The Developmental Disabilities Administration is excited to announce the creation of a Family Advisory Council!
This Council reflects DDA’s ongoing commitment to have those with lived experience guide our work. Read more to learn about the background and application process of this new council.
In 2016 DDA created a Self-Advocates Advisory Council. The group has representation from self-advocates around the state. The Self-Advocates Advisory Council has taken an active role in reviewing draft policies, procedures, practices, and communications. Their feedback has made a meaningful impact and improved the quality of DDA services.
In the spring of 2022, a group of dedicated family advocates asked DDA to create a Family Advisory Council. This request has been enthusiastically embraced as a natural outgrowth of the administration’s vision and mission.
We recognize that much of what DDA is, and the models for services and supports available in this state came from the hard work and dedication of family members. DDA honors that history and recognizes that family members and self-advocates are at the heart of the history and future of DDA services. We are invested in creating a venue to ensure families are also offering their perspectives and insight as DDA staff draft policies, procedures, practices, and communications.
Over the last year DDA has met with a multitude of family groups to gather input on the formation of the Family Advisory Council. There is not a singular “voice of families” within the DDA community of stakeholders. Families brought many perspectives from their experiences to weave a tapestry of what they would like to see in a Family Advisory Council.
The mission of the Family Advisory Council differs from the current parent and family networks offering advocacy and support around the state. Parent and family networks offer an invaluable service in advocating for changes to current programs and services or the inclusion of new programs and services. This advocacy has a powerful impact on the overall direction of DDA services. The Family Advisory Council will be collaborating at a more micro level with DDA staff. Family Council members will meet monthly to provide feedback to staff on programs, policies, and procedures of DDA as they are being developed to ensure they reflect the experiences, wisdom, and creativity of family members of DDA eligible clients. Family Advisory Council members will have opportunities to provide suggestions on how to improve the quality and effectiveness of DDA programs. DDA staff will also seek input from the Family Advisory Council to ensure robust, transparent, accessible communication with DDA eligible individuals and their families.
The first task of the Family Advisory Council will be to finalize a charter. The charter will evolve and change over time as the council’s collective work moves forward. The work will be challenging at times as we navigate different perspectives, but we will do it together and create a better product for it.
The initial Family Advisory Council will be comprised of 15 members, but those numbers may change as the incoming Family Advisory Council makes determinations about the process moving forward.
The Family Advisory Council will strive to reflect the diversity of Washington state. We hope for broad representation reflecting cultural, language and racial diversity, a wide range of developmental disabilities, varying levels of support needs and reflecting need across the lifespan and across the geography of Washington state. The council will be comprised of family members who meet one or more of the following criteria:
|Family member of a DDA eligible person||Representation from:|
|· With significant disabilities
· Under the age of 18,
· Over the age of 18
· Who is a sibling/grandchild
|· BIPOC community members
· ESL communities
· Each of DDA’s three regions
· Urban and Rural communities
Members may meet multiple criteria. Appointments to the Family Advisory Council will be for a two-year term. The Family Advisory Council members are asked to commit to attending a two-hour meeting monthly on a reoccurring day of the month as determined by the Family Advisory Council. Members will connect with and gather information from their communities to ensure they are representing the variety of experiences of all families. Employees of DDA are not eligible to serve on the Family Advisory Council.
Throughout the months of September and October the announcement about DDA accepting applications for the Family Advisory Council were sent out via GovDelivery and posted on numerous websites. To ensure as many family members as possible heard about this opportunity, DDA sent out over 35,000 letters to any individual identified as having a relative who is eligible for DDA services. These letters were sent in the language identified in DDA’s records as being the primary language of the individual with the disability. The applications were also offered in over 13 languages to ensure there was access to the greatest number of interested family members.
The response has been overwhelming. To date there have been over 270 applications received. This incredible expression of interest and investment in the representation of the lived experiences of family members being brought to bear on the work DDA is doing is inspiring.
The applications will be reviewed by a panel which will consist of family members who are not applying to be members of this first two-year term of the Family Advisory Council; a representative from DSHS Secretary Jilma Meneses office, a representative from DVR, a representative from County DD services and DDA’s Equity Diversity and Inclusion Administrator. To ensure impartiality, the panel will receive the applications without names attached. In subsequent years after the creation of the Family Advisory Council the panel reviewing applications will include members from the Family Advisory Council.
Obviously with the number of applications there will be many individuals who will not be able to participate in this original Family Advisory Council. However, DDA is committed to reaching out to all those who have expressed interest to try to offer other opportunities on specific projects from family members to bring the perspective of their experience.