InclusionWorks! Family Collectives
Presented by Catriona Johnson
Catriona is the lead for the family-governed InclusionWorks! Saanich, is a resource parent for the Family Support Institute, and is the co-facilitator of Second Wave, a group of families & professionals exploring promising practices for supporting young adults. She also worked with the US Senate Committee on Disability & Health legislation. She has a Master’s degree in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University, and is currently completing a Doctorate in Disability Policy and Practice at the University of Victoria. She also works as a private consultant and as a part-time instructor in the Community Support and Education Assistant program at Camosun College.
InclusionWorks!Family Collective, Saanich, is a model of collective family governance for families with youth with disabilities to pool their resources for the 5 year period following high school completion. The goal is to ensure quality individualized programming for their transitioning youth, as determined by their youth and their families. Inclusion of the young adults in the community is encouraged through the development of mutually beneficial partnerships with local businesses, and educational, non-profit and government institutions. This model has been undertaken in four other locations in BC.
Catriona described their Family Collective as having been defined by the following values:
- Self-advocates and their families are best positioned to make choices regarding their future, and with the appropriate opportunities, training and support, can make a meaningful contribution.
- Canadian society is enriched by inclusion.
- The presumption of legal capacity should be upheld through supported decision-making.
- Everyone is entitled to have friends.
- We adhere to the principle of the “dignity of risk.”
The above values are supported by the following Programming Principles:
- Activities should be in community, challenging and age appropriate.
- Activities should make provision for each participant’s strengths and capabilities.
- Each participant will have an individualized schedule. Some activities may be with other participants (eg, for experiential learning and peer support).
- Employment, independence and life-long learning are key goals.
- Activities should embed learning opportunities for life-skills and employment.
- Participants’ physical and mental well-being is essential.
Their Family Collective is maintained by a governance model that assumes that their youth and families:
- Form the majority for decision-making on all matters.
- Select their own workers.
- Make resource allocation decisions.
- Plan for the future.
- Volunteer as able. (This is an important aspect of their model, providing both actual support and a sense of collective purpose).
Connections & Partnerships
The Family Collective felt that their goals would be best served if their youth were participating in activities with in their community, rather than by having a facility of their own. So, they sought partnerships with existing programs in their community. Below are some of the activities that their youth are engaged in:
- Small Business Development
- Job training
- Behind-the-Scenes Business Tours
- Health & nutrition education
- Money management
- Their own newsletters
- Web-site development
- Music, Dance & Yoga
- Exercising at the gym
- Self-advocacy training
- Relationships workshops
Financing Their Family Collective
Families pool their individualized funding from Community Living BC and each family also contributes a monthly fee. In addition, their relationship with South Island Distance Education School during the first two years of their Collective provided significant in-kind programming support. A more recent partnership with WorkBC, supported by a project grant from the Vancouver Foundation, provides support for their participants’ employment goals. In addition, InclusionWorks! groups receive much in-kind and reduced-cost support from their partners.
What Square Peg Society can conclude
Our transitioning youth have many of the same needs as do the supported members of InclusionWorks! Family Collectives. Our youth want to participate in decisions that affect their lives, they have the right to learn through doing (through taking measured risks), and they are entitled to have friends. For our youth and families, education, independence & life-long learning are key goals. Activities for them also, should be in community, they should be challenging and age-appropriate, and should include life-skills and employment training opportunities. However, we differ in that many of our members do not receive disability funding; funding would have to be provided through our parents’ resources & efforts. But our youth do not require full time support. As with InclusionWorks! Family Collectives, our resources would go further together, than separately, and would also help in building community between members. What this would look like, how many supported individuals would be optimum, and how each individual’ needs can be served within a collective, would vary according to the individuals the Collective is intended to support and by clear articulation of the goals of the participating families.