Thursday, May 7, 2009

Residential Placements

What is a residential placement? When is it required? Who pays for the room and board cost? This blog will cover a basic overview of residential placements. Because often is is the student with mental health needs that need a therapeutic program like a residential school, this blog is part of our series for Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.

Residential schools can provide students with much needed consistency and intensity in their program, and can provide a therapeutic environment that may not be available in other settings. They exist on the "continuum of placements" under the IDEIA and state special education laws. Generally, residential placements are very restrictive settings, are very expensive, and are burdensome on the family unit, as the child has to be out of the home. Therefore, they are only appropriate as a consideration of the IEP team in situations where it is shown that they are required for that student.

Overview and Definitions:

A "residential placement" is a facility in which the student essentially lives at the school site and is in 24 hour custody. Residential schools are a type of therapeutic placement, and they provide a therapeutic component to address the student's mental health needs in conjunction with addressing the core educational curriculum and academics.

Students require residential placements for a variety of reasons and in a variety of situations. Residential placement is deemed appropriate when the therapeutic and residential components of the program are necessary in order for the student to receive an educational benefit. If placement in a residential program is necessary for the appropriate provision of special education and related services to the student, the program (including both therapeutic and educational components) must be provided at no cost to parents. Students who require residential programs are those for whom the educational needs and emotional needs are "intertwined" or "inseparable" from emotional needs, and a determination is made by the IEP team that the child requires therapeutic and habilitation services in order to "benefit from special education."

Some Basic Examples:

Student with extreme behavioral difficulties, who has been unable to learn appropriate behaviors in the school and community settings, or who is unable to generalize learned behaviors across settings to the extent that they are not able to benefit from the general education campus placement.

Students who require intensive 24-hour supervision and interventions to address aggressive, assaultive, destructive or self-injurious behaviors.

Students whose mental health needs are so significant that they impact their ability to participate in the school environment, attend school regularly, and function on a regular campus.

Students who have not made any progress in their emotional and behavioral goals in a less restrictive setting, and who require interventions across settings and in a therapeutic environment in order to benefit.

Payment for Residential Programs:

If a residential program is required for the student to receive FAPE, then it must be provided at no cost to parents. This does not mean, necessarily, that your school district will be paying the entire cost. Rather, states are permitted to have specific procedures and mechanisms in place to deal with funding for residential schools. In many states, there are cost-sharing arrangements between school districts (or "local education agencies" - LEAs), the state department of education (or "state education agencies" - SEAs), and / or other local or state government agencies. For example, in California, there are state-specific cost provisions that require the Department of Mental Health to fund the residential and therapeutic components of the program, if the child is eligible to recieve mental health services under the state's AB3632 provision.

Ultimately, it is the school district's responsibility to provide individual students with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). And the bottom line, therefore, is that if the student requires residential placement to recieve a FAPE, the District bears the burden of ensuring that it is provided at no cost to parents. There are certainly instances where a child may not qualify for eligibility under AB3632 or whatever program/agency the state has for mental health services, but still requires residential placement as part of their educational program. In those situations, the District must fund the placement, including the residential component, because to fail to do so would be a denial of FAPE to the student.


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