As a trainee in the Partners program, I now have a framework to help me make a difference for people with disabilities. I testified at a Joint Finance Committee meeting of the Delaware State Legislature,and I spoke as a parent of a young child with a disability in support of continued funding. I was terrified but thanks to Partners, I had the courage to testify.
I was scared when I testified... no I was very, very, very nervous. I can only get better.
Unfortunately, Delaware is one of those few states that does not have a statewide, comprehensive system of early intervention services. My three year old was not served by P. L. 99-457. I used to be angry that the parents before me did not advocate enough to get legislation passed, well now I am putting my anger to work.
In 1993, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that children with disabilities are not entitled to a “Cadillac style education [but only] a serviceable Chevrolet style education.” Partners graduates in Delaware were successful in having legislation recently enacted that addresses the fundamental issue of fairness, and ensures that students with disabilities have the same right to learn and fulfill their potential as students without disabilities.
Nearly 200 individuals have graduated from the Partners in Policymaking program in Delaware. This article, from DelAware, the newsletter of the Delaware Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Disabilities Studies, includes a brief overview of the Partners program and testimonials from recent graduates.
A young Partners graduate in Delaware is using her leadership skills to urge state legislators to fund jobs programs for people with developmental disabilities. Her brother, who has Down Syndrome, would "like to learn a little independence."
Angela Mitchell is a recent graduate of the Delaware Partners in Policymaking® program. She echoes the concerns and frustrations of so many parents and self advocates who feel alone in working the system and attempting to get services for themselves and family members. Angela shares the benefits that she gained from her Partners experience –
“I really want to thank you for taking a chance and investing in me. Before Partners In policymaking, I really felt hopeless and disenfranchised. I hit so many barriers for my son. Although I certainly don't have all the answers, I feel better equipped to advocate for my son and others like him on this journey. It's amazing to think, that about a year ago, I presented this topic at Legislative Hall for my project!”