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Section 7

ak dept education

special ed handbook

The District shall establish and implement written procedures for the identification of children who are entitled to the appointment of a surrogate parent, and for the appointment and removal of surrogate parents. The written procedures must be available to the Department during compliance monitoring reviews (see Appendix E for a model Surrogate Parent Plan).

The term “parent” means a parent, a guardian, a person acting as a parent, or a surrogate parent but does not include an employee of the state if the child is a ward of the state.

Acting as a parent includes persons such as a grandparent or stepparent with whom the child lives, as well as persons who are legally responsible for a child's welfare. The term does not include state agency personnel if the child is a ward of the state.

Guardian is a private individual who has been given the legal custody of a child by a court.

Foster Parent is an individual employed to provide care to an individual student or group of students. The district may recruit, train and appoint Foster Parents as a Surrogate Parent for the children in the district. NOTE: If a Foster Parent affirms in writing, that the foster parent is able and willing to serve as a parent of an individual child in their care for special education purposes, the appointment of the Foster Parent as a surrogate is not necessary.

Surrogate Parent is an individual who acts in place of a parent for educational purposes and decisions and meets the qualifications to be a surrogate parent. The surrogate parent may be appointed by a judge overseeing the child's care, provided that the person meets the non-employee standard.

Ward of the State means that the courts have placed the child under the custody of the Department of Health and Social Services, Office of Children's Services.  A child who is a ward of the State shall be provided with a surrogate parent.

Homeless Youth is a term for ‘unaccompanied youth' and includes a youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian under the Section 745(6) of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. For an unaccompanied homeless youth, the local educational agency must appoint a surrogate parent.

A surrogate parent is not liable for civil damages as a result of an act or an omission committed in the surrogate parent's official capacity, except that a surrogate parent may be liable for civil damages as a result of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.


An individual is generally qualified to serve as a surrogate parent if the District determines that the individual possesses the necessary knowledge and skills to adequately represent the child, and:
  1. Has no personal or professional interests that could conflict with the interests of the child.
  2. Is not employed by the state education agency or any public agency that is involved in the education or care of the child.

    Note: A person who otherwise qualifies as a surrogate parent is not considered an employee of a District solely because he is paid by the District to serve as a surrogate parent.

  3. A foster parent may provide a written affirmation they are able to serve as a parent of a child for special education.
  4. Has knowledge and skills that assure adequate representation of the child.
  5. In general, is familiar with the state and federal requirements for special education and with the nature of the child's disability.
  6. Has participated in a training program for surrogate parents developed by the Department and conducted by the District.
Note: An employee of a nonpublic agency that only provides non-educational care for the student and who meets the above standards may serve as a surrogate parent if all other requirements above are met.


Training for surrogate parents includes the following topics:
  1. The role of the surrogate parent.
  2. The state and federal requirements for special education.
  3. The rights and responsibilities of parents in the educational decision-making process.
  4. The procedure, which a surrogate parent follows if the parent believes that circumstance regarding the surrogate parent's role may create a conflict with the interest of the child, including the procedure for immediately notifying the District if such a potential conflict, exists.
  5. The nature of the child's disability.
Districts should recruit and train prospective surrogate parents with training even if no children with disabilities currently require a surrogate parent. This will prevent unnecessary service delays if a child is referred and needs a surrogate parent.


A child is entitled to a surrogate parent if the child is 3 through 17 years of age or the child is 18 through 21 years of age and has been adjudicated incompetent by a court, or if the child is between 18 and 22 years old and the District determines that it is in the best interest of the child to be appointed a surrogate parent even though the child has attained the age of majority, and:
  1. The District cannot identify a parent or legal guardian of the child.
  2. After reasonable efforts, the District cannot discover the whereabouts of at least one person acting as a parent or legal guardian.
  3. The District locates one or more persons acting as a parent or legal guardian of the child, but each person affirmatively disclaims responsibility for the child's educational program and relinquishes it in writing to a surrogate parent.
  4. The child is in the custody of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). NOTE: Appointment of a child's foster parent as a surrogate for a child who lives with the foster parent, if the foster parent affirms in writing, the foster parent is able and willing to serve as a parent for purposes of special education and the foster parent expects the child to continue living with the foster parent on an on going basis.
  5. A parent or legal guardian requests a District to appoint a surrogate parent for the child. The parent who requests that a surrogate be appointed has the right to continue to receive prior written notice. Parents must be informed that their request for a surrogate parent appointment is voluntary and may be revoked at any time.
Note: The educational placement of a child who has been identified by the District as entitled to a surrogate parent shall not be changed until 10 days after appointment of a surrogate parent.When a child is in DHSS custody, the child's social worker or probation officer will provide information about the child's custody status to the school district.


A surrogate parent may represent the child in all matters relating to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child, and the provision of FAPE, including:
  1. The right to receive notice of actions proposed or refused by the District.
  2. The right to provide or withhold consent requested by the District.
  3. The right to participate in the development, review, and revision of the IEP.
  4. All aspects of the protection of the confidentiality of personally identifiable information collected, used, or maintained by the District.
  5. The conduct of an independent educational evaluation of the child.
  6. The initiation and conduct of due process hearings.
Conditions for Natural and Foster Parents to Serve As Surrogate Parents

A natural parent may serve as a surrogate parent when the child is in state custody and the parent has not been barred from contact with the child. When the District determines that the natural parent will represent the child, the District must train and appoint the natural parent as a surrogate parent.

A person who is a foster parent of a child may serve as a surrogate parent.  However, the child's appointed surrogate parent must make all educational decisions, including providing consent.

Matching Surrogate Parents and Children

A District should consider the following factors when matching a child with a surrogate parent:
  1. Cultural similarities
  2. Religious similarities
  3. Age preferences of surrogate parent or child
  4. Language compatibility
The District should give preference to a member of the child's immediate or extended family, or family friend over a person having no prior involvement with the child.


The District should decide on an incentive or compensation policy for surrogate parents. Some may decide on a total volunteer program; others may decide to reimburse expenses; some may reimburse expenses and pay per diem; others may pay an hourly rate or an annual salary.


The District is responsible for monitoring each appointed surrogate parent to ensure they perform their duties, stay free from conflict of interest and take no action that might be harmful to the child.


A District will remove a surrogate parent if:
  1. The surrogate parent requests removal.
  2. The surrogate parent fails to act with reasonable diligence on behalf of the child.
  3. The surrogate parent is not qualified to act as a surrogate parent.
  4. The surrogate parent engages in actions that threaten the welfare of the child.
  5. The circumstances, which gave rise to appointment of the surrogate parent, no longer exist.
  6. It is determined that the child is no longer in need of special education.
  7. The child is no longer enrolled with the District.
If it is decided to remove a surrogate parent, the reasons for the removal must be presented to the surrogate parent in writing. The District shall provide an opportunity for an impartial review of the decision to remove a surrogate parent. The final decision of a District to remove a surrogate parent is not subject to appeal to the Department.

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