School districts will generally allow whomever the child is living with or a designee from child welfare such as an Educational Liaison to enroll a child in school. Foster parents, group home providers, and social workers are also often able to grant permission to attend field trips, review the child's cumulative file, and perform other functions that schools would normally expect a parent to execute. This latitude allows for greater flexibility in normalizing the child's school experience and meeting their needs. There are limits however, to what a person acting as a parent can do.
While substitute caregivers, social workers, and others can make some decisions regarding a child's education, the parent will retain a child's 'educational rights" until the Juvenile Court Judge makes a specific order to limit the right of the parent or guardian to make educational decisions for the child. When the Court limits a parent's rights, they must also appoint a substitute decision maker, most often an "educational representative."
The Educational Representative holds all educational rights a parent or guardian would have and is expected to make education-related decisions on behalf of the child. They are expected to have knowledge and skills, comply with confidentiality laws, meet with the child at least once, and participate in school meetings. There are limits to who can become the educational representative. For instance, there is a strict prohibition on social workers, school district employees, and group home staff serving in this role. Relatives, caregivers and CASAs are commonly identified to become a child's educational representative.
While the holder of educational rights does not necessarily have to participate in every school function (as discussed at the beginning of this section), they are the only ones who can approve special education assessments and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). thus, it is particularly important for adults who are working with children in special education or with children who may need to be assessed to know who holds the child's education rights.