A Surrogate Parent in Special Education What You Need to Know

A woman speaking with a surrogate parent in special education appointed to a young female student on how to help advocate for her.

There are students in special education who are privileged to have parents active in their child’s education. 

Thus, these parents…

  • Attend their child’s Individualized Education Program (also called IEP meetings).
  • Track their child’s progress towards goals
  • Stay aware of any related services that their child receives

Also, these parents understand and appreciate the importance of their child’s education. 


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A Surrogate Parent in Special Education What You Need to Know  


But, what about the children who don’t have parents able to stay involved. What happens with these children? This is where a surrogate parent comes into place. A surrogate parent is someone that steps in for the child to make sure they are getting the help they need. 

Situations Where a Surrogate Parent is Needed

Moreover, students that are in the state’s custody or foster care deserve someone to advocate for them in education. 

Unfortunately, the system is flawed. Sometimes these children are overlooked due to the absence of a parent. And it seems like they “fall in the crack”. It is these children that deserve the justice of what a surrogate parent can provide. 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states to have a system in place for cases such as this. The system ensures that every student with a disability has a “parent” that can make special education decisions on that student’s behalf. 

What Conditions are Surrogate Parents appointed? 

When a child with a disability has a possible need for special education services, the school district appoints a surrogate parent. This surrogate parent represents the child. The designated person must not be receiving public funds to educate or care for the child.


One of These Three Conditions

  • The parent is unknown or unavailable. 
  • The child is part of the state’s foster care system.  
  • The parent writes a request for a surrogate parent. 

What are the Surrogate Parent’s Responsibilities?


The responsibilities include but are not limited to:

What are the Appropriate Steps to Become a Surrogate Parent? 


Usually, individuals in the education field become surrogate parents when they retire or leave the school system. Consequently, these are the best types of surrogate parents because of their vast knowledge of the school system and how it works. They advocate and fight for these children who deserve a free and appropriate education.

But anyone can become a surrogate parent upon completing a process of steps. When deciding to be a surrogate parent, you should consider the following required steps. 

  1. Complete an application
  2. Pass a training exam
  3. Pass a background check

Additional Resources for Helping Children in Special Education

To conclude, there are an unlimited amount of resources available to anyone interested in becoming an advocate for a special education student. So, be sure to request more information from your local school district. 

Have you ever been a special education surrogate parent? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below. 

Click here for weekly tips and techniques from a fellow Special Educator and a parent of a special needs child? If you would like to learn more check out our YouTube Playlist dedicated to the IEP Process.

Do you have a child or student that needs one-on-one special education tutoring that can be done from anywhere? Our special education experts conduct their sessions online! Get them started with a free consultation!




A woman speaking with a surrogate parent in special education appointed to a young female student on how to help advocate for her.
Even though it is a provision of IDEA many are unaware of a Surrogate Parent in Special Education. Here is What You Need to Know.

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Erin Frye

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