It is nearly a month since President Obama issued an order instituting what’s known as sequestration. Deep spending cuts are not just on the horizon, they are beginning to be felt in various programs. Most notably in a number of states, including Colorado, Vocational Rehabilitation Programs have gone to Order of Selection. This process occurs because of insufficient federal and state resources and implements a waiting list serving those with the most significant needs. The wait list was implemented on March 1st. From what I can gather, if your Individual Plan for Employment was active before this deadline you will continue to receive support.
Mikelle and I recently spoke with Congressman Ed Perlmutter at our local Starbucks and asked him about his concerns for on-going funding for people with disabilities. He was hopeful that President Obama would do all he could to protect special education and other programs. At the same time, he acknowledged there are no guarantees and hinted there will be cuts some where, he just wasn’t sure where. While the future is unclear, families and individuals with disabilities need to advocate and yes, develop a contingency plan. One beneficial element to include is a focus on building and developing your own community. Mikelle and I like short action plans, no more than ninety days.
The world changes so quickly and these are flexible instruments which help us focus on our priorities. Here are the first important steps to your contingency plan.
1. Re-visit your vision. As our children go through the school system the goals we have for them vary. Some families just want their children to be safe, accepted and included in the school community to some degree. Other families want their children to be fully included and receive a “typical education” like all the other children.
If your child is still in school, be sure to have a clear vision. A positive vision needs to be passionately communicated to educators helping them to allocate appropriate resources to your child. Parents need to assist professionals in doing their job, not expect them to do all our jobs too.
Out of school? You still need a vision. What does your son or daughter want to do with their adult life? What kind of resources will it take to help them reach their goals? Who has those resources? Please consider generic resources within the community. The community is not out of reach for our adult children with disabilities, it is a necessary part of their support plan. Especially, if resources are in danger of being cut. You cannot wait for more funding, it may not come.
2. Determine your mission in supporting the vision. Every team needs a leader. Typically, it is the parents who take on this role by helping their children advocate for themselves in the complex maze of support services. What is your leadership mission? Otherwise find another advocate that can do the job.
3. Assess the current situation. Are you getting what you need in terms of the resources you need to fulfill your vision? Yes? Good for you. Now, imagine next year’s services are 3-5%. Do you have a reserve? Maybe? No? Then it is time to re-assess your needs and the cost of fulfilling them. What we need to know is how much do those services cost.
4. Anticipate Change. The successful families I know are like information seeking missiles, often with an innate sense of change. They smell it on the wind, read their environment, talk to neighbors, other families, providers and community members. They call, verify and ask questions because they want to respond to change rather than react to it.
In this instance, responsiveness is the their parental response “ability”.
5. Develop an Action Plan and Implement it. Part of an effective strategy is to gather friends, family, providers and folks from the community to brainstorm new ideas, identify additional resources and delegate responsibility to achieving. Check out this video on conducting a group action plan (GAP).
We would like Congress to work together to solve the budget challenges without making cuts to important programs like Medicaid and Medicare. We would like our leaders to find their best selves in leading the country back to social responsibility and fiscal responsibility. So by leading our own efforts we can support them in doing just that.