Department of Human Services kicks off its Supporting Families Initiative by awarding $5,000 regional grants
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Wednesday kicked off its Supporting Families Initiative by awarding $5,000 grants to 19 regional collaboratives committed to encouraging families of individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism to have high expectations of full and purposeful lives.
“The goal of the grants is for communities to acknowledge the opportunity for everyone, including individuals with a disability and their families, to live well-rounded lives that include: meaningful jobs in the community, friendships, health and safety, and social and spiritual opportunities,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “We invited counties to submit proposals about how they would create partnerships and collaborations to better support local families throughout their lifespans. People living in each area know their region’s strengths, diversity, and needs best.”
The collaboratives will partner with a variety of local stakeholders and resources: faith communities, businesses, schools, child care facilities, civic organizations, social media, and other families acting as mentors. Regional collaboratives can be individual counties or a number of counties whose communities naturally blend together.
Family is the primary source of support for most people throughout every stage of life. Nationally, 75 percent of people with intellectual disabilities live in their communities without any formal disability services. Of the 25 percent who are receiving services, most live with their families.
“As DHS provides services and supports to more individuals to live, work, and thrive in their own communities, we want to recognize and support the strengths of families so those family members with intellectual disabilities or autism can live the everyday lives they envision for themselves,” DHS Secretary Ted Dallas said. “As part of this initiative, families will begin to use various tools to help them create their vision for their family members and realize the importance of experiences and opportunities at every life stage.”
Three specific strategies that emphasize collaboration between communities and the systems that provide services to individuals with disabilities include: making it easier for families to find information about the disability and resources at every life stage, providing connections for peer support and networking with other families, and identifying appropriate services and supports.
The collaboratives are being encouraged to discover opportunities both within and outside the formal disability service systems that can support the concept of everyday lives for all citizens in the community.
In February 2016, Pennsylvania was accepted into the National Community of Practice: Supporting Families Throughout the Lifespan, which provides leadership, training and technical assistance to develop a statewide strategic plan to support families of individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism. Pennsylvania is one of 18 states taking part in this community of practice, where states can learn from one another using the same principles and framework, but unique approaches to supporting families.
In addition to the grants, DHS will offer the regional collaboratives an ongoing schedule of technical support and learning opportunities.
“People with disabilities want to have a good life, to live and work in the community, like everyone else, and we are creating opportunities and initiatives to help do that,” Dallas said.
The 19 collaboratives include:
• Blair County
•Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, and Northumberland counties
•Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, and Perry counties
•Franklin and Fulton counties
•Bradford, Sullivan, and Tioga counties
•Carbon, Monroe, and Pike counties
•Lackawanna and Susquehanna counties
• Lehigh County
• Northampton County
• Schuylkill County
• Wayne County
• Bucks County
• Chester County
• Delaware County
• Montgomery County
• Western Region:
• Allegheny County
• Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Indiana, and Lawrence counties
•Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, and Warren counties
•Mercer and Venango counties