Frontline Initiative

Focus on Consumers in Virginia


Patricia Gonet is assistant director of community training for the Virginia Institute for Developmental Disabilities in Richmond, Virginia

From 1994 through 1996, individuals in three Virginia counties participated in person-centered training after the counties were selected through a competitive grant process. Each community was able to provide thirty hours of instruction and activities based on a person-centered planning curriculum. Initially, five consumers were selected at each site. Teams that would participate in the training were assembled for each of the individuals. By the end of fiscal year 1995–96, ten individuals and their teams in Chesterfield county, ten in Stafford, and five in Middlesex had participated.

During 1996, the project also sponsored a training conference on person-centered strategies. The conference included training for parents, teachers, and professionals who sought to strengthen their skills in facilitation and person-centered planning.

Chesterfield and Stafford counties have gone on to develop a second phase based on the person-centered approach that has been the recent focus of the project. Parent mentors who were hired by the project area in each location have worked to develop positive transition opportunities for students with disabilities in Stafford and Chesterfield counties. This phase offers training in person-centered planning to teams that include students, family members, agency service providers, paraprofessionals, professionals, and administrators. Since its implementation, parent mentors have seen enhanced teamwork, cooperation, and communication among community services, parents, and public schools and a great deal of networking between families and focus individuals.