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>> Good afternoon.
Welcome to the webinar.
Our topic today is Surrogate Parents and the Special Education Process.
My name is Ruth Furman [assumed spelling].
I'm an Advisor for the Pennsylvania Department of Education in the Bureau of Special Ed.
This first slide is just a reminder of the Pennsylvania Department
of Education's commitment to least restrictive [inaudible].
Our goals for today's training will include understanding the need for surrogate parents,
defining the terminology and the legal requirements, understanding the responsibilities
and requirements of the surrogate parent and the LEA,
and understanding the appointment process for the surrogate parent.
The IDEA confers specific rights and obligations on the parent.
Special education process cannot function without a parent: an active, involved,
decision-maker who must consent to evaluations,
provisions of services, and educational placement.
Understanding these rights and responsibilities is critical to effectively meeting the needs
of students with disabilities, and complying with all LEA duties
and responsibilities under the law.
The specific problem in the commonwealth that we're finding, are that too often children
in the foster care system have no active involved parent.
This is a particular problem for children who are in residential settings,
including group homes, residential treatment facilities and partial hospitalization programs.
Often these children do not have foster parent to serve
in the roll of educational decision making.
There's also a problem involving unaccompanied youth or homeless youth.
Children who are unaccompanied homeless youths are basically on their own.
These kids leave home because of disruptive family conditions including abuse,
strange relationships, addiction of a family member, and parental neglect.
Unaccompanied homeless youths without the fixed nighttime residence are not --
and are not in the care of a parent or guardian.
They often stay on friends' couches or on the streets or in shelters.
Like youth in foster care, they are often highly mobile
and with unidentified special education needs.
These students often lack any parental involvement
and may not have another legally authorized decision-maker.
If these children do get to school, the LEA does have a child find obligation to these students.
The regulatory definition of parent, it's found in the IDEA 300 point 30.
Parent means, "A biological or adoptive parent of a child, a foster parent.
And in Pennsylvania, a foster parent may be considered a parent
for the purpose of this definition."
Not all states include a foster parent, but Pennsylvania does.
"Or a guardian generally authorized to act as a child's parent or authorized
to make educational decisions for the child."
Child welfare case workers are not permitted by federal law to serve in this role.
They are not able to serve as an IDEA parent for educational decision-making.
Parents can also include a person acting in the place of a parent, such as a grandparent
or stepparent with whom the child lives,
or a person who is legally responsible for the child's welfare.
Or, a parent can include a surrogate parent who has been appointed in accordance with 300 519.
If a person is signing an IEP as parent,
you must insure that the parent is legally authorized to serve as a child's IDEA parent.
For example, a group home parent or a case worker, may not serve as an IDEA parent,
even if they previously have signed an IEP.
If they have signed it, it was an error.
In all cases, the person's relationship to the student should be reflected on the IEP.
So on the signature sheet next to the parent's name,
the LEA can mark specifically foster parent, legal guardian,
grandparent, educational decision maker.
You can actually write on that signature sheet the role of the IDEA parent.
A child may have more than one parent.
They might have a biological adoptive parent, and they also could have a guardian
or a foster person -- parent -- or a person
with whom the child is living who is acting as the parent.
So they might not be living with their biological parent
or they're biological parent still may have their rights to them,
but they might be in a foster home.
So they might have more than one parent at a time.
When there is more than one category of potential, the school must treat the biological,
adoptive parent as the IDEA parent,
if the biological adoptive parent still has legal authority, to make educational decisions.
Sometimes their parental rights have been terminated by the court.
And if the biological adoptive parent is attempting to act as the parent.
So you must first consider this biological adoptive parent
as the IDEA parent whenever possible.
But schools must document efforts to engage the parent and accommodate his or her schedule
for IEP meetings, conference them into the meetings or any other way they can get them
to be involved before allowing another person to serve as a child's IDEA parent
and to act on the child's behalf.
So I just want to reiterate, that role
of the biological adoptive parent is the first go-to parent that you must try to reach
out to involve in the special ed process.
If there is no biological adoptive parent who is attempting to act as the parent in the picture,
the foster parent automatically becomes the IDEA parent,
unless the court has appointed someone else.
So there's no need for the LEA to appoint a surrogate parent
if the student is living with a foster parent.
If there is a foster parent, again then there's no need to appoint a surrogate.
If a judicial decree or order identifies someone to act as the IDEA parent,
the school must recognize that person's authority,
regardless if the student has a foster parent.
So if there's no biological or adoptive parent in the picture or acting as the parent,
then you go to the foster parent unless there's a court order authorizing somebody else
to make educational decisions.
In some cases, a student may be living with a person or with a relative such as a grandparent
or an aunt, who is acting in the role of the parent.
The federal requirements regarding when an LEA must assign a surrogate parent are noted
in 300 519.
School districts are -- school districts and charter schools,
are obligated to appoint a surrogate for a child who has no IDEA parent.
Specifically, an LEA must assign a surrogate parent when there's no IDEA parent,
there's no biological or adoptive parent, foster parent, guardian or the child's now living
with a relative who's acting as the parent.
Then you are required to assign a surrogate.
If the school have made reasonable efforts and you can't locate a parent,
then you would assign a surrogate.
And when the child is an unaccompanied homeless youth.
The case worker may not act as an IDEA [inaudible].
The duties of the public agency include the assignment of an individual
to act as a surrogate for the parents.
They must include a method for determining whether a child needs a surrogate parent
and a method for assigning a surrogate parent.
So the requirement of the LEA include those two necessities.
The LEA must appoint a surrogate parent within 30 calendar days
of discovering the need for a surrogate parent.
The LEA should maintain a pool of qualified surrogate parents
so that you can meet this obligation.
So that's 30 calendar days from the time that you know a student need a surrogate.
A surrogate parent's a person who acts in place of the parent to make educational decisions
on behalf of a child with a disability in all matters relating to the identification,
evaluation and educational placement of the child.
And the provision of a free and appropriate public education to that child.
This question arises often?
Which LEA is responsible?
The LEA in which the student resides is responsible for appointing a surrogate parent.
This includes public school districts and public charter schools,
as well as cyber charter schools.
However, if the student is enrolled in a cyber-charter school,
the cyber-charter school is the LEA.
The LEA is the local, educational agent.
So it's either the school district or the charter school.
So to reiterate, it's the -- the LEA is the -- in which the student resides,
is responsible for appointing a surrogate.
[Inaudible] can assist school districts in appointing surrogate parents,
but the school district is ultimately responsible for insuring
that a surrogate parent is appointed within 30 calendar days.
So the school district or the charter school.
And again, I just want to say this.
If the student's enrolled in a cyber-charter school which I know encompasses many LEAs --
I mean many school districts where they might live and reside in,
the cyber-charter school is the LEA responsible for assigning the surrogate.
The LEA in which a residential facility is located is responsible
for identifying all children who need surrogates and appointing surrogates to those children.
There are times when an LEA may not appoint a surrogate parent.
They may not appoint a surrogate parent if there is already someone in the child's life
who qualifies as the IDEA parent, including the biological or adoptive parent, a foster parent,
or a person with whom the child lives who is acting as the parent.
Or if there is -- if the court has already appointed a surrogate parent
or an educational decision maker.
When can a judge appoint a surrogate parent or an educational decision-maker which is also EDM?
Under the IDEA, a court is authorized to appoint a surrogate parent in some circumstances.
And since July 2011, the juvenile court rules have required courts
to consider whether a child needs an educational decision maker appointed,
for a child who is dependent or delinquent.
So more frequently since July 2011, you will see court orders designating a specific person
to act as an educational decision-maker.
A court should appoint an educational decision-maker for a child who has no parent
or guardian, or if the court determines that doing so is in the best interest of the child.
And EDM may be appointed for a child with special education needs
or for a child in regular education.
If the court appoints a surrogate parent or educational decision-maker,
that person trumps all other potential decision-makers.
So if the court has appointed someone to act as an educational decision-maker or surrogate,
then that trumps the foster parent or the biological
or adoptive parent, for whatever reason.
If the court has appointed somebody, they are the IDEA parent.
A court appointed educational decision-maker or surrogate parent has the same rights
as the biological, adoptive parent, or other IDEA parent.
The LEA must treat that person as the child's IDEA parent in every respect.
Check with the child's caseworker to determine
if the court has appointed an educational decision-maker or surrogate parent.
An LEA shall as a first preference select a surrogate who is a relative caregiver,
foster parent or court appointed special education advocate.
If none of these is willing or able to serve,
another person may be appointed to be the surrogate.
So when you're looking for a surrogate IDEA parent, the first preference
and the first go-to should be - I'm going to repeat this again - the foster parent
or a relative caregiver who the child lives with who's acting as the parent
or the court appointed educational decision-maker.
Those are your first ones to try to go -- go-to to act as a surrogate.
For children of the child welfare system, LEAs should work with the case workers
to identify potential surrogate parents for representation of the child.
So they often will know someone who has a positive relationship with the child,
with whom the child has lived or who was a relative and who was a primary caretaker.
If you can't -- if there is no one in the child's life that they actually know
and knows the child, then you would go to looking for surrogate parents in other areas.
You can work with children in youth agencies, juvenile probation and others
to identify potential surrogate parents for individual students.
This will insure that the assigned persons has some kind of relationship with the child.
If no one in the child's life, then you would go to community groups for the purpose
of recruiting surrogate parents, such as local parent-teacher organizations, local task force,
retired educators groups, are good groups to find people who are willing to be surrogates.
Service clubs such as boys and girls clubs, and business men and women's organizations
such as the Kiwanis, the Rotary's, or the Elks.
Some people cannot serve as a surrogate parent.
Current employees of the LEA or the Department of Ed, including board members
of charter schools and school districts, may not serve as surrogate parents.
Employees of any agencies that are involved in the education
or care of the child, may not serve as an LEA.
This includes children in youth agency or private provider workers,
the staff of residential facilities, group home parents or juvenile probably officers.
And anyone with a conflict of interest may not serve as a surrogate parent.
And conflict is defined as coming from the employer relationship.
So even a teacher in another school district would not be an appropriate surrogate,
or an employee from another group home.
They would not be an appropriate surrogate.
There are some exceptions.
When a student without an IDEA parent does not need a surrogate.
The first exception that we will discuss is that if the child is not living with the parent
or a foster parent, the LEA may conduct an initial evaluation without parental consent
if the school district can't locate the parents after making reasonable efforts,
the birth parents' rights have been terminated,
or a judge has removed the birth parents' educational rights temporarily or permanently
and consent is given by an individual the judge appoints.
This is only for the initial evaluation.
If you cannot find any one of these, any kind of an IDEA parent, just for the initial evaluation,
the caseworker or other person responsible for education
or care of the child may be appointed temporarily.
But the LEA or court should appoint a surrogate parent in the interim.
So while that initial evaluation is moving forward, the LEA should make every effort
to find a more permanent surrogate parent.
The school may not provide any special ed services without the consent of an IDEA parent.
So again, it would only be for the initial evaluation.
Another exception involves unaccompanied homeless youth.
For these youth, staff of an emergency shelter, transitional shelter,
or independent living program, or street outreach program,
may be appointed as a temporary surrogate.
And they may be appointed as a temporary surrogate for all
of the special ed process, but it's only for temporary.
So they may -- so you might need somebody for these unaccompanied homeless youths for --
to sign for an initial evaluation.
It applies to children not only at the time of initial evaluation,
but also to youth with an IEP who suddenly become homeless.
Since these staff are employees of agencies involved with the care of the child,
this is an exception from a normal, nonemployee rule.
And the staff member can only continue in this rule --
role, until a qualified surrogate parent is appointed by the LEA.
Okay? So for unaccompanied homeless youth, you may use somebody in the --
from the shelters of from the agencies involved with the child as a temporary surrogate
until another surrogate is appointed.
Surrogate parents must be willing and able to serve in the role, and cannot have a conflict.
They must have knowledge and skills to represent child --
the child in the special education process.
So accordingly, training is critical to insure effective participation
and decision-making by a surrogate parent.
This rule does not apply to judge appointed surrogates.
So they are not required to attend the school district's surrogate parent classes.
It does not apply to foster parents either.
They would not have to attend any of these surrogate trainings.
So it's only the appointed surrogates need to be trained.
The surrogate parent training must provide each individual with the knowledge and skills
to adequately represent the child in all aspect of the special education process.
The training must be comprehensive and at least include the following areas: the legal rights
and responsibilities, the role of the surrogate parent, the special education process,
and understanding the procedural safeguards, mediation and due process.
So to summarize the information that was presented today, the LEA's obligations
to assign surrogate parents include, having a method for identifying children
who need surrogate parents, and a method for assigning surrogate parents,
reaching out to facilities and in particular, residential placements in your LEA
to locate children who need surrogate parents.
As many of these children may lack anyone to serve as an IDEA parent.
Remember, each LEA has a child find duty that specifically includes wards of the state.
The LEA must insure that these children are identified and receiving services.
The obligation of the LEA also includes appointing a surrogate parent
within 30 calendar days of determining that a child does not have an IDEA parent.
Whenever possible, the LEA should locate a person who knows
and has the positive relationship with the child to serve as the surrogate parent.
The LEA must maintain a pool of potential trained surrogate parents.
The LEA has an obligation to train all surrogate parents.
And the LEA should develop and maintain relationships
with your local child welfare agencies to identify
and promptly appoint surrogate parents when needed.
Some resources that you may use on this topic are PDE.
You can go to PDE website to find the basic educational circulars -
it's a BEC on surrogate parents and there's also a surrogate parent manual.
The BEC is not up on the website yet.
It's being reviewed in the legal department but we'll be there,
hopefully, before the end of the year.
The Complete Surrogate Parent Manual including a referral form, applications
and agreement samples of these forms that you might want to use,
can be found on the patent website.
This manual is being updated and also,
the updated version should be available before the year end.
Trainings for your surrogate parents are available
on the Ed Law Center's website, which is noted on this slide.
The patent website also will have information regarding special education
and again the basic education circulars are found on the PDE website.
Here are some helplines and websites that might be useful to you.
The Ed Law Center, Disability Rights Network, and Legal Center for Foster Care and Education.
And again, there are PowerPoint training presentations
on the Ed Law Center's website that you might find helpful.
If you have any questions regarding this information, you can contact me
in this information on this slide.
And now we will take questions.
>> [Inaudible] based on the feedback that we've gotten from viewers,
there were several questions regarding the definition of biological parent
and if the biological parent is unavailable, meaning they're out of state or incarcerated
and also thinking of, if the parent is living with a grandparent or a relative or has a --
the biological parent has a live in partner who --
can you just clarify the definition of the IDEA parent?
>> Yes. A biological parent will serve as the IDEA parent
when they're attempting to act as the parent.
So they're being responsible for the child.
The child lives with that parent often, but doesn't necessarily have to.
But they are still the first parent.
This does not mean that the parent has to have day-to-day responsibility for the child,
rather the phrase, "Attempting to act as a parent," is generally meant to refer
to situations in which an individual attempts
to assume the responsibility of the parent under the act.
If the parent is not attempting to act as a parent, the district should make every effort
to engage the parent, the biological or adoptive parent, in the process.
And we are recommending at least three attempts to invite them to the meetings
and the conferences or to whatever you need them to be involved in.
And if they are still are not participating, they you would seek another parent
or another IDEA parent was involved in the student's life.
If the parent voluntarily seeks to give up his or her rights to make educational decisions,
and if the child has a foster parent or any other IDEA parent,
like the person with whom the child is living, who is acting as the parent,
then that person would become the IDEA parent.
The school district can automatically treat this other qualifying person as the IDEA parent.
The parent can only designate.
So after they've made several attempts and that biological parent is not acting as the parent
and is not being involved, then the district may go to that other IDEA parent
with whom the child has that relationship with: a foster parent
or the grandparent that they're living with, okay?
The parent can only -- the biological parent can only designate a specific person
if that person would also qualify as an IDEA parent.
So we had some questions.
For example, "Can the parent just say this is who they want to come
to the IEP meeting and act as a parent?"
The parent can't just designate anyone.
They can only designate a person who qualifies as the IDEA parent, such as the foster parent,
or the person with whom this child is living, who's acting as the parent.
So I hope that clears those kinds of questions.
>> So if the biological parent is living as a live-in partner who's acting as a parent,
then that live-in partner could act on behalf of the active IDEA parent
since they're living and acting as a parent?
>> The next group of questions came from -- when we talk about --
students who are receiving early intervention.
So we have birth to 3, or 3 [inaudible] age of beginners.
Who do we contact if we need information about surrogate parents
for those two groups of students?
>> The question's about early intervention services involving from birth to 3,
or from 3 to 5 -- for 3 to school age.
People should contact OCDEL, The Office of Child Development and Early Learning,
the Bureau of Early Intervention Services.
The phone number for OCDEL is 1-800-692-7462.
>> Thank you.
Also, several questions came up regarding the age of majority in Pennsylvania.
And could you talk about students who are 18?
>> Yes. An 18 year old student can only sign for himself or herself
if they are either an emancipated youth or married.
Otherwise, if the student has no biological parent or anyone acting as a parent,
then he or she would need a surrogate to sign all paperwork until the age
of majority which is 21 years old.
So in the case of an unaccompanied homeless youth again, I just want to reiterate,
there is an exception which allows staff of an emergency shelter, transitional shelter
or independent living program or street outreach program,
to be appointed as a temporary surrogate, even if that person is an employee
of an agency involved in the care and education of the youth,
until such time as a surrogate parent is appointed.
However, for other students who --
you still have to go back to trying
to find their biological parent, trying to get them involved.
If not, do they have a foster parent?
If not, do they have somebody who is acting as a parent?
And after all of those attempts have been exhausted,
then you would assign a surrogate parent.
Until age 21.
>> Thank you.
If you could clarify the rules of the Guardian ad Litem,
the EDM, the educational decision-maker?
>> There's different kinds of court appointed - I guess - parents or people who are responsible.
And okay, a court appointed educational decision-maker or so --
a court appointed surrogate parent must also conform to the nonemployee rule.
So a court may not appoint a caseworker.
Some questions came in that the court order says
that the caseworker is the educational decision-maker.
That is not allowed under the regulations.
So if a court has appointed such a person, the LEA needs to contact the child welfare agency
or the child's Guardian ad Litem and ask them to return to the court to get the order revised.
So if the court -- again, if the court has appointed someone in the child's --
in the caseworker or a person in the group home, that is not --
they need to have that court order revised.
A Guardian ad Litem, which also is a court -- may be appointed by the court,
is a court appointed attorney for a child independency.
The court could additionally appoint this Guardian ad Litem to serve
as a child's surrogate parent or educational decision-maker.
If so, they would trump any other prospective IDEA parent.
However, the court would have to specifically appoint the Guardian ad Litem
as a surrogate parent or the educational decision-maker for this to apply.
Their general appointment as Guardian ad Litem does not give them any
So if a student has a Guardian ad Litem, you need to look at the court order carefully to see
if it also includes educational decision-making.
Otherwise, you would need to assign somebody else for that role.
>> Okay, great.
I think that covers the majority of the questions that we received.
So thank you for those answers.
And again, this is being recorded in October of 2013 and currently the contact
if you have further information is Ruth Furman at the email listed on the last slide.
And the surrogate parent manual is currently being updated as Ruth stated
and it will be available on the patent website.
So if you have any follow-up questions, please contact the Bureau
or hopefully the surrogate parent manual or the information
on the Pennsylvania Education Law Center would be able to answer a lot of the questions.