The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) gives parents an active role in planning their children's educational programs, monitoring progress, and challenging inappropriate decisions. Though the role of advocate for a child is usually filled by parents, the laws allow for a surrogate parent to act in this role if the parents or other family members of a child with a disability are unknown or completely unavailable, if the child is a ward of the state, if the child is an unaccompanied homeless youth, or if the parent requests in writing that a surrogate parent be appointed for their child. In some cases, a foster parent may serve as the parent and no surrogate parent need be appointed.
Surrogate parents fulfill an important role in the life of a child with a disability. Like parents, surrogates of children with disabilities are granted a significant decision-making role and are involved at every step of the special education process. The absence of a parent can deny a child’s access to appropriate identification, evaluation, placement, and provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Surrogate Parent Responsibilities
A surrogate parent is only responsible for representing the child when decisions about his or her special education program are made concerning: (IDEA §300.519)
- Identification of the need for the child to receive special education services
- Evaluation to determine his or her individual needs
- Design of his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP), including placement
- Ongoing reviews of educational progress
- Agreement or disagreement with the school district's educational proposals
For more information about surrogate parenting in Michigan, check out Michigan Alliance for Families at https://www.michiganallianceforfamilies.org/surrogate-parent/.
If you are interested in serving as a surrogate parent for a student with an IEP within the MOISD, please inquire with Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Services, Christy Miller about training and service opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org or 231-796-3543.