State Educational Agencies (SEAs) are required to establish procedures to protect the rights of the child when no parent can be located or identified. The SEA must also make reasonable efforts to ensure the assignment of a surrogate parent not more than 30 days after a Local Education Agency (LEA) determines that a child needs a surrogate parent. As part of this responsibility, the PA Department of Education (PDE) has issued a Basic Education Circular (BEC) with guidance that explains the duties and responsibilities of LEAs to appoint surrogate parents in a timely manner. Most Importantly, LEAs are required to ensure that the rights of a child are protected when: (1) the LEA cannot, after reasonable efforts, identify or locate a biological or adoptive parent, or appointed educational decision maker; (2) the child is in custody of Children and youth and does not have a foster parent, or other appointed guardian or parent who may make educational decisions; or (3) the child is an unaccompanied homeless youth. An LEA must appoint a surrogate parent for any IDEA-eligible or thought-to-be eligible child in PA who meets these criteria and who does not have an IDEA parent/educational decision maker to act on the child’s behalf.
Although the school districts in which children live are responsible for ensuring the students are timely assigned surrogate parents, the PDE encourages intermediate units to assist with the appointment of surrogate parents. If you are in need of consultation or support regarding the appointment of a surrogate parent, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
PDE Surrogate Parent Guidelines can be downloaded below.