Are You Looking to Make a Difference?

By Mary-Beth Landy, Training and Support Specialist, Recruitment, Training, and Support Center

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Are you a parent or professional looking for a way to share your knowledge and experience navigating the special education process? Would you like to make a difference in the life of a vulnerable student? We have the perfect answer: become an SESP volunteer with RTSC!

What is an SESP?

Federal law requires that a student’s parent or guardian be included in the special education decision-making process. However, children in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) (or youth who are unaccompanied / homeless), may not have anyone to fill that role. In Massachusetts, such children depend on Special Education Surrogate Parents (SESPs) to protect their legal right to a free and appropriate public education.

What does it take to become an SESP?

The average SESP spends just 30-40 hours a year volunteering, but these hours can make a critical difference in the life of a child. Special Education Surrogate Parents have the same legal rights as a parent or legal guardian, in terms of special education decision-making. They attend Individual Education Plan (IEP) team meetings, approve or reject IEPs, and, if necessary, file complaints or appeals on behalf of the students they support. Volunteers must be over 18, have no conflict of interest, submit a CORI application, and attend an initial three-hour orientation. All volunteers agree to work for the best interest of the student.

How great is the need for additional volunteers?

Approximately 995 students across the state are eligible for the program, and 663 SESPs are actively appointed. With the growing number of eligible children in Massachusetts, the need for knowledgeable, committed SESP volunteers becomes ever more urgent. Our volunteers include parents, educators, retirees, and others looking to make a difference for these vulnerable students.

The Recruitment, Training, and Support Center for Special Education Surrogate Parents offers training and support to our volunteers through monthly webinars, a bi-monthly Network Series, special events, phone and email support, as well as free admission to our annual Making a Difference Conference. The 2018 conference will be held on November 27, 2018 at the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center in Marlboro, MA.

For more information about becoming a SESP, please contact Jean Willoughby at jwilloughby@fcsn.org, or 617-399-8369, or Elaine Arsenault in Western Massachusetts at earsenault@fcsn.org, or 413-522-7178.

Know that you can be the person who makes a difference in the life of a student!