Originally published in Possibilities! Winter/Spring 2016
By Terry Robertson – Co-chair – Family Focus Society
In early May of 1988, Bree-Anna had just turned two years old, when Gord and I were asked if we wanted to attend a Family Focus conference in Richmond for families who had children with disabilities. Our local CDC paid for the trip so we could attend and bring information back to other families. Wow, what a change that one weekend made for our family!
With a mix of anxiety and a lot of hope, we flew to Richmond to get the information we hadn’t known we even needed for our family to plan for Bree-Anna’s future and our own. Needless to say we were pretty shocked to meet nearly 800 other family members and professionals who were all there for the same purpose. One of the key-note speakers was Dr. Lou Brown from the University of Wisconsin, who was one of the preeminent authorities on special education in North America. Even though we were in a room of 800 people, Gord and I felt like Dr. Brown was speaking only to us. We laughed, we cried, and most importantly, we gained the understanding of what life should be like for Bree-Anna. That one keynote address was a seminal moment for both of us. The things we heard that weekend set us on the path to challenge for inclusion in regular classrooms, to champion college programs that provided ongoing learning opportunities for young adults with disabilities, and to create a life that is rich in love, adventure, and meaningful contribution for Bree-Anna.
Gord and I have been to nine Family Focus Conferences in the last 28 years. These conferences which are all “For Families” and “By Families”, carry a long and proud history of supporting, encouraging and connecting our families with one another. This year’s conference will be in Richmond – the same place where it all started for us so many years ago.
The 2016 Conference has the theme “The Value of One, The Power of Many” and will be held at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond. Join us from October 21-23, 2016 for an event that I hope will give you all the inspiration, energy and information you and your family need to achieve your goals and dreams.
I hope we see you there!
Co-chair – Family Focus Society
Family Focus Society
The mission of the Family Focus Society is to enhance family strengths and resources through direct family involvement that preserves the dignity of all families within their community. The Family Focus Society was created in 1987 to organize conferences for families, by families. The conference brings together family members, self advocates, service providers, community partners and friends together to share their experiences, to learn and celebrate coming together and supporting one another. The Family Focus Society believes families are unique, cohesive, interconnected systems, the fundamental base of our society, and a source of strength, help, support and advice for each other.
The Family Focus Society believes that full societal inclusion and participation of people with disabilities is achievable by:
? Enhancing the skills and knowledge of families and of people working in the field.
? Aiding families and other caregivers to provide support in the community.
? Advocating for equality, individual dignity and other human rights.
? Expanding opportunities for choice and self-determination.
? Influencing positive attitudes and public awareness by recognizing the contributions of people with disabilities.
? Increasing access to quality health, education, vocational, and other human services and supports.
? Cultivating and providing leadership in the field.
? Seeking a diversity of disciplines, cultures, and perspectives in our work.
? Establishing partnerships and strategic alliances with organizations that share our values and goals.
Family Focus Conference
The first Family Focus Conference was held in Kelowna in 1987. Fifty people were expected to attend and the organizers were overwhelmed when over 300 attended! The great success of this initial conference which allowed families to meet and share information, prompted other communities to come forward over the subsequent years to host 14 conferences.
The 2016 conference entitled, “The Value of One; The Power of Many”, will bring together over 350 family members, self advocates, service providers, community partners and friends to network, connect and learn. The conference for 2016 will be held October 21-23 in Richmond BC at the Sheraton Richmond hotel and conference centre. The goal of the Family Focus conferences is to inspire, entertain and inform everyone who shares the belief that:
“Families are unique, cohesive, interconnected systems, the fundamental base of our society and a source of strength, help, support and advice for each other. We believe that full societal inclusion and participation of people with disabilities is achievable”.
Each conference builds on the one before it. The knowledge gleaned, experiences shared, and connections made, inform the planning of future conferences. The 2016 Family Focus Conference will have sessions of family leadership, family advocacy, financial security, housing, access to supports and services, sibling relationships, inclusive education, transitions and much more. Information about the upcoming conference and how to register or to submit a proposed session please visit http://www.familyfocusconference.com/.