How can I become a surrogate parent to support and advocate for a child’s special education needs in Ohio?

What is a Surrogate Parent?

Surrogate parents are an important resource for many students. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that children with disabilities who do not have parents available to advocate for them in the special education process be given a surrogate parent to make decisions about their education.  A surrogate parent is involved in making decisions in all matters related to identification of a disability, evaluation of the disability, and educational placement for the child, including cases where a young child is receiving Early Intervention Services. 

Surrogate parents are needed when a child’s parents/caregivers are unavailable to make decisions. This would include when they cannot be located, they choose to not act as a parent for their child, or if a court order deems them unable to care for the child at a given time. Schools partner with surrogate parents to ensure that students have a knowledgeable and trusted advocate throughout the process of receiving services for a disability. 

There are a few qualifications if you would like to become a surrogate parent: 

  • Cannot be an employee of the school district of residence, the Ohio Department of Education, or any other agency involved in the education or care of the child, including public children’s service agencies; 
  • Cannot have personal or professional interest that conflicts with the interests of the child being represented; 
  • Need to have the knowledge and skills to adequately represent the child; and 
  • Need to have successfully completed a training to be a surrogate parent, which can be taken by clicking on the “Ohio Approved Training for Surrogate Parents” button below. 

To read more about advocating for students as a surrogate parent, visit the Disability Rights Ohio’s resource page.

Staff within The Ohio Department of Education’s State Support Team offices, located around the state, can often provide up-to-date, useful information and follow-up training for individuals interested in becoming surrogate parents.

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