Surrogate Parent Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Do surrogate parents have a choice in the selection of the child?

Yes. For example, surrogates may request assignment to a child with a certain disability or in a certain age group.

Do all foster children need surrogate parents?

No. Only when the natural or adoptive parents’ authority to make educational decisions on the child’s behalf has been extinguished under state law, might a foster child need representation by a foster or surrogate parent at school. When parental rights are terminated, the child is a “ward of the state”.

Long term foster parents may be considered the “parent”, so in this case, no surrogate needs to be appointed.

Are a surrogate parent’s activities evaluated?

Schools are responsible for monitoring the activities of each surrogate parent to make sure that he or she is fulfilling the duties as set forth by state and federal rules.

Who pays the legal fees when the surrogate parent initiates due process proceedings against the local education agency?

It is the responsibility of the local education agency to provide contact information to the surrogate parent of pro bono legal services, for example Legal Aid/Low Cost Attorneys. If the surrogate parent prevails, then the local education agency is responsible for the reimbursement of the surrogate parent's legal fees.

Can a surrogate parent be assigned to represent a student over the age of 18?

In Florida, students ages 18 through 21 are viewed as serving as their own parents.

Therefore, if the student is able to make their own decisions, a surrogate would not be necessary. Sometimes students over 18 are under legal guardianship. In this case, the guardian is the parent as identified by IDEA.

Are there any records that a school can refuse to show parents or an educational surrogate?

Yes. A school can refuse to show you the following records: A teacher's or counselor's "personal notes"--these are notes that a school official makes for his or her own use. Personnel records of school employees are not allowed to be viewed by a surrogate parent.

Can surrogate parents receive a stipend?

There is no requirement in Florida that a surrogate parent receive compensation: however, the school may choose to cover or offer payment for the expenses, such as mileage, of the surrogate parent.

Note: OCPS pays their Surrogates a $50.00 stipend per IEP meeting.

What should a surrogate parent sign or not sign?

Surrogate parents will be asked to sign all the forms relating to the child’s special education, including permission to evaluate and the IEP or EP. Consent should not be given to any proposal that seems inappropriate for the child’s needs.

Permission for all other types of activities is given by the child’s county caseworker, residential care provider, or other person responsible for his or her care.

Can a surrogate parent be appointed for an "Uncooperative" parent?

No. A surrogate parent cannot be appointed simply because a parent does not agree with the education system's proposal, or because the education or early intervention agency believes that the family is not cooperating. In these situations, the district must make, and document, every effort to involve the child's parent, and, when appropriate, can convene a special education impartial hearing to override a parent's refusal to cooperate or agree.