Volunteer as an Educational Surrogate Parent for a Student with Disabilities
October 4, 2021
Caring individuals always make a difference in the lives of CMCSS students. The district is actively seeking community members who are able to represent the educational interests of students with disabilities.
All children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) under state and federal special education laws. Included in these laws is a mandate for the parents of children with disabilities to have the opportunity to actively participate in the educational decision-making process. Some children with disabilities may not have parents who can fulfill this very important role, leaving their educational planning solely to representatives from their local school system or other agencies. Federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and state rules, regulations and minimum standards require that an individual must be appointed to make decisions regarding the education students with disabilities must receive.
What is a surrogate parent?
A surrogate parent is a volunteer who is appointed by a local education agency to assist children who do not have parents or family members. The surrogate parent has all of the rights and can make all of the special education or early intervention decisions that are usually made by the child’s parents. Surrogate parents can review educational records; request and consent to evaluations and reevaluations; and challenge the recommendations of the education or early intervention agency by requesting informal and formal dispute resolution procedures. A surrogate parent does not have any rights and responsibilities for the child outside of the special education process.
When does a child require a surrogate parent?
A child with a disability requires a surrogate when:
- the parent (as defined in § 300.519) or guardian cannot be identified;
- the LEA, after reasonable efforts, cannot discover the whereabouts of a parent;
- the child is a ward of the State; or
- the child is an unaccompanied homeless youth as defined in section 725 (6) of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11434a(6).
What are the responsibilities of a surrogate parent?
The surrogate parent acts as a substitute parent and is given the responsibility of determining the child’s educational experiences. A surrogate parent is not responsible for any financial costs or direct care of the child with disabilities. The surrogate parent represents the child in every step of the education process including identification, evaluation, and educational placement. The Surrogate Parent fulfills the parent role at all Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Team meetings and works to ensure that the child receives FAPE. A surrogate parent is also responsible for keeping confidential all information from the child’s educational, medical, or social services records.
Who can be a surrogate?
Any citizen of the United States of permanent resident who is at least 18 years old and has no conflict of interest concerning the child’s education may serve as an educational surrogate and must be of good moral character. The educational surrogate must act in the best interest of the student he/she represents. Furthermore, an educational surrogate may not be an employee of a public agency providing care, custody, or educational services to the specific child in need of educational surrogate representation.
How much time and money will this commitment take?
Surrogate parents are required to devote approximately three hours to the training provided by Clarksville Montgomery County Schools at least annually. After a student with disabilities is assigned, the educational surrogate reviews the student’s record well enough to understand the student’s needs, strengths, interests as well as their school history. Training is provided free of charge.
If you are interested in attending a training to become a surrogate parent, please email [email protected].