PALS + COPAA 2018 = progress for kids adopted internationally

PALS is pleased to announce that Executive Director Anna Caudill and Board Member Cheryl Cheffins, a Nashville-based special education attorney, will lead a session on children adopted internationally at the 2018 COPAA conference in Monterey, California!

COPAA is a nonprofit organization of parents, advocates, attorneys, and related professionals who work together to protect the education rights of America's 6.4 million children with disabilities. More than one-third of its 1800-plus membership will participate in the 2018 COPAA conference, networking on state level advocacy issues as well as national policy concerns. Breakout sessions equip members to work at local, state, and federal levels on behalf of students, with special topics in a variety of areas including English Learner supports, issues for minority populations, current policy trends, IEP meeting strategies, trauma-informed care, and successful parent representation, among others. While many of these topics overlap or intersect with the unique challenges faced by children adopted internationally, there is less awareness of how to more precisely advocate for and support them in school.

Interest in supporting international adoptees at school is growing. One highlight of the 2017 COPAA conference was keynote speaker and attorney Sam Bagenstos, who successfully represented Ehlena Fry, a 13-year-old Michigan girl with spastic cerebral palsy who was adopted as an infant from India. Elena's parents took her public school district to the Supreme Court over Ehlena's right to use her service dog, Wonder, while she was in school. While the focus of the case was Ehlena's service animal, adoptive parents reading her story will be quick to find the areas where Ehlena's background could pose challenges for her and her parents that few others would understand. 

PALS intends to build upon this growing awareness among attorneys and advocates in Caudill and Cheffins' presentation. The session, "Protecting and Accessing Education Rights for Children Adopted Internationally," addresses the difficulty adoptive parents face when educators and others assume they can afford to pay for tutoring, therapies, and counseling outside of school, based on their ability to finance international adoption. It also describes the unique combination of language, learning, and behavioral needs faced by most children adopted internationally, apart from the common physical disabilities.

Caudill notes, "By sharing our children's stories with COPAA's unparalleled peer-to-peer network, PALS hopes to raise awareness about the challenges faced in school by children adopted internationally. There are so many professionals dedicated to helping children with disabilities, and we want to inspire them to go back to their home states with ideas about how to provide more resources for the adoptive families in their states." 

Anna Caudill