Our mission at the Center for Family Involvement is to work with families to increase their skills as advocates, mentors, and leaders so that families, children, and adults with disabilities can lead the lives they want.
This mission has remained crystal clear since we were founded more than a decade ago. But our methods and vision are constantly evolving.
We asked our team specific questions about what they do and how they do it. This is a summary of their insight into the inner workings for the CFI.
WHO DO WE SUPPORT? WHAT RELATIONSHIPS DO WE HAVE?
We support individuals with disabilities and their circles of supports. We support each other. What makes the CFI unique is that everyone who works and volunteers with us either has a disability or has a loved one with a disability.
We serve as mentors, confidants, friends, sources of information, a shoulder to cry on.
We have expanded and diversified our scope of work to assist families of all ages and background. We have specialists for mental health, deaf/hard of hearing, elderhood, blind/vision impaired, and rural communities. We have cultural brokers serving Asian, African-American, Latinx, refugee, and other communities. We are part of a national network that pairs families and caregivers facing similar challenges.
HOW DO WE PROVIDE SUPPORT?
We carefully select volunteers that we call Family Navigators. We utilize their strengths and provide training so they understand the latest issues impacting the disability community. We identify any gaps we may have in our organization and fill them. For example, we have been recruiting grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, we continue to bring on culturally diverse parents as volunteers. And we offer in person and online training throughout the year.
Our staff and volunteers meet families where they are. We provide support in person, through emails, by phone, by text, at conferences. We connect families with resources, we educate them, we translate documents, and provide emotional support.
We empower families. We give them the skills to advocate for themselves and others.
WHAT ACCOMPLISHEMENTS CAN YOU NAME?
Our work is often broad and collective. It is done over time. Helping a family, then months or years later seeing them use that knowledge to help others is a huge point of pride.
Helping families in crisis is something we take very seriously. One staff member recalled when she helped someone access an emergency waiver when their elderly mother passed away. Many parents reach out for help with IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings and we give them the tools to advocate for what the student needs.
Dealing with insensitive friends and family members is another recurring problem that we offer support and guidance for. We focus on helping family members to help their loved ones become powerful self-advocates; whether that be through teaching self-care or allowing them to be their own voice.
WHAT DO YOU CONTRIBUTE IN YOUR WORK WITH THE CFI?
“I give my time, my mind, and my heart.”
That is what we contribute in a nutshell, because this work is so incredibly personal. We relive our joys and struggles with each family we help. Sharing our perspectives coupled with what we’ve learned is the cornerstone of the CFI.
We help families find their voice. We set and manage their vision with them. We search for solutions together, essentially providing a flashlight during dark times.
We give hope, confidence, and encouragement to everyone who reaches out.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE CFI’S FUTURE?
As we do our work and touch people’s lives through empowering parents, self-advocates, siblings, and others, we will help create a generation that will accept nothing short of a truly inclusive society.
Flip Grey, the CFI’s Co-Director condensed our staff’s reflections on their own work into a bio poem. Bio poems follow a simple, unique pattern – regardless of who writes them: 10 lines, each revealing more information about the subject. The first line is the name of the subject itself. Line 2 is a description, and so on.
Center for Family Involvement
Passionate, dedicated, respectful
Supporting and empowering people with disabilities, their families and organizations (federal, state and local) to be a stronger, inclusive community.
Through communication, collaboration, listening and ingenuity.
By giving our all through an interdisciplinary perspective of thoughtfulness that incorporates family wisdom, evidence-based research and technology to meet each person where they are.
Toward a vision of community.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia
At the Partnership for People with Disabilities