Looking forward towards 2018, AdvocacyDenver’s Advocates and Staff have their own individual goals of contribution as this new beginning of the organization unfolds.
Advocate for Adults
Adult Advocate Tony Sears is looking forward to continuing his efforts to assist individuals with developmental disabilities by providing individual Advocacy. Tony assists individuals with navigating the developmental disabilities waivers and uses Self Determination and Person Centered planning as strategies. These strategies are useful tools and appear to be beneficial to individuals and family members. In addition to individual advocacy, Tony plans to continue his involvement working with the Regional Centers. Legislation has directed the Regional Centers to implement a means of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness with which services are delivered to the developmentally disabled. Progress is being made with the implementation of person centered planning, as well as treatment, that is now active to ensure progress is being made towards a more independent life for the individuals that the Regional Centers serve.
Child and Family Advocate
Looking Adelante-Mirando hacia el Future. The Spanish word adelante can mean any number of things: Adelante… “Go on ahead. I’m behind you.” Adelante… “Keep moving! You’re on the right track.” Adelante… “Get ahead in life.” Adelante… “Further on down the road.” Adelante… “Continue on, in spite of everything.” Adelante… “Come on in. It’s good to see you.” So you might imagine how often in the course of special education advocacy we hear and say, Adelante.
As the rush of the spring semester has finally died down, we have the luxury of looking Adelante: to the school year to come, to the immediate and long-term future of each client, to the growth of schools and improvements in networks, and to the continued development of AdvocacyDenver. As part of improving transition planning, we have a valuable online resource guide for Transition Planning and Legal Status. It lists the opportunities and services that IEP teams should consider in planning students’ transition to independent adult lives. It also flags them according to language and Immigration status requirements. We need to get this tool into schools. This will not only improve the general quality of the transition planning conversation for everyone, but will especially address the barriers to independent living caused by language differences and Immigration status. We look forward to IEP teams having fuller, more honest discussions about each student’s adult future.
Advocate for Adults
Looking forward, Linda plans to continue to build on her 27 years of career experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities as an Adult Advocate. With her past expertise in case management and abuse/neglect investigations, Linda has developed a passion for ensuring that her clients have choice in guiding the direction of their daily lives. In addition to connecting her clients with the appropriate Medicaid waivers, she says as an Adult Advocate she views herself as support for their safety and health by connecting them with available resources. She is looking forward to expanding her clients’ options by actively participating in the Denver Collaborative, a team of professionals that meets to uncover resources for the challenging ne
eds of vulnerable populations in Denver. Linda says one of the greatest resource challenges she is facing is finding her clients places to live in the tight Denver housing market. By being involved in the Denver Collaborative team, and drawing upon the experiences of the team’s professionals, she aspires to gather more information on supportive resources to better serve her clients’ needs.
Communications and Policy Specialist
Looking forward, Catherine will be reaching out to statewide leaders and decision makers to express their views on issues in AdvocacyDenver’s publication of Policy Perspective. As a representative of AdvocacyDenver, it is her passion to connect with individuals who impact systemic changes which can have profound effects on the clients we serve. She aspires to maintain strong relationships with legislative representatives in order to be able to call upon them for comment when impactful decisions are made. Catherine will also have a role in contributing to AdvocacyDenver’s communication pieces, including the new electronic version of The VOICE, the eVOICE. In her communication and policy roles, it is her goal to support the mission of AdvocacyDenver and the work of the individual advocates who implement it.
Child and Family Advocate
Child Advocate Andrew Franklin has been helping families through the special education process at AdvocacyDenver for the past three years. He is passionate about making sure their rights under IDEA are being respected. Looking forward, Andrew will continue to work with youth ages 15 to 21 to transition from high school into adult life. Andrew says he especially enjoys working with this age group to help them find employment and put their services in place. Building relationships with his clients and w
atching them succeed is what he values most about his role at AdvocacyDenver. The challenges he says he faces in his position are seeing his clients struggle through the obstacles of no family supports and no immediately available state or community services. Some of the many skills he brings to his position are his knowledge of the systems and his ability to reach his clients through impactful communication.
Advocate for Adults
Looking forward, Kaley Day is bringing her passion to support families and siblings of individuals with disabilities into the wider Denver community. As an Adult Advocate for the past five years, Kaley is dedicated to the concepts of person-centered care and self-advocacy. She is now using her experience at AdvocacyDenver to build collaboration with other community organizations and to put the passion for her work as an Advocate into action. In addition to being actively involved in People First, Kaley has now taken on the role of a representative of AdvocacyDenver for Sibling Tree. She is working with other organizations to support and develop sibling support programs throughout Denver. These programs provide support groups for both kids and adults and caregiver workshops on issues including: self-care, future planning, and systems knowledge. Kaley, who has personally experienced the unique challenges faced by siblings says they are an integral but often overlooked piece of an individual’s support system. She believes her active participation in Sibling Tree as an AdvocacyDenver staff member presents our organization as a leader in doing more to offer sibling supports.
Laura Pollock performs a long list of administrative duties for AdvocacyDenver. Laura reports AdvocacyDenver has definitely been the most desirable environment she has experienced in her career to date. “I find it refreshing to work with a team that is genuinely passionate about caring for their clients and thus seeing their clients thrive to the best of their potential.”
Laura is looking forward to football season when she gets to sport Broncos colors on Fridays. While the Broncos have quickly become Laura’s second favorite team, she always looks forward to speaking to clients who share her passion for the Dallas Cowboys. Truth be told, some of our clients hope that their advocate is not available to answer their phone so that they have an opportunity to chat with Laura, discuss their day and share a laugh. Laura is also a talented photographer. AdvocacyDenver contracts with Laura to photograph staff and clients at events which she describes as “an absolute blast!” Laura is looking forward to photographing AdvocacyDenver events and continuing to team and work with our advocates and clients.
Looking forward, Janet is bringing her passion for event planning and fundraising to AdvocacyDenver. In addition to payroll preparation and account management, she is looking forward to working with the administrative team to increase membership. Janet has experience planning fundraising and other social events and is a key member of AdvocacyDenver’s planning committee. Janet says she finds her work rewarding because of the integrity of the staff and the commitment the team of employees’ displays to the mission of the organization.
Charlene is looking forward to AdvocacyDenver’s upcoming office move because the new location is close to her home. She’s glad she can spend less time traveling to work. Since 1997, Charlene has travelled literally, through rain, snow, and ice, to come to work at all of our various locations. She no longer has to put up with standing outside in the snow at bus stops because her husband Mike can now drive her to work. Charlene says she’s also happy about the move because it will have available parking space so her Service Coordinator can come and visit her on her work days. Originally, Charlene worked at AdvocacyDenver as a volunteer. However, now she is officially on the Team as a paid employee. She performs a wide range of office duties including: watering the plants, and shredding papers. Charlene says she really enjoys her co-workers because they always smile and laugh and they help a lot of people. She adds, “If more people would smile in the world, it would be a blessing.”
Kelli is the legal assistant for AdvocacyDenver’s Center for Special Education Law. In 2014, Kelli accepted what she understood would be a temporary position with AdvocacyDenver. AdvocacyDenver’s team recognized her talents and kept identifying additional projects. Kelli was honored to be offered the position of Legal Assistant to the renowned special education attorney, Michael Breeskin, in 2015. Kelli describes Michael as an exceptional mentor and expert of laws and procedures concerning special education.
The Supreme Court of the United States issued a significant decision earlier this year, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Kelli found it intriguing to witness the work of the disability community throughout the country in preparation for the Supreme Court’s proceedings and deliberations. The legal standard that Endrew F. creates is exciting. Kelli looks forward to assisting Michael in his role in shaping the law to align with the new legal standards in the years to come.
My name is Michael Breeskin, and I have been the attorney for this organization’s legal representation program since 2002. In 2011, AdvocacyDenver changed the name of that program to the Center for Special Education Law. As the attorney under both programs, I have represented children with disabilities in addressing their educational needs. For 35 years, parents of children with disabilities and school districts have had to determine what constitutes a free, appropriate public education in accordance with the first decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, construing what is now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), Board of Education v. Rowley. The Rowley standard proved elusive in practice, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals took different positions on its meaning, resulting in the split in the circuits that prompted the Supreme Court to accept review of the decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and reconsider the standard. The Tenth Circuit serves as an intermediate federal appellate court between the federal district courts within its territorial jurisdiction and the Supreme Court. The Tenth Circuit’s jurisdiction includes Colorado, making its interpretations of the IDEA of critical significance in our state to children with disabilities, their parents, and school districts alike.
On March 22 of this year, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Endrew F., reversing the decision of the Tenth Circuit and establishing a new substantive standard for determining what constitutes a free, appropriate public education under the IDEA. The Tenth Circuit had held that a free, appropriate public education must merely be more than de minimis. The Supreme Court criticized this standard, stating that “a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.” In the months since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Endrew F., commentators from across the country have assessed its significance, with attorneys and advocates for families opining that the decision represents a sea change to the legal landscape, and attorneys and administrators for school districts claiming that the decision does not represent a significant change for most of the nation. Although there is a wide gulf between the two camps, even the most ardent school district attorney should readily concede that the change within the Tenth Circuit’s jurisdiction will be monumental, as its interpretation of the Rowley substantive standard had provided less to children with disabilities than any other federal appellate court interpretation in the country. I view the Endrew F. decision as an important opportunity to begin anew. I look forward to helping develop the law and improving the lives of children with disabilities in Colorado in the process.