Partners in Policymaking Graduating Class of 2016

Partners in Policymaking Graduating Class of 2016

Earlier this year, Jodie, an individual supported in ACT’s Community Living (CL) program, applied for and was accepted to a leadership training program called Partners in Policymaking.

Jodie was one of 19 selected. She was thrilled about the opportunity.

Partners is an intense eight-month program for families with young children who have a disability and adults with disabilities. Participants must attend eight two-day training sessions at which they hear from professionals in the field of disabilities.

They are given the latest information about independent living, inclusive education, family support, technological advances for persons with severe physical disabilities, person-centered planning, and critical State and Federal issues.

Her class topics included:

  • History of important movements such as the Disability Movement
  • Inclusive and high quality education
  • Federal and State legislation
  • Inclusive communities
  • Employment
  • Guardianship
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Effective communication
  • Positive behavior supports
  • Home- and Community-based services
  • Assistive technology
  • Issues of sexuality
  • Community organizing
  • Parliamentary procedures

Jodie went to the class eager to learn about a broad range of aspects about having a disability. A two-day stay in a Jefferson City hotel at the end of the program was an added perk!

The program’s graduation requirements included attending classes, completing monthly assignments, and finishing a major project.

Homework was designed to engage participants on a deeper level. For example, they were asked to reach out to their legislators regarding legislation they had strong views about and inquire about his or her stance on an issue. They were also asked to write about they want in life and steps they need to take to make it happen.

For the major project, participants were asked to get involved in something they are passionate about that could be tailored to meet their individual strengths and interests. This could include activities such as interning, organizing a letter-writing campaign, serving on a board, or organizing special receptions or town meetings with public officials.

They were encouraged to work on this project over the course of the program.

Jodie, who has proudly been her own guardian since she turned 18, chose to advocate for guardianship legislation.

Guardianship is a legal tool that allows and empowers a person (the guardian) to make decisions for another (the ward). Being her own guardian is very important to Jodie. She makes her own decisions about her life, hopes, and dreams.

Alternatives to Guardianship says, “There is often a general assumption that just because someone has a disability, mental health diagnosis, or is aging, he or she will need a guardian. In reality, everyone is presumed competent to make choices about their own lives when they become an adult, unless a court says otherwise. With the right supports, many people with disabilities or special healthcare needs are able to remain “their own person,” making their own decisions and being in charge of their own lives. The trick is to find a balance- giving the person enough support and protection so they can live a safe and healthy life without taking away their rights and freedom to make choices and decisions for themselves.” See www.moguardianship.com.

Every aspect of Partners was meaningful to Jodie.

At graduation, she gave a heartfelt (and tearful) speech. She thanked everyone who played a role in her participation in Partners, including her roommate Brandi, CL Supervisor Brenda Wilson, Partners instructors, and Direct Support Professional (DSP) Candy.

So far, 492 parents and self-advocates have graduated from Partners. This year was Missouri’s 22nd class. It is sponsored by The Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council.