Program Office: Office of Special Education Programs
CFDA Number: 84.328
Program Type: Discretionary/Competitive Grants, Cooperative Agreements
Also Known As: Special Education-Training and Information for Parents of Children with Disabilities; Parent Information Centers and Parent Resource Centers; Community Parent Resource Centers.
The Parent Information Centers program is one of the primary vehicles under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for providing information and training to parents of children with disabilities. The program supports competitive awards to help ensure that:
- Children with disabilities and their parents receive training and information designed to assist these children in meeting developmental and functional goals and challenging academic achievement goals, and in being prepared to lead productive independent adult lives;
- Children with disabilities and their parents receive training and information on their rights, responsibilities, and protections under IDEA, in order to develop the skills necessary to cooperatively and effectively participate in planning and decision making relating to early intervention, educational, and transitional services; and
- Parents receive coordinated and accessible technical assistance and information to assist them in improving early intervention, educational, and transitional services and results for their children and families.
The IDEA authorizes three types of competitive projects: parent training and information centers, community parent resource centers, and technical assistance for parent centers. The award period for these projects is typically 5 years.
Parent training and information centers must serve parents of children of all ages (birth to 26) and all types of disabilities. Awards are made only to parent organizations as defined by IDEA. The training and information provided by the centers must meet the training and information needs of parents of children with disabilities living in areas served by the centers, particularly underserved parents and parents of children who may be inappropriately identified. At least one award for a parent training and information center must be made in each State, subject to the receipt of acceptable applications. Large and heavily populated States typically have multiple centers that serve designated counties. One center specifically serves the unique needs of military families and another center serves Native American families across the country. The parent centers also play an important role in dispute resolution by explaining to parents the benefits of alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation, which States are required, by the IDEA, to make available. Parent center staff attend or facilitate over 1,000 alternative dispute resolution sessions every year. These alternative methods of dispute resolution can help avoid costly litigation. As part of that role, parent centers are required to meet with parents to explain the IDEA-mandated mediation process. In States where parent centers provide this service, they typically do so through contracts with State educational agencies.
Community parent resource centers are parent training and information centers, operated by local parent organizations, that help ensure underserved parents of children with disabilities, including low-income parents, parents of children who are English learners, and parents with disabilities, have the training and information they need to enable them to participate effectively in helping their children. Community parent resource centers are required to establish cooperative partnerships with the parent training and information centers in their States.
Technical assistance is authorized to assist parent training and information centers, including community centers, in areas such as coordinating parent training efforts, disseminating scientifically based research and information, and the effective use of technology. These technical assistance services enhance the capacity of parent centers to serve parents effectively. The parent technical assistance center network maintains a Web site with a wide variety of information and materials for parents and professionals, as well as a directory of the parent centers (http://www.parentcenternetwork.org/).
In order to receive an award for a parent center, the IDEA requires that applicants must be a parent organization that has a board of directors, the majority of which must consist of parents of children with disabilities. The board must also include individuals with disabilities and individuals working in the fields of special education, related services, or early intervention. The parent and professional members of the board must be broadly representative of the population to be served, including low-income parents and parents of English learners.