CA Dept. of Education


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Secondary Issues Archive 2011


Priscilla Harvell, M.A., CCC-SLP
Secondary and Speech/Language Specialist

Priscilla Harvell's expertise is supported by over 20 years in the field of Special Education as a Speech and Language Pathologist, Special Day Class Teacher and eight years as a Secondary Specialist for the Northern California Diagnostic Center.

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  • My child is turning 18 years old. Do I need to become his guardian?


My child is turning 18 years old.  Do I need to become his guardian?


This is a great question! However, since I don’t have specific information regarding the reason for your question, e.g., is your child intellectually and/or physically disabled, emotionally unstable, or presents with other significant challenges, I will offer you general information/options to address your question.

The most important piece of advice is to get legal input. If your child receives services as a client of the Regional Center, they can give your legal resources to explore.

There are key points you should know:

  • Under guardianship, a person is considered to be legally incompetent. The individual loses the authority to make all the decisions granted to adults.
  • Many states also offer limited guardianship, sometimes called conservatorship. People who are granted conservatorship for another individual are assigned limited decision-making responsibility based on the individual’s needs. Conservatorship is designed to allow a person to retain as many of his or her rights as possible. A person under conservatorship is not considered to be legally incompetent.
  • Obtaining guardianship or conservatorship for a person requires a petition to be filed with a court alleging that the person needs such an arrangement, a court hearing on the case, and annual reports filed with the court regarding the status of the arrangement.
  • Guardianship, and to a lesser extent conservatorship, severely limits an individual’s right to make independent decisions and should only be considered when there is no less restrictive alternative. If your child is not able to make educational decisions but does not need guardianship or conservatorship, you may want to explore procedures within your state that may allow an advocate to represent the educational interests of your child.

I am including a matrix that looks at three categories which may help direct your research into this area. Information is based on the activity focus or needs of individuals. Your child’s needs may contain different activity focus areas. The matrix content areas are:

  • Activity – What are the areas one might consider for conservator or guardianship?
  • Alternative(s) – What are alternatives to complete conservator or guardianship, i.e., shared; both parties in agreement?
  • Court ordered relationships – These are ordered by the court system.

Click here to view the matrix.

I hope this helps you and your child make the appropriate decision regarding guardianship/conservatorship vs. other options.


  • What happens when an adolescent with a disability turns 18?


What happens when an adolescent with a disability turns 18?  Does he/she have the right to request their parent turn over all their educational rights to them?  I’m really concerned and would like all the resources I can find before my child turns 18.


When an individual reaches their 18th birthday, he assumes the rights of any adult who reaches the age of majority. However, an individual with a disability may have more rights, more risks and/or more responsibilities.

If a parent or guardian has not been appointed as legal guardian, then the adolescent can make decisions independent of their parent/guardian, sign documents (IEP, binding financial agreements, etc.) without parent consent.

As a parent/guardian, we realize our children  may/may not cognitively be ready to take on the responsibility of adulthood, especially if he/she has not been given opportunities to make decisions, problem solve, and have  learned other self-awareness and independent living skills.

You should check with your legal advisor to determine is your child needs to be conserved prior to the age of 18. They can offer information specific to you and your child’s needs. Go to the Ask A Specialist Transition archives at and click on How Parents Can Guide and Support Transition to learn more about issues regarding the age of majority. An article referenced in this archive titled Age of Majority: Preparing Your Child for Making Good Choices and can be found at

The following information suggests a few changes your soon to be 18-year-old may/will face:

1. When they turn 18, young people acquire the rights and access to records that their parents had exercised, including:

    • The right to be notified of IEP or 504 plan meetings;
    • The right to be notified and consent to evaluations;
    • The right to invite additional participants to IEP meetings;
    • The right to be notified and consent to specialized education and related services.

Parents are still notified of meetings regarding their child’s education, even after he/she turns 18. Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, young people gain the right to access their records at 18, and parents lose that access, but an 18-year-old can give his or her parents access to the records by signing a release.

If parents think their child will be unable to make important decisions (such as those about education, money management or health care) even at the age of 18, they may seek legal guardianship, durable power of attorney, or designation as representative payee for Social Security benefits. A lawyer may be necessary to make those arrangements.

2. Young people who received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for a disability may lose them as adults, depending on the nature of their disabilities.

An 18-year-old receiving SSI benefits should expect to have his or her eligibility re-determined, using a different, adult disability standard, in the month before the 18th birthday. Some childhood disabilities do not have adult equivalents, particularly in behavioral areas. If the disability for the person under 18 is a learning disability, for instance, as an adult, he or she will not be eligible for SSI for that reason alone.

3. The health insurance may change.

Parents should check their policies to determine if they cover adult children with disabilities. Some policies, but not all, continue coverage as long as the child is in school.

4. An 18-year-old is old enough to vote.

Americans may vote at age 18 unless declared incompetent by a court of law. To register in Florida, one must turn 18 by Election Day and be a U.S. citizen and a legal resident of the county in which one plans to vote.

5. Young men are required to register for military service.

All males are required to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18 unless institutionalized or hospitalized.

Finally, a great resource for you and your child is California Career Zone accessed at The activity, Reality Check is wonderful for students in general and special education classes to complete.

I wish you the best of luck.


  • What are some college resources for ED students?



Could you direct me to college resources for ED Students?

Gale Rosboro


Hi Gale,

I’m not sure if you are asking to be directed to colleges that offer supports for students with ED to be successful OR tips students and families should consider when selecting a college.  My research divulged more tips than specific resources so that is what I will share.    
For most families, choosing a potential college for their child, especially if there are special needs to consider, include addressing the following questions:

  • Does the school offer the academic program the student (my child) is interested in?
  • What are the student’s (my child’s) post-college goals?
  • How difficult is it to get accepted?
  • Where is it located?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What is the campus culture like?
  • What does the potential student (my child) think?

After all the factors surrounding these questions have been considered, notes compared, and all options weighed, the college that will meet the student’s needs, prepare him/her to meet their future goals and fit his/her lifestyle is selected.

In addition, there are tips to share with your students who are diagnosed with an Emotional Disturbance (or other diagnosis) heading off to college:

  • Document their disability with letters from their physician(s), therapist, case manager, school psychologist, and other service providers.
  • Get letters of support from teachers, family friends, and service providers that detail how they have learned to work despite their disability.
  • Learn the federal laws that apply to students with disabilities; especially Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Research support groups for peer information and advocacy.

  • Visit several campuses. Schedule a meeting with the director of special services. Ask to talk with students who have similar disabilities to hear about their experiences on campus. Explore whether the programs, policies, procedures, and facilities meet their specific situation.
  • Determine whether or not to disclose their disability and, if they choose to disclose, the best point in the admissions process to do so.

  • Look into the services available, the pace of campus life, and the colleges expectations for students with emotional disabilities.
  • Ask about orientation programs, including bridge programs and other specialized introductions for or about students with emotional disabilities.

  • Ask about flexible, individualized study plans.

Be sure to explore whether possible colleges offer the following services for students with ED:

  • Mental Health Services Mentalhealth services provide counseling services and resources to the school community that may include a staff of experienced licensed clinicians, i.e., psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and mental health clinical nurse specialists.
  • Peer Counseling – This type of program provides students of varying backgrounds avenues through which they can discuss difficult and important issues, and also tools with which students may begin to learn how to talk about issues around their emotional status.

  • Academic and Developmental Services – These services are referred to under various titles, e.g., Disabled Student Services, and serve as the central campus resource for college students with documented physical, emotional, and learning disabilities.

Articles to read for more information:

Hope something I presented here helps you in your search. 


  • Books for teens that covers a wide variety of cultures and tips on selecting appropriate material


I am a high school special education teacher whose classroom population is comprised of various cultural and ethnic groups.  My language arts goal is to create and maintain a level of interest for reading.  Some of them tune out even when I start reading to them.  Can you recommend some books for teens that cover a wide variety of cultures and a few tips on what to look for when selecting books for my students?

Thanks for your help.


Hi Mary,
You have come to the right source.  I actually present a training on Culturally Responsive Teaching and part of this training addresses the importance of selecting reading materials that represent not only the students’ cultural and ethnic backgrounds, but their learning styles, interests, preferences, and ability levels.  All of your students reflect experiences that are diverse and unique.  Make sure your classroom library reflects this diversity.  The focus is to get the student interested in reading and keeping them interested.
Several authors from various cultural/ethnic groups offer tips/points to remember when selecting books for specific cultures are:
Native Americans

  • Make available books that reveal today's Native American cultures.
  • Be prepared to talk about the ways in which Native American cultures have influenced world culture.
  • Talk about values Native American cultures share, such as respect, sharing, and reverence for living things.
  • Avoid books in which all Indians are noble and all white people are bad. Any book that builds up one culture at the expense of another ultimately keeps racial tension alive.

Hispanic/Mexican Americans

  • Select books that show Hispanic women in contemporary roles.
  • Share biographies of Latinos so students understand Latinos' contributions to the U.S. and to the world.
  • Use picture books and novels as a way to inspire students to learn more about the history and culture of the Latino group depicted in the story.
  • Look for stories that use Spanish words and phrases -- they provide realism and show respect for the culture. Learn to pronounce the Spanish words correctly; many books include pronunciation guides to help you.

African American/Black

  • African-American experiences are diverse and unique. The black experiences of the South do not necessarily reflect those of the North, nor do inner-city situations parallel rural settings. Make sure your classroom library reflects this diversity, as well as that of blacks living in places such as the Caribbean, Africa, and Great Britain.
  • Reject books with offensive expressions, negative attitudes, or stereotypes. You'll know them when you see them-trust your instincts.
  • Don't ignore these books because there are no children of color in your class. Books depicting African-American experiences are valuable for all children.

Asian American

  • Search for stories that exhibit values inherent in many Asian cultures, such as cooperation and a respect for family and tradition.
  • Ensure that the events depicted are historically accurate; in a work of fiction, that the events described are plausible.
  • Asian-American children, as well as others in the class, should perceive the characters as competent problem-solvers, responding in positive ways to the challenges they confront.
  • While including stories whose settings are in the United States, it is also appropriate to include those set in other countries, thus providing students with a richer description of the cultural roots of Asian-American students.

Go to the web site, How to Choose the Best Multicultural Books by authors Luther B. Clegg, Etta Miller, Bill Vanderhoof, Gonzalo Ramirez and Peggy K. Ford.  They represent the groups described above, respond to questions, offer tips to book selection, include additional authors to explore, and a list of books to consider.  The book list are primarily for K-8; however, just use the selection tips when choosing books for 9-12 or your state’s reading list for those grades. 

Finally, here is an activity, Critical Thinking Chart, you may wish to use to teach your students critical thinking, self-awareness, and relating story characters to their own life situations.  The author is a high school teacher who taught at an alternative school and most of her students disliked reading but enjoyed discussing and completing this activity.  Click picture to view larger sample.

Critical Thinking Chart 

Let me know if this information was useful. 


Resources:  Books for Teens at  This web site offers a list of books for older adolescents up to twelfth grade.

  • Helping students who age out of the Foster Care system


Hi Priscilla,
I think this my question fits your area of expertise. In looking through your archives, no information dealt with the issue of foster care youngsters aging out of the system to adulthood.  I am a high school special education resource teacher and have a student who will be aging out of the system in June. I would like to help her make this transition as smoothly (if there’s such a thing) as possible. She wants to go to college and is capable but is very anxious about her future. I don’t know all the ramifications related to this aging out process and wondered if you had any information in terms of the challenges she will face. Also are there any organizations who work with these kids? Thank you for any information/resources you can provide.
Anonymously submitted


Hi Anonymous,

I appreciate your excellent question and will do my best to provide general information to share with your student.

National Foster Care Month is in May of each year to show appreciation and gratitude to foster parents across the nation. That being said, the foster care system has experienced my challenges one of which is the transition to adulthood for those individuals aging out of the system. On the Federal level, there is the Children’s Bureau, Ad ministration for Children and Families (AFC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This agency oversees the services, support, and well being of children through partnership with states.

On the state level, California has the Independent Living Program (ILP) authorized by the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-169). This Act provides training, services and programs to assist with the achievement of self-sufficiency of foster care youth prior to and after they leave the foster care system.

Daily living is demanding and being in the foster care system only compounds the situation. Ask your student what some of the challenges are that she faces, how she copes with them, and what supports would be helpful. Rather than focus on the challenges (they are in the resources provided), I am including 10 Facts Every Foster Youth Should Know for you and your student to discuss. These facts are located at and include:

  1. Go to Your Court Hearings!

    You have the right to attend your court hearings and talk to the judge. For more details, go to Dealing with the Courts.

  2. Health Insurance to 21!

    Foster youth who emancipated from foster care on their 18th birthday can have Medi-Cal health insurance until they turn 21, For more information, click on Health.

  3. Money Available for Emancipated Foster Youth!

    The Governor has budgeted money for emancipated foster youth to help cover the cost of housing, college, transportation, or other needs. Go to Show me the Money for details.

  4. See Your Case Plan and Your Court Report!

    You have the right to see your case file, case plan, and court reports if you are 12 or over. Go to Dealing with the Courts for more information.

  5. Get Your Driver's License!

    While you are in foster care, you can get your driver's license if your guardian or biological parent signs the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) form. Click on Drivers Licenses to learn more.

  6. Participate in ILP!

    Make sure you participate in the Independent Living Program, and take advantage of all the services such as the Transitional Housing Placement Program. If you don't participate in ILP, you may miss out on services that can help you get a computer, earn money, find jobs and housing, or take advantage of scholarship opportunities for school. For a listing of your local ILP contact, click here.

  7. Get Involved! Get Involved in the California Youth Connection.

    The California Youth Connection is an organization that advocates for current and former foster youth ages 14-24 with chapters in many counties throughout California. For more ideas, go to Get Involved.

  8. Free Money for School!

    You are eligible for free money for college. Contact your county ILP program for more information. You can also find out more by going to Chafee Grants.

  9. Foster Youth Have Rights! Know Your Rights!

    Foster youth have many rights in care. You can read more about your rights in the Rights section web-page.

  10. Seal Your Court File When You Turn 18!

    You have the right to ask the court to seal your case file. Click on Dealing with the Courts for more information.

Youth are eligible for ILP services up to the day of their 21st birthday if they meet one of the following criteria:

  1. was/in foster care at any time from their 16th to 19th birthday or
  2. was/is between ages 16 and 18 and participating in the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payment Program Kin-GAP (read more details at

I do not know which California county you are located; however, go to ( to find an exhaustive list of ILP service providers by county. Before referring anyone to any of these resources, check to determine if the provider is still operating.

Your student may like to participate in the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) Survey to share her knowledge and experiences. She can take the survey online at or by phone at 1-877-I-AM-NYTD (Deadline to complete survey is February 15, 2011). Taking this survey will give her the opportunity to offer her “voice” in the foster care overall process for youth who are aging out or have aged out of the system.

Thank you for being inquisitive and best of luck to your student.



  • Overview of the CA Foster Care System