Helping to Build Effective Local SEPACs in Your State

While resources may be limited, leveraging partnerships is one way for Parent Centers to help build support for a state requirement for local SEPACs, and, to support local SEPACs as they are getting started. Once statewide partners share your vision for parents as valued advisors, they are more likely to work with you toward change.

In the states in which local SEPACs are active, some of the partners are:

The State Department of Education — In nearly every state with local SEPACs in place, the state’s DOE offers some form of information, guidance and/or technical assistance, often partnering with a Parent Center. The state’s DOE may distribute state or federal funds to support projects to build, sustain, and improve local SEPACs. In some states, the DOE has funded PTIs to develop videos, training or guidebooks to help support the development and continued work of local SEPACs. In some states the state’s Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) provides support and information, and will seek information from the local SEPACs for their own work.

Strategies for Engagement:

  • Encourage parents to attend and speak at State Board Open Public Hearings.
  • Consider meetings with DOE leaders to introduce and connect with local SEPACs.
  • Engage with state leaders around the development of your state’s ESSA Plan. (See ESSA in Chapter 2.)

State Special Education Advisory Council – Because of its advisory nature, the state’s SEAC is a natural partner to help support and sustain local SEPACs. In at least one state, the state’s SEAC asks local SEPACs to report to them on the needs of students at the local level. And in Colorado the state’s SEAC, together with the state’s DOE, developed and disseminated a guidebook on local SEPACs, even though that state does not require them.

Strategies for Engagement:

  • Attend and comment at public meetings.
  • Promote awareness of the work of SEPACs in your state or, if they do not exist in your state, in other states.
  • Encourage your state’s SEAC to promote the concept of local SEPACs.
  • Share information from this guide with your SEAC.

“We are really lucky in our district because a member of our local SEAC was also the state’s SEAC president. We are lucky to have someone who is knowledgeable and can bridge some of our local discussion with state level discussion.”
– Kristin Kane, PEATC, Virginia


Part II: A Resource Guide for Supporting Local SEPACs | Chapter 3: Building Partnerships to Build Effective Local SEPACs in Your State

State Councils on Developmental Disabilities (Councils) are federally funded, self-governing organizations charged with identifying the most pressing needs of people with developmental disabilities in their state or territory. Councils are committed to advancing public policy and systems change that help these individuals gain more control over their lives. State Councils work to address identified needs by conducting advocacy, systems change, and capacity building efforts that promote self-determination, integration, and inclusion. Key activities include conducting outreach, providing training and technical assistance, removing barriers, developing coalitions, encouraging citizen participation, and keeping policymakers informed about disability issues. Every 5 Years, Councils are required to develop a plan to map out priorities for the coming years.

In some states, Councils have provided grant funding, child care and travel stipends and other forms of financial support to help parents participate in SEPACs, as well as related conferences and training programs. Many Councils have community-generated grant opportunities that can be used to help organize, train and support families who want to take a more active and engaged role in a local SEPAC.

While not directly related to SEPACs, many state Councils fund or provide a program called Partners in Policymaking, a nationally recognized advocacy training program. As the name implies, the goal of Partners in Policymaking is to educate participants to be active partners with those who make policy.

And in some states, the Council has working groups, task forces or subcommittees that take up special issues, including education and parent/consumer engagement.

Strategies for Engagement:

  • Testimony or public comment at Council Meetings.
  • Grant or funding opportunities for special projects.
  • Provide input on State Plan.
  • Volunteer to be part of a workgroup or subcommittee around issues of parent engagement in special education.

University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Services (UCEDD) – Since 1963, University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD) have been working to accomplish a shared vision that foresees a nation in which all Americans, including Americans with disabilities, participate fully in their communities. Independence, productivity, and community inclusion are key components of this vision. Currently, sixty-seven UCEDDs in every state and territory are located in a university setting.

Strategies for Engagement:

  • Work to ensure that professional preparation programs for teachers, and educators emphasize the important role of parents as advisors.
  • Advocate that guest speakers brought in for conferences and lecture series address the topic of SEPACs and parents as advisors.

Local and Statewide NGOs can be a resource to help get a SEPAC in your state. Some Parent Center leaders have worked with colleagues at organizations such as The Arc and Learning Disabilities Associations.

Strategies for Engagement:

  • Co-sponsor workshops and conferences to highlight the concepts and benefits of SEPACs.
  • Blog or provide content for their social media and newsletters to promote the benefits of local SEPACs.

Centers for Independent Living are a consumer‑controlled, community‑based, cross‑disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agencies that are designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities and provide an array of independent living services. Among the core services they provide are individual and system advocacy, and transition assistance for youth, so the partnership opportunities are natural. In some states, the independent living centers offer training and support, and guest speakers.

Protection and Advocacy System

In some states, the Statewide Protection and Advocacy System can be a partner for outreach and training to help families get engaged as advisors.