Every child needs an education. There are children who do not have an adult to ensure that they get that education; children whose families have been destroyed for whatever reason. Children whose parents have lost parental rights. If the child is lucky enough to be in foster care or with relatives, there is a “parent” to help. But many have no one. There are children who are alone and homeless, wards of the state, in a group home, in a psychiatric facility, or even in detention. These children deserve and education, need an education, and it is the law that they receive an education.

Each public agency must ensure that the rights of a child are protected by determining the need for, and assigning, a surrogate parent whenever:
• No parent (as newly defined at 34 CFR 300.30) can be identified;
• The public agency, after reasonable efforts, cannot locate a parent;
• The child is a ward of the State under the laws of that 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)).
[34 CFR 300.519(a) and (b)] [20 U.S.C. 1415(b)(2)(A)]

For the most part, they are victims of some type of trauma and show all the psychological effects of such. Many qualify for an IEP under the category of emotional disturbance.

They need an adult to look over the IEP. To have their best interest in mind. They need a “Special Education Surrogate Parent” and anyone can volunteer for fill that role. You do not need to be a professional nor even a parent of a student. You do not need to have any experience. Your state will give you the information you need, and of course, so will this web site!

In general, the school district should appoint a surrogate parent for a child who does not have an IDEA defined parent (a biological or adoptive parent, a foster parent (if permitted under state law), a guardian generally or specially authorized to make education decisions for the child, someone with whom the child lives who acts as the parent, someone who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare, or a surrogate parent), is a ward of the state under state law, or is an unaccompanied homeless youth. The juvenile court can appoint a surrogate parent for a child who is in the custody of a child welfare agency but does not have a foster parent who is permitted by state law to act as an IDEA parent. Every child must have a named individual who can advocate and make decisions for him or her in the special education system!

The IDEA mandates that all states develop procedures for assigning individuals to act as surrogate parents, including reasonable efforts to make those assignments within 30 days. In response, some states have created state level surrogate parent systems rather than rely on school districts to assign surrogate parents. Rather than have every district recruit, train, and assign volunteers, the state programs are responsible for these activities. Many of these programs have permanent staff and some pay surrogates as well as education consultants, especially in complex cases. Several states developed programs in response to complaints (and sometimes class action litigation) about school districts’ failure to appoint surrogate parents promptly or school districts appointment of caseworkers in contravention of the IDEA.

Do a web search (ie: google it) for: “special education surrogate parent in ” and write the name of your state. Look for the link to your state’s department of education.

Summary of surrogate parents and special education

  • All children in special education have a right to a free, appropriate public education.
  • Children who do not have parents available must be assigned a surrogate parent.
  • A surrogate parent is a person appointed by a school district to represent the child in special education decisions.
  • A surrogate parent has the same rights and responsibilities that parents and guardians have in the special education decision-making process.



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