A Parent Mentor is the parent of a
child with a disability employed by local education agencies and
Educational Service Centers to help families and school districts by providing
support, information and training services.
A Parent Mentor guides families through the Special
Education process by:
- Helping families understand their rights and responsibilities,
- Attending the Individualized Educational Program (IEP) Meetings
and other meetings at the request of families or staff.
- Listening to and supporting both family and educators on an
- Providing information and resources to families and
- Hosting information sessions, support/networking groups or
training programs for families and educators,
- Engaging community service agencies and other resources to
support families and schools,
- Connecting families, schools and community partners to benefit
students with special needs.
- and so much more!
A Parent Mentor is a guide and mentor
to help the parent navigate the special education process and to develop their
skills as an advocate, the best advocate for their child.
Working as a technical assistant to educator partners, the Parent Mentor supports the work of special education by conveying the parent perspective to the districts and helps the parents to understand their district’s responsibilities and perspectives.
A Parent Mentor is a partner to
community agencies that support children with exceptionalities. They help
connect families to local resources and to build networks of support for the
child, school and, community.
A Parent Mentor works to educate the parents in the necessary supports so that the family will feel empowered as a member of the student's educational team. With education and empowerment, the parent will be engaged in their child's educational present and future outcomes.
Because a Parent Mentor is a parent of a child with disabilities, they already know first hand the joys and the struggles of raising, educating and loving an exceptional child.
-Jacqueline Howley, Parent Mentor for
the Madison-Champaign ESC
About the Parent Mentor Projects
On January 12, 1991, in Columbus, Ohio, the idea for the Parent Mentor Projects was born. About 160 parents from across the state gathered to decide how to implement Goal #7 of the Ohio Department of Education’s Special Education Action Plan. Goal #7 dealt with Parent Involvement in Education as part of this innovative plan to restructure education for children with disabilities. As the Parent Training and Information Center for the state, The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities had been given the task of shaping the activities which would implement Ohio’s Action Plan around Goal #7. These goals had been developed by the State Superintendent’s Special Education Advisory Council, as required by P.L. 94-142 (the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975).
In order to move forward, OCECD convened a pivotal meeting of the Statewide Parent Task Force, to ask parent leaders what they believed would engage more parents in their children’s educational program. Additionally, over 400 parents met in regional focus groups throughout the state to review parents’ needs and to shape the future of Parent Mentors in Ohio’s schools. Through the diligent efforts of the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children staff and the OCECD director and co-director, by December 1, 1991, ten (10) projects had been chosen to be funded by ODE. OCECD staff were reviewers for the 37 proposals, representing 70 districts, with funding for these pilots coming from federal IDEA dollars.
During the state budget development for fiscal years 1994-95, the Coalition successfully persuaded Governor Voinovich to add $500,000. to the state budget for additional Parent Mentor projects. Again, the ODE, OEC staff and OCECD directors selected 20 new projects which began in January 1994. ODE and the Coalition continued to support additional funding each year, in a similar fashion. Presently, 75 projects are funded through state and federal funds.
When there is additional money in the state budget to fund more Parent Mentor Projects at $25,000 each, a Request for Proposal is sent out to all Superintendents in every school district in Ohio. Any school district or Educational Service Center interested in a Parent Mentor for their area may apply for these funds.
Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children continues to provide support and technical assistance for the Parent Mentors.
If you are interested in being a Parent Mentor, we recommend contacting the Director of Special Education in the district where you live. You may want to inquire if they have a Parent Mentor already, or if they have thought about putting one in place. If they are already a district funded through the state Parent Mentor Projects, you will have to have to apply when they have an opening. If there is no Parent Mentor, and the district would like to fund a position through district funds, you may communicate with the Office for Exceptional Children, through Lyndsay Havey at: [email protected]