USDE Creates National Parents and Families Engagement Council to Help Ensure Recovery Efforts Meet Students’ Needs (June 15, 2022)

On June 14, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) launched the National Parents and Families Engagement Council (Council) to facilitate strong and effective relationships between schools and parents, families and caregivers. Families’ voices play a critical role in how the nation’s children are recovering from the pandemic.

“Parents are a child’s first teachers, and there’s no one better equipped to work with schools and educators to identify what students need to recover,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The National Parents and Families Engagement Council will serve as an important link between families and caregivers, education advocates and their school communities. The Council will help foster a collaborative environment where we can work together to serve the best interest of students and ensure they have the academic and mental health support they need to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future.”

The Council consists of parent, family, or caregiver representatives from national organizations that will work with the USDE to identify constructive ways to help families engage at the local level. Organization representatives will reflect the diversity of the education system, including, but not limited to, families of students in public schools, charters, private schools, and homeschool. The Council will be a channel for parents and families to constructively participate in their children’s education by helping them understand the rights they have, create a feedback loop with schools to shape how American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds are deployed to meet students’ needs, and identify summer learning and enrichment opportunities for children in their communities.

“Parents provide critical perspective, and they should always have a seat at the table whenever decisions are made that impact their children. And this is more important than ever in the effort to help students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Anna King, president of National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). “National PTA applauds the Department of Education for launching the National Parents and Families Engagement Council and providing a channel for parents’ voices to be heard and considered. This is essential to help make sure the needs of students are met coming out of the pandemic and ensure every child has everything they need to make their potential a reality.”

“NAFSCE congratulates the Department of Education for establishing a National Parents and Families Engagement Council,” said Vito Borrello, executive director of the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE). “This Council provides the opportunity to bring diverse parent voices together to inform the USDE’s policies and programs, while also serving as a dissemination vehicle for engaging families across the country in equitable education policy.”
At launch, Council members include:

  • The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)
  • Fathers Incorporated
  • Generations United
  • Girls Inc.
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
  • Mocha Moms
  • National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE)
  • National Action Network
  • National Military Family Association (NMFA)
  • National Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
  • National Parents Union (NPU)
  • The National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (PLACE)
  • United Parent Leaders Action Network (UPLAN)
  • UnidosUS

In the coming weeks, the Council will meet to discuss how their children are recovering; the different ways schools are providing academic, mental health and social and emotional support; and how they can best constructively engage with schools. In the coming months, the USDE and the Council will hold local listening sessions with parents, families, principals, educators, and school community members to better understand the needs of students as they start the 2022-23 school year.

DHS Provides Innovation and Best Practices in Supporting Adults with Autism (June 14, 2022)

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) has released the latest issue of the Positive Approaches Journal, which aims to provide the most recent research and resources for people with mental health and behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities to live an everyday life. This edition focuses on innovation and best practices in supporting adults with autism.

“DHS is committed to making a future that truly includes individuals with autism as fully integrated members of our communities. We work every day to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have what they need so they can live everyday lives, and I hope that the research and articles in this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal will be useful to anyone working to achieve that goal,” said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead.

Articles in this issue highlight issues facing adults with autism, and this edition features research and articles on the following:

  • Data Discoveries: This addition to the issue details the data-driven Life on the Spectrum workshop series, led by self-advocates with autism.
  • Psychiatric Rehabilitation for Autistic Adults: Pilot Program Development: This article details the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) Western Behavioral Health Psychiatric Rehabilitation (PR) program used to serve autistic adults and outlines the successes and opportunities of the program.
  • Autistic and Transgender: Support at the Intersection: This article addresses the needs of autistic and transgender individuals through evidence-based intervention, clinical experience, and lived experience and details the support needs of this community.
  • A Reflection on Retirement from Someone on the Autism Spectrum: A Commonwealth employee of 29 years recounts his experience working for DHS and details his transition to retirement.
  • Enhancements of Identification and Service Delivery to Individuals with Neurodevelopmental Needs within the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC): This article outlines the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC’s) Psychology Office’s updates to identifying and treating neurodevelopmental disorders beyond intellectual disabilities, including those individuals living with autism spectrum disorder.
  • What Comes Next? Creating Programs and Understanding Priorities for Autistic Adults as They Age: This article details how Pennsylvania’s Office of Developmental Programs is a national leader in models and services for Pennsylvanians with autism.
  • Reliability of the Temple University Community Participation Measure with Adults with Autism: This article examines a tool developed by Temple University that measures the community participation of adults on the autism spectrum.

The journal is a collaboration of DHS’ Office of Developmental Programs and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and collects resources, observations, and advancements in mental and behavioral health in order to better serve people in their communities.

Click to read this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal.

PDE Announces Survey to be Sent to Parents of Students with Disabilities (June 13, 2022)

On June 13, 2022, PDE Bureau of Special Education Director Carole L. Clancy disseminated a PennLink message titled Survey of Parents of Students with Disabilities. That message stated that Pennsylvania’s State Performance Plan requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) include collecting and reporting data on the involvement of families in special education programs. Specifically, states must report annually to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the public on State Performance Plan Indicator 8 which is the: “percent of parents with a child receiving special education services who report that schools facilitated parent involvement as a means of improving services and results for children with disabilities.”

Like many other states, Pennsylvania is collecting this data through a large-scale survey. Pennsylvania reports results of the survey to OSEP in its State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report. This report is posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) websites. Reporting on local educational agency (LEA) performance is done through the Special Education Data Reports on the PennData website.

To ensure that parents from every LEA in the commonwealth are included in the survey, PDE developed a sampling plan that was approved by OSEP. Under this sampling, each year PDE collects data from a representative sample of parents in approximately one-fifth of the LEAs. The LEAs in this year’s sample are listed in the PennLink message. Parents receiving the survey were selected from PennData using a stratified random sample of school age students in each LEA. Surveys will be mailed directly to the parents from Leader Services in the next few weeks.

The survey being used was developed by the National Center for Special Education Accountability Monitoring under a grant awarded to that center by OSEP. The survey can be viewed at Leader Services-Parent Survey. Additional information about the survey can be found on the PaTTAN website at PA Indicator 8 Information.

A letter that accompanies the survey assures parents that their responses will be confidential. Parents may direct questions about the survey to the Special Education Consult Line at 800-879-2301. Should parents contact LEA personnel about the survey, PDE asks that staff encourage them to participate in the survey process.

Questions regarding this PENN*LINK may be addressed to Barbara Mozina, Special Education Adviser, at

FDA Expected to Authorize Moderna and Pfizer Vaxes for Children Under Five; White House Announces Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout (June 12, 2022)

On June 12, 2022, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff reported that the Pfizer COVID-19 three-shot vaccine regimen is effective at preventing symptomatic disease in children 6 months through 4 years-old with no new safety concerns. This comes on the heels of a June, 10, 2022 announcement by FDA staff reviewers who provided documentation that Moderna’s Covid-19 two-shot vaccine generated a similar immune response in the children than those observed in adults in previous trials and appears safe and effective for use in children aged 6 months to 17 years old.  

This week, a committee of scientists are expected to meet to vote on whether to recommend authorization for use of the two vaccines.

Previously, on June 9th the White House announced a highly anticipated Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan for children under five years-old.
The administration “has made 10 million vaccine doses available for states, Tribes, territories, community health centers, federal pharmacy partners, and others to pre-order,” according to a White House fact sheet. It is partnering with those entities to ship and distribute vaccines across the country following full FDA authorization of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
The first vaccinations could start “as early as the week of June 20th —with the program ramping up over time as more doses are delivered and more appointments become available,” according to the fact sheet.
CNN previously reported Covid-19 vaccination shots for the youngest Americans could begin as soon as June 21.

To view the fact sheet, click here.

For more info, click here.

Sources: NBC News, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN.

DHS: 988 Suicide Hotline Ready to Go on July 16th (June 12, 2022)

According to the PA Department of Human Services, starting July 16, 2022, people who call, text, or chat with 988 will be directly connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The existing Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available. Callers can also connect with the Veterans Crisis Line or assistance in Spanish.
Who can call 988?
988 can be used by anyone, any time, at no cost. Trained crisis response professionals can support individuals considering suicide, self-harm, or any behavioral or mental health need for themselves or people looking for help for a loved one experiencing a mental health crisis. Lifeline services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at no cost to the caller.
What happens when you call 988?
-Callers will be directed to a local 988 call center based on a caller’s area code where trained professionals are waiting to listen and assist. Note: Callers will also be given the option to reach the Veterans Crisis Line (Option 1) or a Spanish speaker (Option 2). 
-If a local call center does not answer the call within 60 seconds, the call will be routed to one of Pennsylvania’s three regional 988 call centers.
-If a regional call center is unavailable, the call will be routed to the national backup network able to assess the crisis and connect to local assistance.

See Graphic: What happens when someone calls/texts/chats with the Lifeline.

For more from DHS, click here.