Tip #22: Parents: Bringing a third party to meetings is an option to help take notes, provide another perspective, or simply be a support to you. You can invite your child care provider, private tutors, your pediatrician, a friend, or you can hire a professional parent advocate through Parents’ Place of Maryland.

Some families may find navigating the network of federal, state, and local special education laws to be confusing or overwhelming. Emotions also tend to run high during IEP meetings. Fortunately, special education advocates are available for hire to help families navigate these meetings and processes.

Advocates can offer families even more than in-depth knowledge about the IEP process and an extra set of eyes and ears. Your advocate can make recommendations for Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) evaluators, connect you to a network of advocates, create strategies for your child, and provide information about your child’s school district.

Choosing an Advocate

There are no federal or state regulatory standards or qualifications defining who can serve as an advocate. Families selecting an advocate will want to be informed and as the right questions when hiring an advocate.

Ask your advocate which training courses they have completed, and about their history in your school district. What kinds of success stories can they tell? Have they previously worked on cases like your family’s?

Fees are another aspect to consider; family advocate costs are not covered by the school. When discussing fees, remember that the advocates put in hours of work outside of IEP meetings to be familiar with the details of your child’s case and to give your family the best possible service.

For more resources, visit the Parent’s Place of Maryland or the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA).