By Nancy Ford
After reading Donna Thomson’s article, Resilience – What does it mean?, I can’t help but wonder why we don’t have more families involved in deciding the best delivery system for disability in BC, or anywhere else for that matter. Given the dedication, life experience, resilience, humility and exceptional planning skills of families, I can’t think of anyone better to work alongside government in deciding best practices for disability services. Linda Perry, mother and Director of Vela Micro board, winner of the Big Picture award, and recent presenter at the Vancouver International Film Festival, is another one of the many fine examples of family leadership.
Certainly these two women are by no means the exception. You just have to attend a Family Support Institute gathering to meet hundreds of the most ingenious, fiscally responsible and resilient family collaborators. And then there is the Registered Disability Savings Plan. The RDSP is a perfect example of what families can accomplish when they work strategically in collaboration with government. This disability savings plan, the first of it’s kind in the world, is a legacy for Canadians.
In fact, the most hard-working and committed lobbyists in this country aren’t those doing it for a living. Rather, they are parents of children with special needs. They’re not lobbying for a living. They’re lobbying for the quality of their children’s lives.
But it’s a challenge. For many, the challenge of their lifetime; and in most cases, it typically involves “learning by doing.”
That is why we need to equip families with the most effective tools, to ensure they know what doesn’t work and what does. “Solutions-based advocacy” is an apt description of Al’s Etmanski’s decade-long, successful effort to have the RDSP in Canada. (You guessed it; he’s another parent.)
Families need to know how to effectively deal with city hall, the school board, local agencies or their provincial legislature. Families need to learn the skills, approaches, and strategies, which can be used on their own or in collaboration with others. Let’s take the “learning by doing” out of the equation; let’s give families the tools they need.
*Learn the strategies and techniques you need to become an effective advocate on behalf of your family from public-policy advocacy expert Sean Moore and Al Etmanski.