How do I become a Volunteer Education Advocate?
Once a volunteer has completed the training, they will be contacted by Legal Aid Center staff regarding a child who needs a Volunteer Education Advocate. If the volunteer is interested in becoming the Volunteer Education Advocate for the child, Legal Aid Center staff will prepare a court order signed by a judge giving the volunteer the authority to be the Volunteer Education Advocate for the child. Information on how to get started as a Volunteer Education Advocate and how to initiate contact with the child’s school will be provided to volunteers. Legal Aid Center will then provide ongoing support and training to Volunteer Education Advocates.
What are the duties of a Volunteer Education Advocate?
Volunteer Education Advocates represent their child in all matters related to identification, assessment, educational placement, and provision of free appropriate public education (FAPE). This advocacy includes attending Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, disciplinary meetings, and due process hearings pertaining to the child. Educational Surrogate Parents must be notified of all educational decisions and all meetings that pertain to a child’s special education services.
Volunteer Education Advocates are required to keep in touch with the child’s Child and Family Team (support team for children in the foster care system), the child’s school, and Legal Aid Center to ensure that the child’s disability-related needs are being met.
Volunteer Education Advocates have no responsibility for the care, maintenance, financial support, or physical care of the child and aren't liable for actions taken in good faith on behalf of the student in protecting the educational rights of the student.
What rights to information and educational documents do Volunteer Education Advocates have?
Volunteer Education Advocates have all the same rights as natural parents and guardians in all aspects of the special education process and can make all of the decisions that are made by a child’s parents. They include the right to:
- Access and review educational records and progress reports regarding the child’s education.
- Request, consent to, or refuse a child’s special education evaluation(s).
- Receive written and verbal interpretations of the child’s special education evaluations and special education Individualized Education Program (IEP) documents.
- Participate in the development and amendment of the IEP document.
- Request an independent educational evaluation if a child was denied eligibility for special education services.
- Challenge the recommendations of a school by requesting a due process hearing.
- Participate in parent-teacher conferences and in the disciplinary process.
What is the time commitment of a Volunteer Education Advocate?
The time and effort it takes to be a Volunteer Education Advocate is approximately 25 hours throughout the school year. Volunteer Education Advocates must be willing to put in the time necessary to adequately represent the best interests of the child in the special education process.
What are the criteria for becoming a Volunteer Education Advocate?
Special education law only recognizes a parent, foster parent, relative, or Volunteer Education Advocate as parties who may advocate for a child’s special education needs. A person employed by an agency who is involved in the child’s care or education (e.g., anyone working for the local school district, Department of Education, or child welfare agencies) or any person who cannot represent a child’s best interests may not make special education related decisions for that child, nor become a Volunteer Education Advocate.
Can the child’s caseworker, social worker, or therapist make decisions regarding the child’s special education services?
No. In accordance with the law, a person employed by an agency who is involved in the child’s care may not make special education related decisions for that child.