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Conference Overview

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Recruitment, Training, and Support Center (RTSC) for Special Education Surrogate Parents Summary


The Recruitment, Training and Support Center (RTSC) for Special Education Surrogate Parents (SESPs) is a project of the Federation for Children with Special Needs, a nonprofit organization. The mission the RTSC is to ensure that every child in state custody receives the educational supports they need to succeed. We strive to meet this goal by recruiting volunteers from across the state and providing them with the training and ongoing support they need to be effective SESPs. There are approximately 900 students statewide currently supported by this project.

About SESPs, the students, and others we serve:

Federal education law requires a student’s parents or guardians be included in the special education decision-making process. However, children in state custody may not have anyone to fill that role. In Massachusetts, those children depend on SESPs to protect their legal right to a free and appropriate education. Students who qualify for SESPs face many challenges. They must cope with both special education needs and the lack of a parent or legal guardian to advocate for them. In addition, many move frequently between homes, between schools, and between education programs. Most have had traumatic experiences including abuse and/or neglect, the death of parents and loved ones, and separation from siblings and friends. For these children, an appropriate education can be a lifeline in a challenging world by helping them to develop the tools and strategies they need to grow into successful adults.

SESPs are volunteers who make education decisions for individual students. Once appointed these volunteers have the full legal rights and authority of a parent or legal guardian in matters of special education. SESPs attend Team meetings, approve or reject Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and if necessary, can file a complaint or appeal. Volunteers must be over 18, have no conflict of interest, submit a CORI application, and attend an initial three hour orientation to participate in the program. On average an SESP only spends 20-30 hours a year volunteering their time. These few hours can make a significant impact for a student.

RTSC provides ongoing support to SESPs in a variety of ways including:  monthly webinars, Complex Trauma and Learning workshops, on-going phone support, our monthly Consider This articles, networking meetings, and an annual conference. RTSC extends these supports and resources to Foster, Adoptive and Kinship caregivers of DCF-involved children and the many other professional partners including educators, clinicians, DCF staff, and others. 

About the Conference:

Making a Difference is RTSC’s annual statewide conference that presents a range of topics related to the education and support of these students. Since SESPs generally work alone, this conference provides a unique opportunity for attendees to learn and network with each other, child welfare professionals, and RTSC staff. It also provides an opportunity for us to acknowledge and show appreciation for the support they provide. The 2017 conference will be held on November 14th at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, Marlborough.  

The theme for this year’s conference is A Community Approach to Trauma Sensitivity. It will include a wide range of topics including Developing Educational Plans at a Neurodevelopmental Level, Trauma Informed IEPs, Transition, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the Cultural Impact of the Foster Care System, and much more. We are thrilled to incorporate an RTSC Conference App that will provide an interactive way to easily navigate through the day. Because SESPs volunteer their time in this program, we offer attendance to the conference for them and DCF involved foster and adoptive parents free of charge. 

We need your support

RTSC is a unique program, which currently serves approximately 900 students at any given time throughout the state. Your support of the annual conference is an opportunity to help these students, by providing training and resources to the many volunteers who serve them.  

For more information about the Special Education Surrogate Parent program or to volunteer, visit our website at www.fcsn.org/rtsc.