Federal Law and Regulations

OSERS Issues Guidance on Children in Nursing Homes

by Ernie Melcher

Recognizing that there is a need for further guidance ensuring that children with disabilities residing in nursing homes are evaluated in a timely manner and receive appropriate special education and related services, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) recently issued a letter to clarify that children with disabilities who reside in nursing homes and their parents have the same rights under IDEA that apply to all other IDEA-eligible children, and to highlight some of the IDEA requirements that are especially relevant to the needs of this unique population. The letter also identifies best practices to assist States and their public agencies in meeting the educational needs of these children.

Although the numbers are small, the medically complex conditions of these children present unique challenges. In addition, because these children live away from their families, and may enter nursing homes from a hospital or through a child welfare or health agency, they may not always be known to responsible educational authorities or be receiving appropriate educational services. States are required under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA or Part B) to make available to all children with disabilities a free appropriate public education2 (FAPE), which emphasizes special education and related services that, among other things, are designed to meet the unique needs of each child, including those children residing in nursing homes.

The Dear Colleague letter issued on April 26, 2016 is available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/dcl-children-in-nursing-homes-04-28-2016.pdf

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