Newsletter Archive

Newsletter Issue 11: 1/21/09


SpecialQuest Birth–Five Newsletter

In December representatives from each of the State Leadership Teams who are parents of children with disabilities participated in a conference call to discuss the following questions:



There are many people who are doing good work to ensure that families are part of planning and decision-making around inclusion in their communities and states. Are you one of them? What are you doing?

We're collecting ideas, organizing them, and will make them available to everyone in the SpecialQuest community.

Please contribute!

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Spotlight: Isabel Valtierra – Fostering Leadership in Latino Families

isabel"My biggest prize is to see parents advocating for their children, forming networks, and helping each other. "


SpecialQuest has influenced me in many ways. As a parent of a child with a disability, I have become determined to advocate not only for my son, but for other children with disabilities in my community.


My community needed someone to provide information and support for Spanish-speaking Latino families who have children with disabilities. Padres Compartiendo was founded by our SpecialQuest team from the Monterey County Office of Education, Early Head Start, along with other community agencies. This parent support group now participates in and assists in hosting the annual Fiesta Familiar de la Costa Central conference.


"The conference was a collaborative effort that required hard work from 95 parents and 15 agencies. "


Our third annual conference grew so large (over 180 participants) that we needed a bigger location and additional funding to support our efforts. I ventured into grant writing to request funds from different community organizations. The effort was very successful and we were awarded $4000 from a private community foundation and $1000 from the United Way for the parent support group. We also received a grant from First 5 to support the conference by providing lunches and books for the parents.


(More information about the Fiesta Familiar conference can be found in the SpecialQuest Resource Bank under the keyword "family leadership.")

Isabel Valtierra is a SpecialQuest Ambassador and works for the Monterey County Office of Education. She and two others were recently recognized by the Latino Network of Monterey, receiving an award for exemplary community service. Isabel acknowledges the support and encouragement of her program director and the rest of the Early Head Start staff "to go beyond anything I ever dreamed of doing."


SpecialQuest State Leadership Teams are Engaging Family Members

Representation - Parents are a significant presence on the SpecialQuest State Leadership Teams, and many of the agency representatives are themselves parents of a child or an adult with a disability. Parents are also well represented in the community programs.

"Engagement is more than involvement."

Leadership - The State Leadership Teams feel they have a responsibility to mentor family members to take on leadership roles. Several states plan to use, or are using, parents as co-trainers or in advocacy roles.

"Welcoming [and a sense of belonging are] important to family engagement."

Gathering Input - Several states are considering their professional development systems from the family perspective through a survey, a family case study, or other means.

"We have some terrific members on our Leadership Team who are parents of special needs children. They are huge contributors and really important assets. I noticed whatever they say seems to be the most valuable input of all. We're really grateful to have their participation. I think it's made us more aware..."

Supports - Most teams have stipends, or will use supplemental funds in Year 2, to help family members and adults with disabilities attend and participate in State Leadership Team meetings and functions.



Resources for Fostering Family Leadership

coverBuilding Relationships with Families

A core SpecialQuest value is engaging families of children who have disabilities as partners and leaders. The Building Relationships with Families volume of the SpecialQuest Multimedia Training Library includes two sessions that explicitly address family leadership:

Session 6: Opening Doors to Family Leadership
In this session, participants consider the diverse ways that families of young children with disabilities can be leaders in their own family, in programs, and in communities. The video Opening Doors to Family Leadership provides examples of how relationships and supports between families and service providers can affect opportunities for family leadership. Session activities give participants an opportunity to consider strategies to open doors to family leadership: as informed decision-makers for their own children and for themselves; as supports to other families; and as systems-level advocates and decision-makers to effect legislative, procedural, and systems changes.

This session includes the video, Opening Doors to Family Leadership (18 minutes). This video presents family leadership as a core value in early care and education and in early intervention programs. Throughout the video, service providers and families share strategies that helped them to build collaborative relationships and leadership skills. They also discuss numerous examples of families assuming leadership—for their own family, with other families, and through participation on boards, councils, and in other advocacy arenas.

Session 7: Developing Family-Service Provider Leadership
This session shows how collaborative relationships can promote family leadership. A self-assessment process initiated in this session provides opportunities for participants to consider specific strategies for creating and supporting opportunities to build family-service provider leadership in their own teams, programs, and communities. (This session has the greatest impact when paired with Sessions 5 and 6 of the Building Relationships with Families volume.)



Parent Mentor Training Manual by Paul Schmitt and Fernanda Armenta-Schmitt

parent mentor

"As a whole, service providers have finally begun to embrace the notion that parental involvement is the primary factor in fostering family and child success. And, across the board, we are committed to the principal that a family's capacity to advocate for their own needs is the key to that success. "






Recommendations for Meaningfully Involving Families in State Planning Meetings

This resource is available in the SpecialQuest Resource Bank and at the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion website.




Does your state have child care licensing regulations that promote inclusion? Go to the Discussion Forum login page and follow instructions. On the index page click on the Licensing Regulations that Promote Inclusion forum.



Did You Know?

You can locate SpecialQuest Graduates and Ambassadors on the SpecialQuest website. You can find people by their expertise, experience, or interest.



Where in the World is SpecialQuest?

SpecialQuest Ambassador, Kat Lowrance, will be presenting at the OSEP National Parent Center Conference, January 28-30, 2009, in Washington, DC.



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