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Columbus City Schools Honors Child Advocacy Volunteers

January 3, 2024 – Columbus City Schools (CCS) proudly honors Brenda Gerhardt and Rush Rogers with an Award of Excellence for their commitment to the CCS Parent Surrogacy Program.

Gerhardt and Rogers are parent surrogates – third-party volunteers who act on behalf of children in the foster care system. Parent surrogates ensure that each child receives the best education suited to their needs. Parent surrogates are responsible for signing off on paperwork, such as an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Evaluation Team Report (ETR), for children in the foster care system and acting as advocates for them.

School Psychologist Supervisor for CCS John Cook said the work of Gerhardt, Rogers, and their fellow surrogate parents is crucial for the well-being of the children they work with.  These volunteers strive to be an anchor point for the children, someone they know will be by their side even if they move somewhere new with a different group of people.

“Parent surrogates are a neutral party to ensure the child’s best interest is being followed within the school system,” Cook explained. “They ensure everything is being done appropriately.”

Gerhardt’s desire to help children began long before she started as a surrogate. She worked as a school counselor in Columbus for nearly a decade before taking her skills into the foster care sector. Since then, she has become a strong advocate for foster care youth and works tirelessly to make a difference in their lives. 

“I realized that this is a population that is very underserved,” Gerhardt said. “I’ve presented at national, regional, and state organizations about the youth in foster care, what their challenges are, and how we can nationally raise that awareness. [Youth in foster care] has been my passion point. ”

Rogers also has experience in the K-12 school system. She started as a parent surrogate when working at Canal Winchester Local Schools. There, she saw the need for parent surrogates in the district. Along with a group of parents, Rogers trained to fill that need and has since expanded to work in multiple districts in the area. 

Rogers is passionate about her work and always strives to keep a student’s well-being at the center of the conversation for as long as they need her. She wants each child she works with to know they have someone they can rely on.

“It’s important to me that every child has an advocate,” Rogers said. “Sometimes, I may be the only person sitting at the table who really knows that child. When I take on a child [to work with,] I expect to take that child until they graduate or leave the county.”

Columbus City Schools is grateful for the hard work of all parent surrogates in and around Central Ohio. The dedication and passion of Gerhardt, Rogers, and countless others make a difference in the lives of our foster care students. Thank you for all that you do!

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