Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) : Parental Tips

Individualized Education Plan Tips pencils on a black board

What are my parental rights if my child has an IEP?

Your Role as the Foster Parent

As the foster parent, you have been given rights by the guardian of the foster child to care for them by providing nurturing, safety, stability, and love. You will not be the legal guardian concerning the IEP at school board meetings or meetings with the office of special education.

But as the person who knows the child, you must be present and advocate for your foster child; the public schools understand the perspective you bring to the special education programs concerning your youth's disabilities. The DSS Guardian has to approve an IEP and sign the document for the state, but you can and should attend these meetings DSS social worker needs to invite you to attend and let the school know you are visiting.   


Student's IEP team

IEP meeting and your foster Child 

A new foster parent enters the school to enroll their newly placed foster child. The infamous question is, "does your child have an IEP"?? (individualized education plan)? You know that your child has some academic challenges, and there's a document in your packet of information that should be presented to the school. You begin flipping through the papers, and there is the Individualized Education Plan IEP.

School officials are known for throwing out acronyms to parents who may be unaware of what in the world they mean. However, do not fear; what follows are some special education quick facts, tips, and step-by-step suggestions that will arm you (the parent) for the special education/IEP journey with your child. They may be new to your foster home, and you are new to their individualized education process, but we can work it out together.

Quick IEP Facts:

For parents of children who are identified as having disabilities, the law requires that parents and school personnel work together to provide children with appropriate educational services.

Public Law (PL94-142), aka the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Virginia special education laws require all schools to ensure that all identified children (ages 2 to 21) with disabilities have the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

Special education means that instruction is specially designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. This can include instruction provided in a classroom, home, hospital, institution, or another setting at no cost to you, the parent.

Quick Tips for your IEP Process:

There are typically five steps to the special education process.

These steps are as follows:

Identification and Referral. This will take place when your child is suspected of having a disability. The referral, a written or oral request for an evaluation, is submitted to appropriate school officials.

Evaluation. The school sets processes to have the child evaluated to determine if they have a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services that may be needed.

Determination of Eligibility. Based on the evaluation results, a team decides if the child is eligible to receive special education and related services.

Development of an IEP and Determination of Services. Suppose the child is eligible to receive special education and related services. In that case, a team then develops and implements an appropriate IEP to meet the needs and recommended services of the child. The IEP must be reviewed and revised at least annually.

Reevaluation. At least every three years, a team must reevaluate the child to determine whether the child continues to need special education and related services unless the parent and the school agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary.

Finally, the IEP and ME as the Parent…..

As the parent, you can initiate the IEP process. Understanding your rights (aka procedural safeguards) in this regard is essential. Your rights in the IEP process are as follows:

Right to Participate. Parents have the right to participate in all decision-making meetings to develop the IEP for their child. These meetings include the child's: Eligibility, Evaluation, Educational Placement, and any other matter about their education.

Right to Written Notice. If the school division initiates any identification, evaluation, or educational placement changes, the parent has the right to receive prior written notice.

Right to Consent. Parents have the right to provide informed, written consent for the IEP before the assessment process or the provision of special education and related services. The parent should give this consent only after they clearly understand the IEP team proceedings.

Right to Access Educational Records. Parents with a child enrolled in special education and possessing an IEP have the right to inspect, evaluate, and request copies of educational records.

Right to Request A Hearing. In the case of any complaints concerning the provision of FAPE, parents have the right to a hearing. During the hearing, the parent can request that an advocate, or attorney, if appropriate, be present.

Right to Keep Child in Current Placement. Parents have the right to disagree with any proposals presented to change their child's placement. When a disagreement surfaces, the child should remain in their current placement until it is resolved.

Right to Mediation. When a disagreement arises, parents are free to seek voluntary and impartial mediation to help find a mutually agreed-upon solution regarding the child's IEP.

Right to Information on Disciplinary Action. Specific rules regarding a child enrolled in special education concerning suspensions or expulsions exist. If these instances extend beyond ten days, an IEP meeting should be called to assess how their disability could contribute to the child's misconduct. This meeting is referred to as the MDH (Manifestation Determination Hearing).

As a foster parent, the more information you have, the better equipped you will be to make future decisions for your child with special needs to ensure their success. Do not hesitate to ask questions. If you find that your questions are not answered, contact your child's school administration first.

If you still aren't getting answers, your next option is to contact the local school board, special education official, or school board members. If all else fails, contact the particular education specialist at the state department of education for assistance. I hope this guide to special education has been helpful to you.

Dr. Michelle R. Belle

Foster Parent advocate.


Special ED
VDOE Parent’s Guide to Special Education

Individual Education Plans Videos

Sometimes a video is better than a thousand words. 



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