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A Champion of Supporting Families 

The Charting the Lifecourse circle that outlines goal oriented planningODP’s Everyday Lives recommendations outline the office’s commitment to creating equitable and fulfilling lives for individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or autism. ODP’s recommendations turn into initiatives spearheaded by subject matter experts who take care to stay ahead of the curve when assessing the evolving initiatives.

Candida Walton took the mantle of ODP’s Supporting Families Statewide Initiative Coordinator on November 1, 2019, which took her to the helm of recommendation four: Supporting Families Across the Lifespan. Since then, she has been reviewing current practices and assessing what ODP can do to ensure individuals and their chosen families are well-equipped to face the future.

Walton has 13 years of service to the Commonwealth under her belt. After serving as an income maintenance caseworker, she moved to Polk State Center where she worked up the ranks to ultimately become a staff development specialist. In this role, Walton became the Charting the Lifecourse lead for ODP’s state centers. Before she worked with the Commonwealth, Candi worked in behavioral health and psychology for 10 years. 

A headshot of Candida WaltonWalton and ODP affiliates have been pinpointing strategies for expanding the state’s Community of Practice (CoP) for Supporting Families initiative. PA’s CoP for Supporting Families is part of a national collaboration that shares best practice information on supporting individuals with disabilities, or self-advocates, and their chosen families. One of the main strategies to tackle is getting the information into the hands of the people who need it. 

The Charting the Lifecourse framework is used by the CoP for Supporting Families to assist individuals and families to have in creating goal-oriented life plans that can be easily navigated on a micro and macro level. The commonwealth offers an array of opportunities for people to learn about Charting the LifeCourse principles and tools.  Many of these sessions are led by or presented with assistance from  Self-Advocates United as 1 and the PA Family Network.

To ensure families are supported locally, Walton is looking to expand support for Regional Collaboratives by helping to identify ‘Champions’ of Charting the LifeCourse across the state. “Those who know about LifeCourse and readily connect with the principles.  They are the people who are able to see how to use it and find value in applying Charting the LifeCourse to support people and their families to live their good lives,” Says Walton, “so it’s just champions and connect them with their local Regional Collaboratives to help to lead the cause locally. ”

Among other strategies for expanding CoP, Walton is looking to re-work strategies for online training sessions, create digital toolkits to introduce the  LifeCourse framework, create new quality measurement tools to assess family supports and to establish and strengthen cross-system partnerships to expand support networks for families.