WHAT IS A SURROGATE PARENT?
A surrogate parent is a volunteer who agrees to advocate for an IDEA-eligible or thought-to-be eligible child in the special education process. Under the IDEA, a parent is defined as:
- A biological or adoptive parent of a child;
- A foster parent;
- A guardian generally authorized to act as the child’s parent, or authorized to make educational decisions for the child;
- An individual acting in the place of the biological or adoptive parent (including a grandparent, stepparent, or other relative) with whom the child lives, or an individual who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare (such as a person with an order granting that person custody of the child); or
- A surrogate parent who has been appointed in accordance with 34 CFR §300.519 or Section 615(a)(2) of the IDEA.
WHEN IS A SURROGATE PARENT APPOINTED?
- When the child’s parent or guardian cannot be located and there is documentation that the parent’s whereabouts are unknown or that they are unavailable.
- When there is a “termination of parental rights.” This means that a court of competent jurisdiction has taken away the parent’s rights to make any decisions concerning the child’s education and/or upbringing.
- When a child with a disability is an unaccompanied homeless youth as defined in section 725(6) of the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. § 11434a(6)). 34 CFR § 300.519(a)(4).
WHAT DOES A SURROGATE PARENT DO?
A surrogate parent has all the rights of a birth parent and has the duty to represent the child throughout the special education process. The surrogate parent familiarizes herself or himself with the child’s needs and educational history, receives notices about the child’s educational program, and participates in the development of the Individualized Education Program (IEP). The surrogate parent can approve the IEP and the Notice of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREP) or disapprove one or both and initiate Special Education Due Process procedures. Only a birth parent, a person who is acting as a parent (such as a grandparent or foster parent), or a surrogate parent has these legal rights and responsibilities.
TO WHAT INFORMATION DOES A SURROGATE PARENT HAVE ACCESS?
The surrogate parent has a right to review the child’s school records and to get copies when necessary. He or she can also visit the student’s class, talk with the teachers, and generally obtain any information necessary to represent the child adequately.
WHO APPOINTS THE SURROGATE PARENT?
In Pennsylvania, each School District is responsible for locating all children who need surrogate parents and for assigning a surrogate parent to each.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS MUST A PERSON HAVE TO SERVE AS A SURROGATE PARENT?
Surrogate parents cannot have any conflict of interest with the child and must have the knowledge and skills necessary to represent the child adequately.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I OR SOMEONE CLOSE TO ME NEEDS A SURROGATE PARENT?
Please reach out to your school counselor for help and assistance in obtaining a surrogate parent in the School District of Philadelphia.