Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It’s A Family Affair

It’s a family affair.

No, I’m not talking about the 1960s sitcom that “explored the trials of well-to-do civil engineer and bachelor Bill Davis (Brian Keith) as he attempted to raise his brother's orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment.”

Nor am I talking about the 1971 number one hit single by Sly and the Family Stone.

The family affair I am talking about is neither as charming as the TV show nor as funky as the song.

The family affair I am talking about is the responsibility that families who have a child with one or more developmental disabilities are facing. Whether that child is currently under 18 or already an adult, considering the current landscape of services in Colorado, more than likely it will be the family who will bear the responsibility for caring for the child for a large portion of their lives. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this landscape will be changing anytime soon.

That is why it is so important moving forward that families have a source of information, and a strong advocate, that they can trust. There are plenty of sources out there, including advocacy groups, providers, and of course, Community Centered Boards.

Now, Imagine! is designated as one of 20 Community Centered Board (CCB) by the State of Colorado’s Department of Human Services. We’re a lot more than that, but that particular role is the important role in relation to the point I’d like to make in today’s blog post.

In 2013, Imagine! will be celebrating its 50th year of providing supports and services. Imagine! was started by a group of families who wanted the same opportunities for their children that everybody else had. Since that time, family involvement has always been a fundamental part of how Imagine! operates. We continue to be guided by the unique perspective of family members who volunteer and serve on our Board of Directors, family members who serve on committees such as our Family Support Council, and family members who come to work for us. With their guidance, we proudly act as advocates for those we serve as well as sources for local information for all stakeholders in the DD system.

There are a handful of voices in Colorado who would lead one to believe they are not fond of the CCB system in Colorado, despite all indications that the overwhelming number of people we serve are satisfied with the performance of Imagine! and desire the local availability of resources and information. Some of those looking for a change are public servants entrusted to make decisions to best meet the needs of those we serve. This makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Families can be overwhelmed by the amount of information they receive when struggling to navigate the complex system of funding and services in Colorado. If navigating that system is a family affair, then Imagine! has been a proud family member for close to 50 years. We were created by families and we are guided by families. I take issue with anyone who questions the efforts we have made and continue to make (as both a CCB and a service provider), guided by and on behalf of the individuals and families we serve, and I especially take issue with anyone who suggests our system, which was created by the grass roots of our communities, has anything but the best interests of those we serve in mind.

I am already seeing signs that the new Colorado Governor Hickenlooper administration is aware of the issues surrounding the funding and delivery of services for some of our State’s most vulnerable citizens, and is looking for new solutions. I welcome that change and stand ready to collaborate with them so we can ensure that the individuals we serve can get the services and supports they need to become contributing members of their community.

Then again, what do I know?

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