Families are at the core of the network of support for a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities. It was family members who in the 1950s challenged the narrative that their loved one was supposed to go to live in an institution for the rest of their lives. Families mobilized and started the community living movement and continue to keep the inclusion movement going today. As the movement has evolved, it is the leadership from families that provides the energy and determination needed to explore and expand options so that their loved ones have the best opportunities to thrive.

At Inclusion BC, we put efforts into continuing to strengthen networks of families around the province through our Family Leadership Series. Regional events held through this series have been bringing families together to connect and increase their capacity to advocate individually and as a group to promote social inclusion for those they love.

Thanks to generous community support, these series are co-developed and co-hosted by local organizations who align with Inclusion BC’s values and know their communities best. We have co-organized series in Victoria, the Okanagan Valley, the Fraser Valley, the Coastal region and the Lower Mainland. These series included talks that offered tools and resources to strengthen family leadership, opportunities for sharing knowledge and developing community support.

Two of our core sessions that are the most popular are the parent and the self-determination panels. These offer an opportunity for parents to learn from each other, and, most importantly, to learn from people with lived experience about how they have been supported to make choices and be in the driving seat of their lives.

One participant, Jo-Anne G. from New Westminster, speaks about her experience presenting in one of these sessions:

“I am a self-advocate; I am also a mamma and a grandmama. At the event, I was able to talk about the problems I had when I was a kid and when I first got married and had our girls. Things are better now but more work needs to be done for us (persons with disabilities) to really be included. Being at the Rivers and Roads I was included and that was awesome, I told the other parents that we self advocates can speak up for ourselves. I asked them to help us speak up but not to speak for us; listen to us, watch us, if they do that, they (the parents) will learn a lot. Having a self advocate panel at these kinds of events is very important, people need to hear more from self-advocates and how they live their lives.” — Jo-Anne G.


Typically, 90-100% of participants report that they gained new knowledge or tools through attending the Family Leadership Series. We can often see the exact moment it happens, when parents have their ‘AHA’ moment and they find that piece of information or tip or resource that they have been looking for that will help them to advocate for their family member or support their loved one to achieve their goals of an inclusive life in community. It is heartwarming and we see it time and time again, and this is why we continue to offer this program across the province.

The next Family Leadership Series will be offered in October 2024 for families in the Northern region of the province. We are working with our partners to create a two-day in-person program that will meet families learning and connection needs. Stay tuned. Subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on social media to get the details.

This program is made possible through generous support from our donors. To help keep this program and support families across the province, donate today.


This article was featured in the latest edition of our monthly newsletter, Inclusion in Action. Subscribe today to receive regular updates with stories like this.

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