Family Support Today

Over fifty years ago, children with developmental disabilities often went to special schools far from their family homes, and as adults they lived in large institutions where it was thought they could be better served.

For the past two decades, we have learned that all children and adults can live more successful and happy lives in real neighborhoods and communities if the right supports are in place.

Inclusion and Belonging

Families were instrumental in creating this shift away from exclusion and segregation, to inclusion and belonging. Family support as a result was born as families came together to share resources, become empowered as advocates, and most of all create a demand for services and supports that would help them keep their family member at home, whatever it would take. Initially family support involved cash subsidies to families for expenses they incurred. It has evolved to be more centered on finding and building natural supports in the family's community.

Visit Local Chapters to learn about how First In Families provides this support. Visit Customer Leadership to learn how First In Families uses the expertise of families and individuals to manage our programs.

In 1994, a significant piece of federal family support legislation was passed, sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin. The Families of Children with Disabilities Support Act of 1994 was of symbolic importance because its language officially acknowledged that family support is the right way to support families with children with disabilities. Several states had already been doing this, and even had family support legislation at the local level.

Family Support Today

In October of 2000, the national Family Support Act was signed into law, as Title II of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (Public Law 106-402, October 2000). The purpose is to promote, strengthen, and increase the availability and funding of family-driven support services for families of children with disabilities. However, it has never been funded. To learn more, visit the Family Support Agenda Web site and access the 2011 Wingspread Report.