For the last couple of months, I have been consulting with friends with kids with special needs and clients who seem to feel alone and defeated. How is this so? Why is this so? Well, that is the same questions that I asked. I find it strange that the information, services and support that these families are legally entitled to is just not enough. This makes me very uncomfortable and eager to help! This is, by no means, an attack on regional centers. I am, simply, hoping to get a dialogue going and provide a safe place for families to share their experiences. With that being said, let us discuss the function of a regional center. Who is eligible to use a regional center? I researched the Department of Developmental Services’ website for some basic facts and functions of regional centers.
Who is eligible?
“To be eligible for services, a person must have a disability that begins before the person’s 18th birthday, be expected to continue indefinitely and present a substantial disability as defined in Section 4512 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code. Eligibility is established through diagnosis and assessment performed by regional centers. Infants and toddlers (age 0 to 36 months) who are at risk of having developmental disabilities or who have a developmental delay may also qualify for services. The criteria for determining the eligibility of infants and toddlers is specified in Section 95014 of the California Government Code. In addition, individuals at risk of having a child with a developmental disability may be eligible for genetic diagnosis, counseling and other prevention services. For information about these services, see Early Start.” (http://www.dds.ca.gov/General/Eligibility.cfm, 2015)
It is very important for parents and families to be aware of the eligibility criterion. It is ALWAYS better to go into the regional center with prior knowledge pertaining to the eligibility process. This optimizes the experience and its results.
What do regional centers provide?
Some of the services and supports provided by the regional centers include:
- Information and referral
- Assessment and diagnosis
- Lifelong individualized planning and service coordination
- Purchase of necessary services included in the individual program plan
- Resource development
- Assistance in finding and using community and other resources
- Advocacy for the protection of legal, civil and service rights
- Early intervention services for at risk infants and their families
- Genetic counseling
- Family support
- Planning, placement, and monitoring for 24-hour out-of-home care
- Training and educational opportunities for individuals and families
- Community education about developmental disabilities (http://www.dds.ca.gov/rc/RCSvs.cfm, 2015)
Those are the facts. However, I have run into several families that have expressed a sense of disappointment, confusion, and abandonment when it comes to their experiences with their regional center. Is this due to a lack of knowledge on the families’ part, or discrepancy in the function of the regional center? Regional centers are huge entities with huge caseloads. Unfortunately, it is not enough to walk into one with no prior knowledge. There are things that families should walk in equipped with. It is not safe to put all of your faith into the eligibility worker, they are human! Several people do this and they leave feeling defeated and unsupported. No one knows your child and their needs better than you. You have to be an active advocate, or hire one! Sometimes, this is not financially possible. However, it is free to do research. It is more affordable to consult with a professional prior to inquiring about eligibility. It is beneficial to maintain communication with a professional, in addition to the regional center. This person can help you prepare for meetings, draft letters, prepare questions, and many other things that parents will face as a regional center client. So, is the regional center enough?? Are you feeling more and more defeated with each regional center experience??
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