The Iowa Department of Education today announced a partnership with ASK Resource Center to provide advocacy support services for families of children with disabilities across Iowa. Through this partnership, all Iowa families, no matter where in the state they reside, will have access to high-quality, consistent services, including family support specialists and other professionals who can help families understand their rights in accessing what their child needs to be successful both in and outside of the classroom.

“The Department of Education remains committed to ensuring all families of children with disabilities consistently receive timely, high-quality resources and supports that are responsive to their needs,” said Iowa Department of Education Director McKenzie Snow. “In partnership with ASK Resource Center, families across Iowa will have the support of family specialists, family mentors, and experts focused on accessibility and postsecondary transitions as they advocate for their children with disabilities.”

ASK Resource Center (ASK) is a parent training, information and advocacy center for families of children with disabilities across the state of Iowa. It is Iowa’s only parent training and information center with expertise in assuring the implementation of state and federal law, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“With more than 70,000 Iowa students receiving special education services in support of their unique educational needs, this new partnership will ensure that more students and families receive meaningful and impartial support when navigating the process to get the services that will allow their child to succeed,” said Dr. Barbara Guy, director of special education at the Iowa Department of Education. “I look forward to working with the professionals at ASK Resource Center in a new approach for statewide support for families with an emphasis on advocacy.”

Regionally located and conveniently housed in each of Iowa’s nine superintendent and AEA regions, ASK Resource Center will staff the equivalent of approximately 18 full-time positions, including a family support supervisor, lead family support specialist, nine full-time family support specialists and additional part-time professionals who will provide one-on-one support to families of students with disabilities. Three full-time coordinators focused on training, accessibility and postsecondary transitions will also be part of the team focused on supporting families. Services provided will include:

  • Helping families understand IDEA requirements, case law and other educational laws.
  • Preparing families for meetings with their child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team.
  • Attending IEP meetings with families and helping them to articulate their concerns, requests and expectations to best support their child.
  • Supporting families in navigating through dispute resolution with a school district.

"ASK Resource Center has been providing these crucial services to Iowa families and students with disabilities regardless of location, disability diagnosis or grade level since 1997," said Karen Thompson, Executive Director of ASK. "We are excited to partner with the Iowa Department of Education team to scale these services and create a streamlined experience to ensure effective family and school partnerships.”

The contract is performance-based, including evaluation based on the:

  • Number of unique parent and family member connections and total number of parent and family member connections, including intensity and mode of support.
  • Parent and family satisfaction and impact, including through real-time surveys that evaluate quality, relevance, usefulness, and knowledge and skills gained as reported by families, stakeholders and partners.
  • Assurance of quality, consistency and accuracy of support and materials, evaluated by alignment with federal and state law and effective practice.

The initial contract period is from March 1, 2024 through Feb. 28, 2025, with the possibility of up to five one-year extensions. First-year funding in the amount of $1,044,680.51 is provided through the Department’s discretionary portion of federal allocations through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), part B, which is specifically for special education services ages 3 to 21.

press release