- What is a surrogate parent and when would I need one?
- Who can be a surrogate parent?
- When do I not need a surrogate parent appointed by the court?
- How do I get a surrogate parent?
- What is my surrogate parent supposed to do?
- Can I keep the same surrogate parent if I change schools?
- When would my surrogate parent be terminated?
- The Law
What is a surrogate parent and when would I need one?
A surrogate parent makes educational decisions for you if you have or are suspected of having a disability that requires extra services and accommodations in school. If you live in a traditional foster home or with a relative or non-relative/family friend, that adult can make educational decisions for you because they are your guardian, and you would not need a surrogate appointed by the court or school district.
You need a surrogate parent in the following situations:
- You have or are suspected of having a disability
- You are in a placement where the caregiver is not allowed to serve as a surrogate (therapeutic foster home, group home, or residential treatment center/SIPP placement)
- Your parents’ rights are terminated or they are unavailable
Who can be a surrogate parent?
A surrogate parent must be at least 18 years old and must do a training with the Department of Education and cannot be someone who works for the school system or gets paid to take care of you such as a group home staff member or a therapeutic foster parent or your case manager. The surrogate parent could be your guardian ad litem or another adult you may or may not already know, but they must have completed a training by the Department of Education.
When do I not need a surrogate parent appointed by the court?
If your parents’ rights are not terminated and they are available to make decisions for you then you would not need a surrogate parent. Traditional foster parents, and a relative or non-relative that you live with can serve as the person making decisions for you in education without the need for an order from the court making them your parent surrogate. The surrogate parent may be a Guardian Ad Litem, a foster parent, or a relative or non-relative adult who is involved in your life even though the person does not have physical custody of you. This person must complete a training by the Department of Education to serve as your surrogate.
How do I get a surrogate parent?
A judge or the school district may appoint a surrogate parent. The dependency court and the school district both are responsible for appointing a surrogate parent. If the dependency court judge appoints a surrogate parent, the school must be told. The school district must accept the appointment that a dependency court judge makes if the school district has not yet appointed a surrogate parent for you. If you have a Guardian Ad Litem, the school district must first consider your Guardian Ad Litem when appointing a surrogate parent for you if they are trained to be a surrogate. The dependency court judge must accept a surrogate parent appointed by the school district.
What is my surrogate parent supposed to do?
Your surrogate parent must get to know you and learn about your disability and what education you need. Your surrogate parent must also provide consent for evaluations and educational placement to make sure you get an education that is right for you. Your surrogate parent must also protect your rights in decisions that affect you and your education. It is important for your surrogate parent to work with your school to figure out what should be in your Individualized
Education Plan (IEP).
Your surrogate parent is not responsible for things that are not related to your education, unless that same person is appointed by the court to also represent those other areas.
Can I keep the same surrogate parent if I change schools?
Yes, a new school or school district must accept an appointed surrogate parent. This is so the same surrogate parent can act as the educational decision-maker for you for your entire time in foster care.
When would my surrogate parent be terminated?
- A person will continue to act as your surrogate parent until:
- You are determined to no longer need special programs, except if you are challenging the termination of special programs;
- You are adopted and have a legal guardian and you are no longer in the custody of the department;
- Your parent is located, or your parent is determined by the court to be available;
- Your surrogate parent no longer wants to represent you or is unable to represent you;
- You move to a location where your surrogate parent can not represent you;
- The school district or the court that appointed your surrogate parent says that the surrogate parent cannot meet the needs to represent you any more
Fla. Stat. Sec. 39.0016, Fla. Admin. Code. 6A-6.0333