Strengthening Special Education Advocacy for Court-Involved Children

The Challenge

Children with special education needs are disproportionately court-involved and more likely to enter foster care or out-of-home placement. Recent studies show that up to 85 percent of children in juvenile detention facilities have disabilities that make them eligible for special education services. Despite these needs, court-involved children generally have no representation related to their educational issues and attorneys are often not cross-trained to collaborate in their representation.

The Project

Through her Emerging Leader Fellowship, Kate Vengraitis worked with the Defender Association of Philadelphia to strengthen attorneys’ ability to provide holistic representation and educational advocacy for dependent and delinquent clients with special education needs.

This Emerging Leader Fellowship enabled Kate to:

  • Build a knowledge base by meeting with and representing a limited number of young people in special education proceedings.
  • Develop materials and provide cross-system training for education attorneys, child advocates, and delinquency attorneys to explain the intersection of dependency/delinquency cases and special education advocacy.
  • Conduct outreach to the education bar and create protocols for a referral wheel of private attorneys to represent Defender clients with special education needs.
Katharine Vengraitis's Headshot

Kate Vengraitis, JD, MPH

Emerging Leader Fellow

2016 - 2017

Defender Association of Philadelphia

Current Position

Supervising Attorney; SSI, Aging, and Disability Units
Community Legal Services