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Elaine Dawson Berkley, MSW, Executive Director Frogs Landing Very Personable until She Cashed my Check: Advocate for My Child's IEP Needs Got what she
26th of Dec, 2011 by User392616
I had a free consultation with Elaine Berkley by phone. She listened to my concerns and quoted me a rate of $600.00. She assured me this was an easy case as my daughter only need modifications to an existing IEP. For this fee she stated she would meet with me twice and advocate on behalf of my daughter at her IEP meeting. Elaine expressed the first meeting would be to meet with my daughter and I to make sure she had an accurate understanding of her needs and our concerns. The second meeting was to occur an hour before the IEP meeting to prepare me for the meeting. Elaine was at my home approximately 3 hours the first meeting. She spent a great deal of time talking to me about her personal experiences over the years, with her own children's IEPs and special education needs. She also spoke to me concerning some of her clients with more complex needs. Assuring me that my daughter's case would not require multiple IEP meetings and therefore I did not need a contract, because she uses those for long-term clients. She expressed she would do all the talking at the IEP meeting as she knows the laws and student's rights. She asked me for the money and I wrote her a check. She instructed me to email her any communications with the school and to contact her with any questions. When she left I was relieved and felt this stressful situation was going to be handled. I set the appointment for the IEP meeting around her schedule. I sent her the correspondences with the school. Some of them were upsetting and made me anxious about the meeting. When I would contact her about those emails, she would put me at ease, saying how she would handle the situations. However, she did not follow through. Then she would not respond or take my phone calls. One example: A few days before the IEP meeting she stated she was going to email me a letter to forward to the school. I did not receive the letter so I sent her a reminder the following day. I still did not receive the letter. There were only 2 days left before the IEP meeting and I could not contact her, nor was she responding to my text or emails. I became so anxious I started calling advocate hotlines, and going to the Board of Education trying to education myself for the meeting. I was a nervous wreck. I checked my bank account and found she had cashed my check immediately after the meeting at my home weeks earlier. The day of the meeting I put all of my information together in a binder and went to the meeting. She did not meet with me before the IEP meeting to prepare me. She was standing outside the school before the meeting and said she felt we had covered everything necessary at the first meeting so a second meeting was not needed. I asked her what are we going to ask for? She said, "we are going to let them do the talking and see, maybe they will offer things we want. I want to see where they are." I was not happy but I didn't know what to do at that point. The meeting was about to start. I was just hoping she knew what she was doing. Long story short she was not prepared. She did not have any of my daughter's paperwork and asked for mine when attempting to refer to my daughter. She only remembered one of our concerns and could not even go into detail when attempting to address it. I had a list of concerns as did my daughter during our 1st meeting. She did not even bring her notes. She did not do anything we verbally agreed to. She did not ask for modifications, or manageable goals ( which she had previously complained to me my daughter's IEP was bad and did not even have manageable goals). There was not one change made to my daughter's IEP. Nothing was resolved. However, a month had pasted waiting for a meeting and I was out of $600.00 dollars. She said she would attend more meetings with me without charging me more since we had not accomplished the purpose of the meeting. However, when I attempted to contact her after the meeting she was busy, not feeling well, not answering my calls etc.. Eventually, I called her with my number blocked and she answered the phone as cheerful as normal. When I told her who was calling, her tone changed and she asked me to call another day as she was not feeling well. When I called her without blocking my number she did not answer. However, when I blocked my number she answered each time. I have kept the call logs, emails, and texts. When I got her on the phone the next time she told me she did not feel there was anything else we could do and that my daughter's teacher's all said good things about her etc.. She even went so far as to tell me the laws don't cover the things she had originally told me they covered. I asked her why she would tell me it did and why had another advocate told me the same thing. I told her I was not going to drop it and would push forward. She once again agreed to help. That was Dec. 7th. She was going to make contact with the school to try to get another meeting before Winter Break. On Dec. 14th I had not heard from her and sent a letter to the school myself copying Elaine. I requested a response. I did not receive a response. The school sent me an email on Dec 19th stating the meeting on Dec. 2nd had not been an IEP as nothing was modified. The school copied this email to Elaine Berkley. When I attempted to contact her she said it is the Holidays. I sent her an email detailing why I wanted my money back and she did not respond. I called her blocked today and requested a refund and she told me to sue her. I have a meeting tomorrow for advice on this matter. I believe I will file a lawsuit in small claims however I will decide after I have been advised. I would like to contact the other families who have complained she has done this to them. So, we can work together to get our money back and expose this problem. It is sad that people are taking advantage of families in need and causing them more stress. Note: all of the comments speaking on behalf of Elaine Berkley in this forum are suspiciously written on the same day.

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