Child Find: When the School Tells Me My Child Needs a Mental Health Assessment or Treatment

Child Find: When the School Tells Me My Child Needs a Mental Health Assessment or Treatment

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Last week we shared with you that we will be providing information about Child Find throughout the month of February.  Child Find is a requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Act and states that: 

“The State must have in effect policies and procedures to ensure that—

(i) All children with disabilities residing in the State, including children with disabilities who are homeless children or are wards of the State, and children with disabilities attending private schools, regardless of the severity of their disability, and who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated; and
(ii) A practical method is developed and implemented to determine which children are currently receiving needed special education and related services.”
This means that school districts have an obligation to actively look for students who they suspect might have disabilities that affect their learning and evaluate them with guardians’ permission.  This can include disabilities related to mental health.

The Mississippi Department of Education’s Child Find Evaluation and Eligibility Procedures outline how school districts are to implement Child Find in Mississippi. Parents and guardians of children can also request that their child be evaluated under Child Find.

A common call we receive from families is that their child’s school has called about their child’s behavior and the family is being asked to pick the child up and take them for mental health treatment or an assessment before bringing them back to school.  In most of these instances, the child involved has never been evaluated to see if they have a disability that affects their learning (in other words, they do not have an IEP and are not receiving special education services).

Yet, the phone call itself indicates that school staff likely suspects that there is a disability because they are recommending mental health services to address a problem they see.  They also seem to be acknowledging the disability is affecting learning by describing the behavior as disruptive.

We encourage families in this situation to write a letter requesting an evaluation to the district’s Child Find coordinator and include information about these types of calls as evidence that their child may have a disability.  You can find a sample letter requesting an evaluation on the resources page of our website.  The Child Find webinar recording on our webinars page offers further information about Child Find. You are welcome to call our office at 601-355-0915 if you have additional questions about Child Find.

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