I’ve decided to document my personal experiences regarding my and my husband’s decision to become my adult, developmentally delayed nieces caregivers. I hope that what I do write can one day make some legislative changes, and hope that either our Federal, State or Local Governments look into:1) the neglect of the home schooling industry, 2) the need of stronger local school district oversight of home schooling programs that assure parents is meeting the minimum state educational requirements, 3) the need to have children’s development tested before entering a home school program, 4) the need to re-visit a parents responsibilities as holder of their children’s educational rights.
This is not a position we ever thought we would find ourselves in. And its one created by my own sister and her husband’s decision to deny my niece the appropriate type of educational environment that would address her intellectual disability. They took their denial of my nieces obvious delay to a level of neglect, that years later caused my nieces emotional damage, diminished confidence, confusion and fear of her own limitations. It’s a type of neglect that local public social service agencies in Los Angeles County refused to investigate. It’s the type of neglect that is put in the back burner by local school districts. It’s called Educational Neglect, and although Federal Legislators leave decisions of such neglect up to State Governments, local government agencies put this type of abuse in the back burner.
According to http://www.uslegal.com, Educational Neglect is defined as parents failing to ensure that their children are provided an education consistent with standards adopted by the state. Some acts which are considered educational neglect include failure to enrol or register the child in school, inattention to special education needs, and allowing chronic truancy. This is a beautiful definition, it really is. But it’s one that I found rather flawed. This type of abuse does not fall under that same standards as General or Severe Neglect.
My sister hid behind her home school program, exercised her right as the holder of educational rights for my niece (and her two brothers), and failed to provide them all with the minimum state requirements. What was further frustrating, no one from her local school district checked her home, her overall curriculum, interviewed the children, or assessed their learning process. This I know, because my brother and his wife took it upon themselves to investigate the home school program and call the local school district, and discovered that there was no oversight by either on the children’s school progress. My niece is severely behind, her twin brother (who is not delayed) is not able to read past a 3rd grade level (he also did not obtain his high school diploma, is unemployed, depressed and a chronic drinker and pot smoker), while their older brother reports having suffered severe depression since the time he was pulled out of his regular school setting (he is now 23, a chronic alcoholic who managed to get two DUIs last year).
It’s hard to organize my words as I write this piece, because I too become overwhelmed with emotion. But, emotions aside, this is a story that deserves an audience. It’s a story that deserves comments, ideas, constructive arguments from all sides. I hope that as I document the past, present and organize my family’s future with my niece now in the picture, that something good comes from this.
For now, my niece is a Regional Center Recipient. I’m soon starting the process to become her conservator. I’ve helped her apply for SSI, obtain General Relief while we wait for her SSI and Medi-cal to kick in. I’ve started to push for services that will help her return to school, obtain a life skills mentor and job coaching. The idea is to provide a day to day routine that will help increase her overall self esteem.
Please everyone who does read this piece, stay tuned and feel free to let me know your own experiences.