School District supports Senate bill to end school-age placements at Fircrest

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Shoreline School District is supporting a bill in the Washington State Senate that children in the state’s care should be served in residential settings near their families, friends, and schools, not in institutions, including the Fircrest School in Shoreline.

Senate Bill 5132 would change state law to prohibit children under the age of 21 from being placed in Residential Habilitation Centers (RHC) like Fircrest.

"The continuation of the current state policy to segregate disabled children in the RHCs, of which the overwhelming majority are sent to Fircrest School in Shoreline, is bad for children and for all communities in Washington," Shoreline Superintendent Sue Walker told the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee at a public hearing on the bill Monday.

The District agrees with Governor Chris Gregoire's belief that when students must be served outside the home, it is critical that they be placed in their home communities close to their schools, families, and friends. Currently, only 1 of the 24 student residents at Fircrest has family residing within the Shoreline School District, the remaining 23 come from other communities.

Despite the Governor's pronouncements and clear written directives, the number of school-aged children placed at the Fircrest Residential Habilitation Center (RHC) continues to grow. Since 2005, the population has grown from one child to 24 at Fircrest. Since spring of 2010, six school-aged clients have moved into Fircrest RHC.

The majority of students currently enrolled are designated by Fircrest as "permanent placements," and one of these children is only 10 years old. Nearly every one of the "short-term stay" students has been there longer than 90 days.
"Closing the Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton or other RHCs will only exacerbate the problem of the continued institutionalization of children at Fircrest. Senate Bill 5132 will stop this trend," Superintendent Walker said.
The state's educational funding formula for Fircrest RHC students does not reimburse the Shoreline School District or our community for the actual costs associated with the program.

The result is that the Shoreline School District is held responsible for providing education to all students in the least restrictive environment without adequate financial resources and infrastructure to do so.

"This creates an unfair burden on the citizens of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park by requiring that local levy dollars be used to supplement the costs of educating residents of Fircrest," Walker said.

Given the estimated number of institutionalized students at Fircrest for 2010-2011, Shoreline's out-of-pocket expenses for the school year will be approximately $200,000.

"Moving school-aged residents out of Fircrest will not magically solve funding issues for the education of students with disabilities, but it will distribute the costs more equitably across the state, rather than burdening one particular community, such as Shoreline," Walker said.
--from Shoreline School District


Anonymous,  February 1, 2011 at 1:42 PM  

Unbelievable that the Shoreline School Board thinks this is a good direction to go!

Sue Walker is a liability to this community. How many times does this community have to suffer at the hands of her disgraceful decisions
and the gutless school board?

School Closures, Budget Disasters, Destroying the Museum and now
going after Fircrest? What is she thinking?

Time for regime change!

Anonymous,  February 1, 2011 at 3:45 PM  

You go Sue. Now that the state wants Fircrest to be the ONLY RHC that houses school aged children I am glad you are standing up for Shoreline.

Should these children be housed in a facility that could be hundreds of miles away from their families? Should the cost of their education rest solely on the shoulders of Shoreline citizens?

I don't think that it's a good idea and I'm glad she's standing up for Shoreline - even if it makes her a target for the tears and agony crowd.

Anonymous,  February 1, 2011 at 3:53 PM  

Anonymous 3:45
"The tears and agony crowd?"!!!!
So what you're are saying is that no matter how many tears are shed over SSD's policies it doesn't matter as long as the bottom line is met?
So what you're saying is that no matter how much agony is inflicted on this community by the SSD it is all just fine with you?
I'm glad that my kids are grown up and out of this hideous district for good!

Anonymous,  February 1, 2011 at 4:10 PM  

Not exactly. What I'm saying is the tears and agony crowd have a tendency to latch onto something, get out of control emotional about it, but not come up with a real world solution.

Start looking at the whole issue - both sides. If you don't like what you see come up with a real world solution instead of attacking other people and moaning and groaning.

With the acute reduction in taxes and other income, our school district is scrambling for every dollar. Do I want to fund the education for every disabled child in the state - not really. Should Shoreline residents be asked to be the only community in the state to do this - I don't think so.

We no longer have the luxury to be generous with our communities dollars. There just isn't enough of them any more.

Anonymous,  February 1, 2011 at 4:22 PM  

How about have the school district that the child is initially from provide funding for their care at Fircrest? That way we could still have the facility for people that need it, but Shoreline wouldn't have to pay the bill.

On a totally unrelated note-yes I agree that Sue Walker should go, along with her henchwoman Marcia Harris. Neither is interested in anything but the bottom line and how pretty our buildings are.

Cheryl Felak February 7, 2011 at 1:00 PM  

Using this platform stating that the children who reside at Fircrest (who are Shoreline residents also) are a "burden" to Shoreline and the other children are being denied services was uncalled for and a slap in the face to disability advocates. We ahve come very far in enabling our family members to be part of our community and to be told that they are not wanted is taking a huge step backwards in time.

I do understand the funding issues with regards to a higher percentage of special education students. Using the "no children under 21 should be admitted to RHCs" in regards to Shoreline not being reimbursed for Special Ed students does not address what SB5132 and SB5459 are about. Funding for the schools and the issues of develoopmental disability placements are two separate issues. The issue of funding should be taken up with OSPI, DSHS and the school districts in which the parents of the children reside.

Ms. Walker does not know what goes into the families making choices for their children to live at RHCs and putting a blanket statement out that no children under 21 should be admitted to RHCs acutally indicates her lack of awareness of the issues that these family face.

If these children were not allowed in RHCs, where would they go? We were told with our son, who has a very rare genetic disorder, that there were no options other than to call the police - there was nothing else the hospital could do for him. Another option is placement out-of-state. Are those options that seem appropriate?

I would much rather have my child live in an RHC than have to call the police. These are issues that many families of typically developed children and families of higher functioning children with disabilities do not understand. It's all well and good to say "children should be with their families" but for some children that is not possible. This is why it is critical to maintain a continuum of care for all ages of people with disabilites.

Cheryl Felak February 7, 2011 at 1:10 PM  

I also wrote to Ms. Walker and the Shoreline School Board with my concerns. Ms. Walker did reply to me with a generic letter stating that "The Arc of Washington State" also supports these two bills. She forwarded me their mission statement and wondered if I was familiar with it.

My reply to Ms. Walker:

Yes, I am well aware of the position of the Arc of Washington State. They are not living up to their mission. They are great at advocating for those who do not have the highest acuity but they draw the line there. They are also good at hiding facts and figures. Susan Dreyfus herself, talks about the split in advocacy of those who want RHCs and those who want home based services. The only groups making this split are agencies such as The Arc chapters, Developmental Disability Councils and other agenices with similar agendas.

Groups such as ActionDD, Friends of Fircrest, Because We Care - Beyond Inclusion are groups which advocate for ALL people with disabilities and a full continuum of care. It is to groups such as these that we should look to for innovative and constructive methods to bbetter serve all our citizens with disabilities.

What many are failing to see is that the actual acuity level of those who reside in RHCs is quite high. No matter where those people live they will have a high acuity and the care needed to keep them saffe and healthy will cost more. People are free to leave the RHCs but we don't see people doing that. The people living there are choosing to live there becasue it is the safest and most cost effective way to serve them.

If people went and actually toured these facilities and saw the community there maybe their minds would change. I personally invited some of the executives of The Arc of King county to take a tour. I was told that they had seen the RHCs years ago and didn't need to see them any more..

I have documents indicating the true costs and acuities of these residents. The cost savings of keeping the RHCS open is staggering and I'm puzzled as to why this is being covered up? Ideology gone awry?

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