I don't want to drop ECI altogether. They will help me if Russell's hearing turns out to be neurosensory hearing loss. They would send me a special auditory therapist to help with teaching him sign language, or using hearing aids, or whatever we might need. I also want to keep ECI on the books, so to speak, in case Russell is placed back with his mother or any other relative. With one phone call I could bump the services up to a weekly visit from a therapist along with case management. That would keep extra "hot bodies" looking in on Russell regularly. He would definitely need as many mandatory reporters in his life as possible should he not stay with me.
But for now, all I need is the minimum from ECI as they will allow. His case manager (let's call her Larissa) had an appointment with me today. She finally (sigh - finally) understood what I've meant about this all along. She asked today if she could stop coming to my house monthly and simply handle the case management part of the program over the phone. If I could have done a cartwheel of excitement, I would have turned one in my kitchen when she said that! Yes!! Please only call me once a month. Keep him in the program. But stop coming to my house once a month for no good reason.
I got Larissa talking about transitioning Russell out of the program though. Russell turns 25 months old this Friday. When a child is 27 months old, ECI starts the transition process to the next step. For Russell, the next step is public school. The day before a child turns three, they are discharged completely from the ECI program. So I asked Larissa how this will all work. Larissa said that because Russell will be three years old next fall, that he will automatically start in the public school (even though the public school cut-off is to be age four by September 1 for preschool - Russell starts young because of his disability). She basically said the special ed bus would pick Russell up in the morning, he would attend preschool at the local elementary, the bus would take him to Head Start in the afternoon, then the bus would bring him home from Head Start.
I had to instantly correct her. There is no busing service for our local Head Start.
I asked her if Russell would have a one-on-one aid or what kinds of accommodations he would most likely receive.
My heart sank. Larissa told me that Russell would simply be placed in the self-contained classroom at the school for age three for sure. From there, when he's four and after testing, he might get to mainstream out for classes like PE or music.
My Pumpkin was in the self-contained special needs classroom in our local elementary. She was the highest functioning child in the room when she attended. And it was a HORRIBLE classroom. The idea of sending Russell to that school, to be in that classroom, to do what little they do there, makes me sick to my stomach.
Head Start is only slightly better. Larissa told me I wouldn't be required to send Russell to public pre-K and Head Start. She agreed with me though that none of the Head Start programs in our area are equipped for children with special needs. I remember how poorly I thought things were run when I was required to send Dude to Head Start. And there were no obviously disabled children in the school at all. Again, I can't imagine sending Russell into that environment.
So now I'm getting waaayyyyy too far ahead of myself.
What am I going to do when Russell turns three years old if he's still with me?
If we've managed to adopt him by then, I will continue with private therapies and I will home school him.
If he's still a ward of the State though - then what?! The State of Texas requires that I send all my foster children age three and older to public school.
A bill was introduced this year that would have allowed Texas foster families to homeschool their foster children. House Bill 2799 would have allowed it unless a court order prevents home schooling, a court hearing finds that home schooling is not in the best interest of the child, or federal law requires another school setting. It would have been the first law in the nation to allow foster parents to home school foster children without first having to obtain consent from the Department of Family and Protective Services.
That bill died on June 1, 2015.
I really need to not worry about this. August 2016 is so incredibly far away in Foster Care Land. A zillion things could happen between now and then.
Still, I'm researching my options.
According to the CPS website, this is the Department's policy on home schooling:
If the caseworker believes home schooling or a similar alternative is appropriate in an individual case, a written request for an exception may be addressed to the regional education specialist. Approval depends on whether the proposed home schooling plan meets the child’s academic, social, and other needs in a safe, stable setting and is in the best interest of the child.To request an exception to the requirement for standard schooling to allow the child to be homeschooled, follow procedures in 15228.2 Requesting an Exception to Standard Schooling.
I figure I'm going to have to chase this rabbit hole sometime around the first of next year. I certainly can't wait until summer or next fall.
I really should let it go. It's waaayyyyy too far in the future.
But I want to advocate for my cherub. And I can guarantee the public school down here is NOT where he belongs!
(Secretly I'll be praying for a fast adoption, a job opening for my husband in another state, and a move all before school starts next fall. It'd be nothing short of a miracle. I know that. But a girl can pray.)