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Surrogate Parents Publication Letter

Letter Head: Jack O'Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education

August 11, 2008

Dear Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) and State-operated Programs Directors and Special Education Administrators at County Offices (SEACO), Advisory Commission on Special Education, Institutions of Higher Education, and Interested Individuals, Agencies and Organizations:

Prepublication Release - Surrogate Parents in California Special Education

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that states receiving federal funds for the provision of special education provide assurances that surrogate parents will be appointed for students with disabilities who lack parental representation in special education procedures. In compliance, California Government Code Section 7579.5(m) requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to “develop a model surrogate parent training module and manual that shall be made available to local educational agencies.”

This memo informs you that CDE is providing a prepublication release of Surrogate Parents In California Special Education: An Overview. It updates the original manual developed in 1991, and is intended for use as a reference tool to assist educational agencies to develop and apply reasonable and legally defensible procedures regarding parental representation when a student’s parent(s) cannot be located or their parental rights have been terminated. The manual explains which students need a surrogate parent, as well as who can be a surrogate parent. Further, the manual describes an effective appointment process, describes the responsibilities of local educational agencies, placement agencies, service providers, and other interested parties. It is designed to be used as part of your training program.

Because of the family focus of this subject, I encourage and support a collaborative training process between the local education agencies (LEAs), community agencies and our affiliated Parent Training and Information Centers, Community Parent Resource Centers, and Family Empowerment Centers. Surrogate parents are required to learn as much as possible about the child with disabilities to appropriately represent the rights of the child throughout the special education process. Information to expeditiously develop an adequate understanding of the child’s disability and the disability’s effect on the child’s learning processes is readily available through the parent agencies.

I hope this updated training manual provides you the necessary information to assist you in appointing surrogate parents in accord with federal and state law. If you have any questions or need further clarification, please contact Judy Reichle, Special Education Consultant by e-mail at who will field inquiries about this matter and coordinate providing a response.


Original signed by Mary Hudler. Hard copy of signed document is available by contacting the Interagency-Nonpublic Schools/Agencies Unit at 916-327-0141.

Mary Hudler, Director
Special Education Division

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