Hundreds of kids waiting months to be evaluated for IEPs

Hundreds of kids waiting months to be evaluated for IEPs


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than 700 kids are having to wait months to get evaluated for an individualized education program (IEP) due to a lack of providers in the state, according to Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green.


She herself had to wait nine months to get her son evaluated by a neuropsychologist.

“We are just in a state of crisis right now,” Infante-Green said. “I think that people thought that the pandemic is over, and we are in the clear. No! We are actually right now in the middle of the aftereffects of the pandemic.”

However, some parents like Melanie Borges have been dealing with these issues for years. Borges had to advocate for her fostered 8-year-old child, who she says was lost in the education system.

“She couldn’t read or write, and nobody really noticed,” Borges recalled.

Because of the backlog of evaluations through the school system, Borges said nothing was being done, so she personally took her child to a physician to be evaluated for an IEP.

“She had a learning disability. Had that been recognized sooner and gotten that support in kindergarten and first grade, she’d be so much further ahead,” Borges said.

According to Borges, her foster daughter thrived once she had an IEP. However, her now-adoptive daughter needs an updated evaluation as she gets ready for high school, and it’s been a game of telephone between the state, physicians and insurance.

“You call these places and they’re like, ‘Well, we’ve already met our quota for neighborhood health children and we can’t take anymore.’ Then, you’re back to square 1,” Borges explained.

That’s why DCYF’s director and child advocates are calling for more resources.

Infante-Green said they have been able to do parts of the evaluation virtually.

“It’s not ideal,” Infante-Green admitted. “If this works out, because we are doing it in three districts, then we can expand, but they are only pieces that you can do virtually.”

The Rhode Island State Senate also approved two bills to help families of students with IEPs.

One bill would create a new office for special education, independent of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It would not only ensure school districts are complying with students’ IEPs, but also be a place for parents and teachers can voice their concerns if they believe kids aren’t receiving the services they are entitled to.

The second bill would require school districts to provide parents with information about the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account program, which allows families to save money for disability-related expenses once a student becomes an adult.

Both bills now go to the House.