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]