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50 Surrogate Parents
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primary           Special Education Procedures Manual

  1. Surrogate Parents

Resource Forms/Link

Chapter Revision date: 04/23

50.1        Definition:

A surrogate parent is a person appointed to act in the place of a parent in safeguarding a child’s rights in the special education decision-making process under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  A surrogate parent must be appointed for a special education student or a child suspected of needing special education in the following situations:

  1. The child’s parent’s cannot be identified;
  2. The child’s parent’s cannot be located, after reasonable efforts have been made to locate them;
  3. The court has specifically limited the right of the parent or guardian to make educational decisions for the child;
  4. The child is a ward of the court.

50.2        Purpose:

The purpose of the appointment of a surrogate parent is to ensure that every student with exceptional needs or child suspected of have exceptional needs has a knowledgeable adult to make educational decisions on his or her behalf.

50.3        Responsibility for Identifying Students Needing a Surrogate Parent:

The case manager or Special Ed. Support Staff at each individual school site is responsible for identifying students needing a surrogate parent.  As a student registers at the school, the section on the registration form noting with whom the student lives should be reviewed.  If there is a question as to whether the person is a parent, guardian, relative who acts in place of a parent, or a foster parent, the registration should be flagged and brought to the attention of the case manager, Special Ed. Support Staff who will investigate the need for a surrogate parent.  If additional information regarding the need for a surrogate is warranted, the case manager, Special Ed. Support Staff should contact the school front office and the special education program manager.  

Confirmation will be sent to the case manager upon assignment of a surrogate parent. The surrogate parent will receive a letter of appointment within 10-business days of verification of need.  

50.4        Minimum Qualifications for Surrogate Parent:

  1. U.S. Citizen who is a resident of California and is at least 18 years old;
  2. Non-employee of the school district or agency involved in the care or education of the child;
  3. Have knowledge, skills and experience through successfully completed training to ensure adequate representation of the child (training is provided by the District);
  4. Have no interest which conflicts with the interests of the child; and
  5. Must meet District requirements for volunteers.

50.5        Duties and Right of a Surrogate Parent:

A surrogate parent represents a child in all matters related to the identification, evaluation and educational placement of the child.  The surrogate parent is granted all of the rights guaranteed to parents, such as opportunity to inspect all of the child’s educational records and to receive copies of the records, the right to notice of IEP meetings, to sign consent to an IEP or for an educational assessment, as well as all other procedural and due process rights specified in IDEA.  In addition, state law requires that the surrogate parent meet with the child on at least one occasion.

A surrogate parent’s duties do not extend to the care, maintenance or custody of the child; nor do they include identification, evaluation or residential placement of a child that does not relate specifically to special education and related services.  Furthermore, a surrogate parent shall not be held liable for actions taken in good faith on behalf of the child in protecting his or her educational rights.

50.6        Determining the Need for a Surrogate Parent:

1.        Definition of Parent: IDEA defines parent to mean natural parent or person acting in the place of a parent, such as a grandparent, a stepparent with whom a child lives, or a legal guardian.  If a child does not have a natural parent, but has a grandparent or a custodial step parent that is exercising decision-making authority, then a surrogate parent is not needed.  If the child does not have a parent and the relative or stepparent is unwilling or unable to act as parent, then a surrogate parent must be appointed.


2.        Status of Foster Parents: A foster parent may be considered a parent, without the need for the appointment of a surrogate parent, if all of the following conditions are met:

50.7        Forms and Sample Letter

The following forms have been developed for use in determining the need for and requesting a Surrogate Parent

  1. Surrogate Parent Checklist. This form is to be completed by the case manager/Special Ed. Support Staff to assist in the decision as to whether a surrogate parent is needed.  If a surrogate parent is being requested, the completed form should be faxed to the Compliance Monitoring and Training office

2.        Surrogate Parent Request Form. This form is to be completed by the case manager/Special Ed. Support Staff and send to Program Manager.

Once the need for a surrogate is determined, a letter of appointment is sent to the surrogate from the Compliance Monitoring and Training office.

The Surrogate Parent Checklist, the Surrogate Parent Request Form and a sample letter of appointment are listed at the end of this section.

Contact Information:



Sample Letter of appointment

January 1, 2004

Ms. Jane Johnson

123 Main Street

San Diego, CA 12345


Dear Ms. Johnson:

You have been appointed as a Surrogate Parent for:

        John Doe, a student at San Diego Elementary

Please contact Ms. Mary Smith at 222-2222 in order to arrange for a review of the student’s file.  You will be contacted by the school to arrange for any meetings necessary for this student.

Your advocacy for this student will help to ensure that John’s rights are protected in the absence of the natural parent or guardian.  Your efforts are greatly appreciated.  If there are further questions, please contact me at (619) 725-7794.



Compliance Monitoring and Training Program Manager

c:        (Name), Special Education Executive Director

        (Name), Case Manager

        (Name), Program Manager,

Surrogate Parents

50-        Rev. 2014