Free Advocacy Program Launched for Parents of Children With Special Needs - The Jewish Voice
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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Free Advocacy Program Launched for Parents of Children With Special Needs

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New Program Aims to Educate Parents
About Their Rights in Dealing with DOE

Community leaders are urging Brooklyn parents to utilize a brand new free service of Otsar Family Services that will assist parents in advocating on behalf of their children who may need special ed services. These services are aimed at “mainstream” children who may need services like occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy at their homes or in a yeshiva setting. Otsar, a Southern Brooklyn advocacy group that assists children and adults with developmental disabilities, already serves more than 700 local families and is launching this new program with the support of government funding secured by Councilman David Greenfield from the New York City budget.
According to Chashi Brand, Director of Educational and Recreational Services at Otsar, the focus of the new program is to make sure parents fully understand their rights when dealing with the New York City Department of Education, regardless of whether their children are in a mainstream or special education setting. For example, many parents are told they will have to wait as long as a full year for their child to receive an initial evaluation, which determines what types of services they need and will receive.
“Parents’ rights are being trampled on and due process is being ignored. Parents don’t know how to negotiate their way through the DOE’s system, and don’t realize that they can tell the DOE it is not acceptable,” said Brand. As a result, children who need immediate attention are losing out on a year, or longer, of needed instruction.
“Otsar’s goal is to help parents navigate the bureaucratic system as quickly as possible and to ensure that their children receive the special-ed services they need and deserve,”  explained Jeff Leb, Chief Operating Officer for Otsar.” That’s what this new effort is all about – teaching parents how to fight for their children, one child at a time.”
Otsar’s parent advocacy program is being offered to local families free of charge. Brand encourages any parent who is unsure about whether their child needs special education services to contact Otsar so that a DOE evaluation can be scheduled. “If you believe your child may need special ed services, take that first step and call Otsar. It’s your right as a parent,” said Brand.
“Otsar has been doing terrific work on behalf of Brooklyn families for decades. I get calls all the time from parents who need guidance regarding their children who may need services like speech and occupational therapy. I know that many families will benefit from this new advocacy initiative. I am grateful to Executive Director Betty Pollack and the entire Otsar team for providing this invaluable support to neighborhood families,” said Greenfield.
Otsar was established in 1980 by family members of children with special needs. The new parent advocacy program is being headed by Toba Lichtenstein. For more information on this and other programs please contact Otsar at (718) 946-7301 ext. 502 or email Mrs. Lichtenstein at
advocacy@otsar.org.

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