Services for Disabled Children: Crucial Protections for a Vulnerable Population
Children need access to health services, especially those with the most severe conditions and developmental delays. Crucial for children with developmental concerns is early intervention. A child’s first three years are the most important time for brain development. Prior to funding cuts, Florida’s Early Steps program served children at-risk of developmental delays to help provide necessary services when they would make the largest impact. Today, the program has been weakened and primarily serves children with “significant delays or an established medical condition that will likely result in a delay.”
Children with Special Needs Deserve to be Safe in School
At-risk children who fail to receive necessary interventions become school-age children who require services. Florida public schools still use seclusion and physical restraint for disciplining children with disabilities. According to the US Department of Health, there is no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of problem behaviors in students with disabilities.
Issues with the Children’s Medical Service Network Must be Addressed
In 2015, the Department of Health came under fire when more than 13,000 special needs children were “transitioned” out of the Children’s Medical Service Network (CMS Network), the state’s collection of programs for children with the most severe medical issues, into Medicaid managed care that was less expensive for the state. Eligibility screening for CMS was an issue and resulted in failure to enroll eligible children for almost four months. Legislative intervention and new leadership at DOH put the program on a better path but questions remain if children who were kicked off the program have been reinstated to the best level of coverage for them.
- Support Early Steps: Early intervention is key to reaching children at-risk for developmental delays.
- Address eligibility and assessment issues facing Children’s Medical Services: Children with the most severe medical issues should not struggle with how to become eligible to receive the care, immediate intervention and assistance they need.
- End the practice of using seclusion for discipline in public schools. Manual physical restraint should only be used when the student is a danger to themselves or others when all other strategies and tactics have been exhausted, not for disciplinary measures.
- To follow 2017-18 legislation regarding this issue visit our Child Welfare Reform Legislative Center page for real time updates.
What the Children’s Campaign is Saying
- Get it Right: We’re Watching
- Adoptive Mother: Expansion of APD Funding a Step in the Right Direction
- 70,000 Students with Disabilities Secluded, Restrained in School—Education Week. In the 2013-14 school year, one out of every 100 special education students was restrained or secluded by school personnel.
- Thousands of Chronically Ill Children in Florida Without Vital Healthcare—CBS12. Children are being left without vital health care due to budget changes.
- Lawmakers Ask Feds to Help Protect Sick Florida Children—CNN. After the removal of more than 13,000 children from Children’s Medical Services, two members of Florida’s congressional delegation ask the federal government for assistance in protecting Florida’s children with special needs.
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