The City of Oakley meets quarterly with the three school districts that serve the children in our community. We discuss issues of mutual concern. At the end of the last meeting a topic was suggested as an agenda item for the next meeting. It involves Licensed Children’s Institution (LCI) facilities. A LCI is a group home. A group home, in this case, is a licensed residential facility, generally a house, located within a community for children who may be wards of the state or who have been placed by parents or agencies. Often, these children have very special needs. These homes usually have six or fewer occupants and are staffed 24 hours a day by trained caregivers. The concerned raised at the meeting is that it appears that these LCIs are being concentrated in a particular region of the county.
In 1977, all school districts and county school offices were mandated to form consortiums in geographical regions of sufficient size and scope to provide for all special education service needs of children residing within the region boundaries. Each region, Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), developed a local plan describing how it would provide special education services. Our local SELPA includes every school district in Contra Costa County with only 3 exceptions. Of the 190 students in our SELPA living in a LCI, 185 live in Eastern Contra Costa County.
The LCIs don’t necessarily draw their residents from the local community. In the vast majority of cases the children come from all over Northern California. The primary concern is providing the necessary education programs to serve special education students 3 – 22 years of age. When a child is placed in a LCI, the district where the LCI resides becomes responsible for the child’s education. If the district where the child resides does not have an appropriate program and the child requires a more restrictive placement, the district may place the child in a county program or nonpublic school. The district is responsible for the cost of the placement including related services, such as transportation, speech, etc.
Here is a likely scenario: A middle school age child, living in another county, is moved to a LCI in East Contra Costa County. The child is medically fragile and requires a trained assistant to be with him while at school to meet his needs. He is transported to a program operated by the county in another city. The cost of the placement, transportation, assistant, and other related services are the responsibility of the school district where his LCI is located.
Children with special needs should be provided all the education opportunities to advance in life. All children can succeed with the right support. Providing that support should be a cost shared by all.