Purpose of the Program
Federal law establishes the right to
a free and appropriate public education for all children with disabilities. To
ensure that this right is realized for all children, the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to ensure the
appointment of a legally authorized decision-maker for children with
disabilities whose parents are unknown, cannot be located, have had their
parental rights legally terminated or are unaccompanied homeless youth.
Accordingly, the LEA must recruit, train and assign volunteer surrogate parents
to represent these children in the special education process. In Bucks County
this service is coordinated for LEAs by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit Surrogate
Parent Program Coordinator.
When do you need a Surrogate Parent?
- 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.
Documentation of “reasonable efforts” to locate the child’s parents are
required, which includes activities such as documented telephone calls, letters,
certified letters with return receipts, and visits to the parents last known
there is a “termination of parental rights.” A court of competent jurisdiction
has taken away the parent’s rights to make any decisions concerning the child’s
education and there is no foster parent, guardian, or other individual acting
in the place of a parent with whom the child lives. Documentation may
include a court order or letter from a County Children and Youth Agency.
- When a child is an
unaccompanied homeless youth as defined in the McKinney–Vento Homeless
Assistance. In the case of a child who is an “unaccompanied homeless youth”,
the staff of an emergency shelter, transitional shelter, independent living
program, or street outreach program may be appointed as a “temporary surrogate
parent” (even if that person is an employee of an agency involved in the care
or education of the youth) until such time as a surrogate parent who meets the
requirements of an IDEA parent can be appointed.
A Surrogate Parent is appointed
only when there is no one else to
serve in this role automatically such as a foster parent, an individual with
whom the child lives who is acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or a
court–appointment education maker.
Who can be a Surrogate Parent?
Any person who volunteers
their service and can demonstrate the following:
- they are of good character
- they are at least 18 years of age
- they possess reasonable abilities to
make decisions concerning the child’s educational needs and/or are willing to
participate in a training on the rights and responsibilities of being a surrogate
- they are committed to learn about a
student’s educational needs and the special education system
- they are able and available to
attend meetings to discuss the child’s educational program
- they have no conflict of interest;
may not be an employee of a public agency which is involved in or provides for
the education or care of the child
For additional information, please
Caryn Kadel, BCIU Interagency
Coordinator, Surrogate Parent Program Coordinator
215-348-2940 x 1102
Parent Volunteer Application
Surrogate Parent District Referral Form