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[KHTS] – A Santa Clarita Valley mother and education advocate is looking to unite parents seeking help with their children’s educational plan with an online-based community, she said in an interview with KHTS AM-1220.

Hadassah Lynn Foster, of Newhall, started a group on meetup.com called “The SCV IEP & 504 Plan Improvement Project: Making It Work!” The first meeting is April 29.

“I think there is a national groundswell, I think it’s just starting, to really push to help parents to develop communities around these topics,” said Foster.

Foster, a Newhall resident, has experience as a parent with IEPs, or Individualized Educational Program, through Santa Clarita Valley school districts, and through her business, H and H Associates, which helps parents address concerns about their student’s education.

An IEP is something required for all public school students who receive special education or related services, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities, according to the NCLD website. A 504 plan is a good option for a K–12 student if:

  •  The child has an identified learning disability (LD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but does not meet the requirements of IDEA for special education services and supports
  • The child is currently receiving informal accommodations or ongoing support at school

The experience of parenting a student with an IEP can be a daunting one for a number of reasons, she said.

“Parents of kids with disabilities, you do feel incredibly alone,” Foster said. “It’s not like we have our own PTA group.”

While there are events districts hold  to raise awareness, parents can sometimes feel an unnecessary shame or embarrassment associated with such concerns, she said, which is one of the issues the group hopes to address.

“I really hope to have parents start sharing what works well, and maybe what things aren’t working so well — because they’re not encouraged to do so,” she said, “but also to create a community of parents who don’t feel alone.”

The online description of the group describes it as: “a group of parents and advocates who want to share and learn from each other about what works in IEPs and 504 Plans. If you’re the parent/advocate of a child (from preschool to graduate school) whose needs are being met, we want to learn from you. On the other hand, if you’re the parent/advocate of a student whose needs are not being met, come and learn how others have ensured that their children’s educational needs are met.”

There are some quality programs offered at the local level, Foster said, but she’d also like to see the level of awareness for the need raised.

A big part of Foster’s business is making sure parents and school officials are aligned in respect to need and the expectation of service, she said, which is another area in which the free group might be able to help.

“A big part of my advocacy is making sure what we’re talking about and what we’re agreeing to (with an IEP),” Foster said. “Districts say one thing and parents have maybe another expectation.”

The meeting, which is free, will be hosted at 27240 Turnberry Lane, Suite 200 at 9:30 a.m. April 29.

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