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Family Leadership

What is Family Leadership?

Family leadership is parents and family members sharing their unique perspective and experiences to help other families, improve how organizations provide supports to children and families, and influence and shape the policies and systems that provide services. Family leaders can learn and develop specific skills and core competencies that better enable them to be a strong leader and a collective voice for all families.

Who can be a Family Leader?

Everyone is able to become a leader!

A Family Leader could be a…

  • Parent
    • Biological parent
    • Step-parent
    • Foster parent
    • Adoptive parent
  • Grandparent
  • Sibling
  • Other – any other person who plays an important role in a person with a disability’s life (aunt, uncle, neighbor, etc.)

What do Family Leaders do?

Family leaders make a difference in many ways. Here are the basic ways family leaders partner with others to create change:

Partnering to Support Others

Partnering To Support Others includes family leaders who want to support other families who might be experiencing circumstances or events that are similar to what they have experienced in the past.

Partnering for Quality Improvement

Partnering for Quality Improvement includes family leaders who want to help organizations, service systems, or policy makers improve services to better meet the needs of families:


This is participating in focus groups, completing satisfaction surveys, reviewing products for an organization, serving on advisory boards or councils, providing professional development on issues from the family perspective, or serving in a staff role in an organization.


This means sharing personal experiences with decision makers by providing testimony at hearings, meeting in person with legislators, or writing newspaper editorials or letters to the editor on systems or policy issues. A family leader might also run for public office, participate in a public awareness campaign, serve in advisory roles on statewide systems, or serve in professional leadership or management roles for systems.

Why should I become a family leader?

  • To make the journey easier for other families.
  • To learn knowledge and skills to help with future challenges.
  • It’s empowering to reach back and help a system that helped you.
  • To improve services for children and families.
  • It’s a chance to be a part of bringing about real change.