The Arc of Northern Virginia

Project Name: Family Circles Program

Contact Information:
Nancy Mercer
(703) 532-3214
98 N. Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046

Project Goals

  • To educate and empower parents, guardians, and professionals in how to work within the realm of the educational, governmental, and financial systems to obtain what their children need; and
  • To educate and empower self-advocates and lay a solid foundation in self-determination skills to further independence; including knowing oneself better and being able to formulate ones needs and wants.

Project Description

Through the project’s seminars families and students with I/DD are actively learning to navigate the systems, to ask the right questions within those systems, and to write plans which they can put into place to best prepare their family for life after exiting the school system. Individuals with I/DD are learning to identify their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes so that they may advocate for themselves. They also continue to learn social skills and life skills to further their independence; to confidently speak up using whatever modality they prefer; and to actively participate in changing their lives and changing systems.

We are repeating a series of three Saturday seminars with parallel tracks four times. In addition, we provide one monthly evening roundtable as follow-up, while maintaining the ability to schedule 1:1 consultations, and parallel monthly self-advocate meetings.

There are two tracks per Saturday: one for self-advocates and their personal care attendants (hands-on help) and one for family members/professionals. Transitioning youth with disabilities attend modified instruction sessions that are similar to simultaneous sessions provided to family members and professionals. They are learning material that is critical to their self-advocacy, self-determination, sense of empowerment, and life transitions. Family members and others are engaged in sessions providing greater detail, but having similar goals of education, empowerment, financial and futures planning, and building a circle of support.

Throughout the workshops the underlying theme of “Defining Your Family Mission Plan” is revisited to: build a clear picture of the whole family’s future as well as the individuals; gain knowledge, advocacy and transitioning skills; establish community connections; and establish a solid foundation when making future revisions to the plan.

The underlying theme for self-advocates is “Personal Awareness, Self-Determination, and My Future”. Each Saturday they have the opportunity to create and build onto a portfolio, scrapbook, or other appropriate media that reflects who they are, who their supports are, what their interests and strengths are, their future plans, health initiatives, employment goals and friendships. In the end, the individual families to combine their plans into their own Family Mission Plan.