Our Mission

Advocates for Justice and Education seeks to empower families, youth, and the community to be effective advocates to ensure that children and youth, particularly those who have special needs, receive access to appropriate education and health services.

Our Values

  • Accountability: We promote school and agency accountability to ensure that all children, youth, and families receive proper services and supports.
  • Accessibility: We ensure accessibility to all families and the community at large.
  • Commitment to Children and Families: We are committed to the success of all children, youth, and families.

Who We Serve

We serve families of Early Intervention-Aged Children (birth- age 3), School-Aged Children (ages 4 – 12) and Transition-Aged Youth (ages 13 – 26).

What We Do

AJE implements a multi-strategy approach to carry out our mission. One-on-one assistance to immediately address a family’s issue and to identify systemic problems; Training to educate families, youth (and the community who works with families) about their rights to increase their knowledge and their capacity to self-advocate, to be peer advocates in support of each other, and engage in collective action; and Systemic Advocacy in partnership with families and other stakeholder partners to bring about systemic changes through power building, community education, policy, legislation, and litigation. Our services are free to DC families, youth, and the community.  Specifically, our current key programs are:


  • Parent-to-Parent: We offer a supportive network for parents through monthly support groups, leadership training, and peer-to-peer support.
  • Community Education: We provide trainings and workshops to parents/caregivers, and youth-serving professionals to increase their knowledge and build capacity to effectively advocate for the rights of DC children and youth.
  • Individual Advocacy: We provide individual advocacy to families to ensure that they receive access to appropriate education, health, and other support services for their children.
  • Legal Representation: We provide free legal representation to families in matters involving special education, school discipline, and school pushout issues with a specific focus on ensuring students equitable access to education.
  • Transition Advocacy: AJE provides support to transition-age youth to ensure that youth have appropriate Transition Plans, and are equipped to self-advocate to achieve their desired goals.
  • Systemic Advocacy: In partnership with families and other stakeholders, we engage in policy and systemic advocacy strategies to dismantle inequities and eliminate barriers impacting families’ education and health.
  • Parents Building Bridges Program: We work with and train families at the individual school level to collectively address, in collaboration with school staff, issues/concerns regarding the delivery of special education services to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities.
  • Parent Training and Information Center (PTI): We serve as the federally designated PTI under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and provide support, information, resources, and training to families of children and youth with disabilities to help them navigate the DC special education system.
  • DC Family-To-Family Health Information Center (DCHIC): We provide support, information, resources and training to families of children with special health care needs to help them navigate DC’s healthcare system and to connect families to resources within their communities.
  • Health Equity Project: We work with Black and Latinx families of children with disabilities and special health care needs living in Wards 8, 7,5,4, and 1 to address health disparities and eliminate inequities through family-led advocacy efforts.


Our History

Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc. (AJE), was created in 1996 to address the grave injustices and denial of basic special education services, and to educate parents, and those working with parents about the laws that govern special education and related services. AJE also sought to make the public aware of the judicial consequences that results from educational institutions’ negligence and inappropriate classification of students with special needs.

During the summer of 1996, the founders of AJE (young law students) embarked upon a six-week Pilot Project to evaluate (1) whether there was a need for Education Advocacy Training in our then targeted areas of operation, Wards 6, 7, and 8; (2) whether the proposed method of educating parents was effective; and (3) whether the method could be linked to long term outcomes that actually made a difference in the lives of the children whose parents were involved in our program. The Pilot Project worked with 27 children across 16 different families for six weeks and monitored their progress or provided additional services for one (1) year thereafter. All 16 parents improved the educational services delivered to their children. 

The following academic year, August 1996-July 1997, we assisted 6 new children from 4 families. Their outcomes were comparable to the results of the initial 16 families, which indicated that Educational Advocacy services were needed and could greatly impact these communities.

AJE has grown in size, scope of work, and ability to meet the needs of our families. Our work began with meeting the educational needs of 16 families and today we are able to impact over 2,500 families annually through our empowerment programs. Despite the growth, our commitment to ensuring that all children receive equal access to appropriate education and related services has not changed. Today, we support all families in the District of Columbia with addressing concerns regarding their children’s education and health care needs. Our empowerment model is the core of our programs. We provide parents with the knowledge, tools, and skills necessary to advocate for the needs of their children.

Website Accessibility

Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc., is committed to providing access to our web pages for individuals with disabilities. The content of this site has been tested for usability and accessibility using a combination of standards-based, automated procedures and accepted heuristic methods. All web pages conform to Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Downloadable documents have been made as accessible as possible. Fully accessible versions of individual documents can be supplied on an as-needed basis by calling (202) 678-8060 or by email: rochanda.hiligh-thomas@aje-dc.org.  We make every effort to comply with the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.  Section 508 requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from us, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on us.  Compliance is an ongoing process and we encourage notification when information on our website is inaccessible.