00 pm EST

Host: Chioma Oruh, Parent Advocate for the Inclusive Prosperity Coalition

Full Recording: Audio Recording

Attendees:

  1.  Chioma Oruh, Parent Advocate for the Inclusive Prosperity Coalition
  2.  Mansoor Abdur-Rahman
  3.  Molly Whalen, Executive Director of the DC Association for Special Education
  4.  Tamalea Perry, Ward 8 ANC Commissioner

Opening comments from Chioma

  • Teleconference will happen each Wednesday. Committee will review a move to an earlier time frame
  • Discussed purpose of IPC; campaign to improve Child Find Project starting at pre-k level in DC; strategy to improve outreach and connect with city and interested parents.
  • There is a meeting on Tuesday, June 9 with Councilmember David Grosso; this is a standing meeting at 2 pm

Chioma Introduced Molly Whalen

  • Reviewed BILL 22-0154-CITIZENS WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES CIVIL RIGHTS RESTORATION ACT OF 2017.
  • Addressed Intellectual Disability and the history of Civil Commitment
  • A key component coming up for discussion is Supported Decision Making.
    1. A meeting to address this topic will be held on June 15, 2017 at 10 am at the Wilson Building in Washington D.C.
    2. Interested parties may email or call council members before June 13. If calling, dial 202-724-8170.
  • To learn more about Bill 22-0154, CLICK HERE!
  • T-Shirts are now for sale as a fundraiser item
  • The focus of weekly teleconference calls is to keep the IPC membership up to date and engaged as things will be happening quickly
  • IPC has Partnership with Georgetown University. They can assist with training for a number of issues such as Cultural competency, Intellectual disability, IEP’s, training for how to identify disability and more
  • IPC working with Deputy Mayor, Charles Allen and overall education for families about how to deal with emergencies
  • Call for help to build executive leadership and develop steering committee
  • IPC goal is to have fully functioning organization by end of summer
  • IPC plans at least two trainings in July and two trainings in August. There will also be mixer events.
  • IPC activity will kick off after July 4.
  • Call ended at 8:43 EST.

Minutes from June 21, 2017 IPC Teleconference

Minutes from June 21, 2017 IPC Teleconference

What: Minutes from the Inclusive Prosperity Coalition Teleconference

Date: June 21, 2017

Time: 6:30 pm EST – 7:30 pm EST

Host: Chioma Oruh

Dial-In Number: 515-604-9383

Access Code: 742798#

 Attendees:

  1. Chioma Oruh
  2. Mansoor Rahman
  3. Hashim Coward

Report from Chioma since last teleconference held on June 14, 2017

 Welcome

  1. Discussions from Last Meeting: Audio Recording
  • Minutes will be posted to ICP website prior to upcoming call

III. Follow Up from recent events:

  • Summer Play Dates
    1. Schedule is being worked on; We are looking for someone to lead activities schedule
    2. Options for play dates are under review
    3. Chioma will create calendar for this. Dates/deadlines and will coordinate with Doreen

IV. New Business

  • Doreen Hodges update on ABA Camp and other summer option
    • Doreen will have something this week.
  • PAVE Partnership opportunities – blogging and back to school event.
    • Chioma attended two-day blogger training workshop by Citizens United and sponsored by the Wayfair Corporation
    • Goal is to create outlet for parents to address needs of children.
    • Open to any parent who wants to blog.
    • Interested persons should go to IPC blog sites.
    • Pave also has a standing meeting with meeting with JennieNiles who serves as Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) in Washington, DC.
    • Thirdly is a back to school event
    • There is an opportunity to utilize a space provided by PAVE for the after school events.
    • Chioma has standing meeting with Special Olympics next week to discuss need of special needs children. This is a standing meeting
    • Also need to follow-up with United Negro College Fund of Washington DC; they offer great model of organizational stability
  • Basic Income conference summation.
    • Where to go for more info – Inclusive Prosperity Coalition
    • Stanford University has BI Lab under way; may be an opportunity to link the efforts between Stanford University and Howard University.
    • Georgetown University partners can offer research help
    • IPC will look for ways to promote Basic Income from a disabilities angle.
    • It is critical that we have a vision to take advantage of BI initiatives.
    • Parent training on Child Find needs to be included in Basic Income discussion
  1. Upcoming Events
  • Twitter meeting with Chancellor Wilson (#AskChantwan) on Thursday 6/22 at 3:30pm to 4:30pm
  • We encourage sending tweets/questions related to Child Find to increase awareness and visibility in social media
  • Family Engagement Summer 2017 partnership with Georgetown, Councilmember Charles Allen and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue (Last two weeks in July and first two weeks in August)
    1. We need planning committee and sub committees
    2. DC Autism Parents is another group we plan to reach out to
  • DC Flea Market tabling opportunity for outreach and fundraising
    1. Across street from Howard U this weekend Saturday and Sunday
    2. Free space to operate table/tent has been offered to IPC(Many thanks to Omawale Sia for his generosity)
    3. t-shirts can serve as a fund raiser
    4. can offer popup trainings with anyone a flea market who shows interest
    5. we need a budget for doing this fund raiser
    6. Hashim is taking lead on this
  • The DC Supporting Families Community of Practice (SF CoP) is a group of diverse stakeholders who are working together to create policies, practices and systems that support families that include a member with an intellectual or developmental disability across the life span. We come together to learn, share information, and support each other.
    • At this meeting, we will hear updates from the Family Support Council, discuss important disability rights laws, and create a vision for employment for ourselves, our family members, and our community
    • When: Thursday, June 29, 2017; 9:30am-3:30pm
    • Where: Department on Disability Services, 250 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20024.
    • Metro: Federal Center SW (blue/silver/orange); Bus: P6; Parking: on street or $15/day parking garage
    • RSVP: Please RSVP to Jestina Heroe at heroe@dc.govor 202-730-1586.
  • University campus outreach to manage social media campaigns
  1. Chioma following up with Colleen
  2. Developing campus strategy to get university student more engaged with our effort
  • Call for Executive Leadership (Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary)
    • Chioma assuming role of Chair; would like to explore anyone who is interested in stepping up in any role.
    • Creation of Subcommittees (Bylaws, Parent/Family Engagement, Policy and Advocacy, Fundraising)
  • Discussion around the role of Mothering Hands
  • Closed at 7:33 pm

 

 

 

 

Part 2: What is Basic Income

unconditional basic incomeIn the last post on Basic Income, I alluded to the pilot program that was just approved in Hawaii as well as the project in Ontario, Canada sponsored by the Poverty Reduction Strategy Office (PRSO). I had the pleasure of meeting Karen Glass, the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Ontario PRSO, who is a willing ally to give us tips and support in bringing Basic Income to Washington, DC. But first, before going too far with possibilities, I want to answer a fundamental question: what is basic income and more specifically, what is “universal basic income” (the brand of basic income I endorse)?

According to the Basic Income Action (BIA) Seattle Chapter (they gave free dollars at the conference at Hunter College in NYC!), universal basic income is a policy which guarantees every person a regular stipend, no strings attached, to meet their basic survival needs. It is

  • universal: everyone receives it
  • basic: it is just enough to meet bare survival needs
  • income: it is simply cash in your pocket, no strings attached

This is truly a moment to shape how Basic Income can and will look in the United States, specifically in Washington, DC! According to website of Stanford University’s Basic Income Lab,

“There is an increasing need for in-depth academic research on how to design a universal basic income and how to evaluate its implementation – assessing the visions that underpin unconditional cash, the political and economic feasibility of various proposals, as well as its strengths and weaknesses as a measure to alleviate poverty, precariousness and inequalities…” (Basic Income Lab)

As a parent advocate loyal to ensuring that our local policies reflect the years of advocacy work to promote and protect the educational rights of children with disabilities. Yet, even as a such, I am well aware that children spend majority of their time outside of an educational institutions and that the economic state of the family is a major driver in the academic success of a child, with consideration to medical and other impairments that might compromise their ability to perform on set standards of achievement. Family structure, access to necessary services, knowledge of the laws and policies, influence and a host of other factors contribute to an unequal playing field for our children, and thus becomes their first (albeit indirect) lesson as to how politics works and how they are impacted by it. Access to books, clothes, food, shelter and even a non-stressed emotionally present parent, these are some of the things impacted by the family’s access to sufficient money to care for their children. A struggle to ensure that our city and our country adopt a universal basic income policy with dedicated and sustainable budgetary commitment is a lesson that teaches our children of all abilities and ourselves how to create equity in society – raising the emotional intelligence in all of us.

I don’t take for granted that parents are not a homogeneous population. We have different ideas and life experiences that inform these ideas, yet we have a common interest in a functional education system that gives our children an opportunity to meet and surpass a desire for them to succeed academically and in life in general.  Children with disabilities are the most vulnerable when it comes to meeting this shared interest and failure to understand that the economic state of the family they are born in (or the zip code) determines not just their educational performance but their life expectancy and other health-related issues. So, for me, being an active participant in shaping the future our children with disabilities through advocating for universal basic income means taking account what more equity in the distribution of collective wealth (i.e. taxes) would do to impact the following:

1) Disability culture, a unique expression through the arts and other social expressions that binds those with non-typical abilities that goes beyond oppression and marginalization but represent a variety of worldviews informed by their different abilities that advance humanity. With more access to monies, low and middle income families would likely be able to afford more investments in understanding and participating in the unique cultural expression of our children with disabilities because we’d be making more stress-free choices in their care and development.

2) The reality of raising a child/children with disabilities is not just subject for pity but is a major duty filled with beauty and love that deserves to be understood so on-lookers at grocery stores and other spaces that might witness a tantrum or technically challenging moment with equipment or just real human moment of frustration can be understood completely and be observed without negative judgement. Access to guaranteed income, as basic income suggests, creates more balance in the lives of families and allows for a more harmonious relationship between parents and our non-typically developing children, as well as influences the quality of teachers and caretakers in education and otherwise because they too are making more liberated economic decisions. Imagine if our teachers, doctors, nurses and aides were financially more secure – what impact would that have on the level of care given to our loved ones with disabilities?

3) The great and unique intellectual capacity of children and youth with disabilities (even if their disability is labeled as an “intellectual disability”) are now supported by the landmark Supreme Court ruling in the Endrew F v. Douglas County School District. This means that a core value is that all children can learn, given the right tools in the least restrictive environment. And while this a huge ideological win in how we understand children with disabilities, it opens the doors to other considerations hindering greater access to educational services for our children that doesn’t underestimate their abilities to perform academically. I believe we would see greater educational outcomes for children with disabilities with less stressed parents and access to educators and caretakers that want to engage with our children just for the love of them and not because they need to pay the bills and so they merely tolerate them.

Basic income is a means to which families who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for Social Security Insurance (SSI) to care for their loved one with a disability would have choices beyond seeking loan options from predatory lenders. While this is a proactive way to solve an otherwise dismal outlook for the middle class, resistance against basic income perplexes me. In part 3, I hope to unpack my thoughts on the false equivalent between working and contributing to society, which appears to be rooted in ableism.

Yet, the problem that basic income solves is monumental. Unless you are in the position to understand the high cost of care for a child with a disability and hoops one has to jump to gain any kind of assistance because of the limited understanding of what impact this has  at the intersection of race, class and gender for a single black mother (whose median wealth, despite her education, is $5). The limitation that there are too many stipulations that disqualify families (such as my own) that require assistance but do not classically fit a a neat definition of “poor” due to the means-tests whose metrics haven’t been updated since the 1960s or work requirements that usually associated with SSI or other social welfare programs.

BasicIncome1

The reason I believe that parents advocates of children with disabilities are the perfect advocates for universal basic income is because more than the average American, we understand how cumbersome and humiliating it is to expose so much of your personal financial history in order to potentially qualify for benefits that may or may not come to pass depending on the metrics of the means-test.

It is humiliating to have to prove your worth in order to be considered for additional funding that helps to provide the best quality of life for our loved ones with disabilities. We know better than most what it means to sacrifice making rent/mortgage or a family vacation or even simply select grocery items in order to pay for expensive long-term therapies and other care necessities when it comes to our children with disabilities. We know better than any other population that one should not have to “qualify” in order to need a helping hand in affording complex and unique medical procedure that may or may not be covered by insurance. And so, it is we, that stand to benefit the most from receiving a universal basic income.

There are many equations that can lead to better outcomes that result in equity among the services offered to provide FAPE  in the least restrictive environment for all school aged children in DC public and public charter schools.  Basic income offers a real solution to education related issues by addressing the principal socioeconomic issues that prevent or inspire more parent engagement and more productive out of school time.

[Part 1: (IDEA/Child Find) + Basic Income = Equity]

[Part 3: How Basic Income can Improve Child Find and School Outcomes]

 

In solidarity,

 

Chioma Oruh

If you are interested in blogging or collaborating in research projects, please email motheringhands@mail.com.