Early Intervention changes proposed

When something is working we sometimes forget to ask why or notice at all. The Multnomah Early Childhood Program (MECP) is one of those things that is often taken for granted.

MECP falls under the big umbrella of Multnomah Education Service District (MESD), a regional program that serves all of the school districts in Multnomah County. On March 16th, 2009 MESD was told that Portland Public Schools will not be renewing the contract for MECP to continue doing evaluations for children that have developmental concerns and disabilities. MECP would continue to provide the service of early intervention is what I understand because this is ODE’s requirement.

My biggest concern about this is the philosophical differences between MECP and PPS in how children with delays and disabilities are identified and supported. MECP is based on the values of serving the whole family and community in the process of serving each and every child. MECP partners with Multnomah Parent Action Committee (MPAC) and provides free training and support groups for parents. MECP offers classes in communication, autism, behavior, and actively seeks resources for families. The process from the first phone call all the way to transition to PPS is seamless and supportive.

PPS likely believes they can save money doing the early intervention evaluations in the district. I beg to differ.

  • The money PPS would have to spend to meet the standards of consistency and family centered practices that MECP provides would likely exceed whatever savings they believe they can draw from this move.
  • I do not understand how shifting pots of money around and creating a fragmented system benefits anyone. Parents just receiving a diagnosis have a lot of concerns and questions about services, and there is ample room for mistakes and miscommunication when one agency is handing information off to another.
  • Since MESD is a county system and covers all of the districts there is a lot of sharing of resources that offsets costs all over. MESD intakes 2400 children a year and roughly 1200 are in PPS. If PPS pulls out of this contract then East County will have to pick up the slack and absorb costs and in addition MESD would have to let go of 50 percent of their staff. Turnover within MECP is rare and in my 3 years as a parent in their system see all of the same faces every year.
  • Perhaps PPS should allow MECP to keep the contract and instead direct resources to investigate what MECP is doing right to empower, engage, and support families while also being successful in providing early intervention.

My deepest, darkest fears about PPS taking over early intervention evaluation is that children with disabilities will be routed into special schools like the Pioneer Program or will simply not be identified as needing early intervention at all. More segregation and less identification is what our future may hold if PPS does not allow MECP to continue doing their good work. PPS has enough to worry about right now.

Join me in writing the school board and the superintendent (contact information on the “action” page of this site). You can also contact Ron Hitchcock the superintendent of MESD at rhitchco@mesd.k12.or.us

Tell them to let MECP continue to do their good work. If you have personal stories about how MECP has helped your family then share them.

Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.