Families With Special Needs Children Seminar

Millions of parents in the United States live with children who have disabilities or chronic illnesses ranging from autism spectrum disorder to lead poisoning. Raising these children often requires more than the usual dedication of parental time, energy, and resources. Although the children are dependent on the parents, and the parents often need an unusual level of support from families and community, law and policy envisions them as separate entities. The invisibility of their interdependency may leave the parents vulnerable to unusual rates of family dissolution, social isolation, unemployability, and poverty. The children may suffer the consequences along with the parents.

In the seminar, we examine situations where raising a disabled or chronically-ill child has an impact on the child’s parent that is ignored in law and policy. For example, a divorced parent who is the primary caregiver for a special needs child may be unable to maintain full or part-time employment. No existing financial remedy exists that places any burden on the other parent to provide more support than would be provided otherwise. In the area of special education, schools are not required to take into account the burdens on parents when designing procedures for establishing or monitoring special education plans. As a result, the process of getting a special education plan established or enforced may unduly deplete the parent’s resources, leaving the parent less able to respond to the demands of family, employment, self, or community. Multiple examples exist in other areas such as employment, housing, adoption, tort remedies, insurance, and public benefits.

In the spring semester of 2017, the seminar is open to both first-year and upper level students.

First-year seminar students will be writing short papers on a weekly basis in response to assigned readings and a 10-page research paper. Since no substantial paper is required, certification is not possible. First-year students who want to write a substantial paper on the topic can consider doing an independent study with Professor Czapanskiy after taking the seminar.

Upper-level seminar students will write weekly responses to the readings and a substantial paper. The paper will identify an area of law and policy where the families need support, investigate whether sources of support exist in current law and policy and, if not, explore strategies for change. Change strategies can include litigation, legislation, and policy proposals. Papers can be written for certification.

This course is not currently scheduled.
Last offered Spring 2019.

Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course