- The first and best reason is to help a child or teen in need. Students who are eligible for an SESP face many challenges. You can help ensure that they receive the educational support they need to meet them.
- To receive training from special education professionals. The Federation for Children with Special Needs has been training and supporting families and professionals since 1975. By volunteering as an SESP, you will gain access to first class training and support, and an opportunity to put what you learn into practice.
- To gain firsthand experience and a parent perspective. As an SESP, you can work with educators, students, and school personnel to develop an appropriate educational plan with the full legal authority granted to a parent regarding education decisions. Parents, professionals, students, and educators will all benefit from this unique and challenging opportunity, all while making a real difference in a student’s life.
- To use your knowledge to help others. Parents and professionals in the special needs community often acquire a mindboggling amount of knowledge about laws, health, education, behavior, and bureaucratic processes. If that sounds like you, becoming an SESP is a great way to make use of that knowledge to contribute to the life of a child who will undoubtedly benefit from it.
- To become part of a supportive community. Volunteering as an SESP will introduce you to a whole community of dedicated and supportive parents, professionals, and volunteers. Through trainings, conferences, and even simple support calls, you will build connections with people who are dedicated as you are to educating and supporting all our children.
Special Education Surrogate Parents represent a wide range of caring and committed individuals who are dedicated to making a difference in a child’s life. Our volunteers include parents and relatives of children with special needs; school professionals; educational administrators; retirees; and members of community service agencies, civic organizations, professional associations and advocacy groups.
- Be least 18 years old.
- Not be employed by an agency involved in the care or education of the student you will be serving. For example, you will not be appointed to a particular student if you or your spouse is employed by the school district that is responsible for the education of that student.
- Have no interest that might conflict with the interests of the student.
- Have knowledge and skills that ensure adequate representation of the student
- Complete a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) request form, providing a copy of a valid government issued photo identification (e.g., driver’s license, passport, or state issued identification). It is required that your CORI be updated every three years.
Our volunteers should be aware of what the law guarantees them as SESPs. In some cases, volunteers set a precedent by asking for certain privileges through their child’s school. We want you to be well-informed when you do this.
As an SESP, it is your right to:
- Observe the child within the classroom
- Observe the child within his/her living facility
- Receive the child’s report cards, progress reports and disciplinary slips
- Become immediately notified if a behavioral incident occurs at school
- Request academic evaluations through the child’s school
- Request independent academic evaluations, even if the school has already conducted one
- Request psychiatric, medical or neurological evaluations through the school
- Request that only a licensed Phd conduct these evaluations
- Consult the child on his/her ideas for the future, to inform the vision objective in his/her IEP
- Request a child’s placement in the afterschool activit(ies) of his/her choice
- File for accommodating during testing
- Adjusting these accommodations to fit a child’s specific needs
Your responsibility as an SESP volunteer is to represent the best interest of the student(s) you are appointed to when decisions are being made regarding their special education. The responsibilities specific to this role are to:
- Act as a “parent” by fulfilling all rights associated with the role of the SESP
- Advocate in the best interest of the student
- Attend other educational related meetings when you feel it is necessary
- Maintain regular communication with the student’s providers
- Monitor the student’s progress and special educational services provided
- Maintain student records in your possession in an organized fashion
- Respect the confidentiality of all records and information related to the student
- Return all required paperwork to the SESPP
- Keep SESPP updated about changes in the student’s placement or status
- Inform the SESPP in a timely manner of any changes in your ability to fulfill your volunteer rights and responsibilities
- Update your CORI with the SESPP every three years, especially if you are actively supporting a student
The decision-making authority of the SESP is focused solely on special education, and involves discussing, addressing, and/or developing supports that assist the student in making effective academic progress. All medical, therapeutic, residential or financial decisions unrelated to special education fall under the authority of DCF and the student’s social worker. While SESPs are welcome to express concerns, and/or ask the student’s DCF social worker to address them, SESPs have no authority to make changes in these areas.
Decisions regarding the medical treatment of the student are made by DCF and the student’s social worker. SESPs may not make decisions regarding medication or arrange for the student to see a physician. However, any time a medical concern interferes with a student’s access to education, the SESP may request support or intervention to address the situation.