Moran Center’s Access to Education Initiative Receives Funding from ECF

The Evanston Community Foundation awards $10,000 to educate early childhood professionals and families about special education rights and advocacy.

Evanston, IL. June 11, 2014 – At the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) Grant Awards and Celebration event on May 30, 2014, ECF awarded the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy $10,000 to launch the Access to Education Initiative.

The Access to Education Initiative will assist low-income Evanston families with young school-aged children in exercising their educational rights and receiving proper services. “We will partner with early education and childcare providers to help families access the supports and services guaranteed them by law. Often times a combination of a lack of awareness of their rights, cultural or social barriers raised by perceived stigma associated with special education, and language barriers can prevent a family from feeling equipped and empowered to advocate for their young child.” Kathy Lyons, Moran Center Executive Director, explained.

Warren W. Cherry Preschool is one of the early childhood education partners who will participate in the Access to Education. Rhonda Cohen, Child Development & Inclusion Director, says, “We are enthusiastic about the expansion of Moran Center services and are excited to partner with them to educate parents of young children in our community.”

A key component of the program will include support from a Moran Center psychologist who will be qualified to provide professional advice and psychological assessments.

Patrick Keenan-Devlin, Moran Center Deputy Director and Special Education Attorney, elaborates, “At the Moran Center, we see the devastating effects of teens engaging in self-destructive behaviors that often stem from years of academic failure and unresolved social-emotional challenges. It is well established that early intervention at the pre-school and elementary levels is the most effective and efficient way to prevent problems that lead to academic failure, truancy, and delinquency in later years.”

The Moran Center launched its Special Education Legal Advocacy (SELA) Project in 2010 and initially served children already represented by Moran Center attorneys in the juvenile justice system. However, as the SELA project has grown, the Moran Center has gained an increasing number of SELA clients who have never been involved in the juvenile justice system. Lyons explains, “Through the Access to Education Initiative, we hope to reduce the number of disconnected Evanston youth by increasing the number of children and families who the public education system equipped with the knowledge, training, and skills to successfully advocate for their children and ensure that their educational needs are met.”