A Family's Perspective of the New Futures Initiative

March 14, 2016

In February, families from Washington, DC participated in our New Futures InitiativeTM housing training to learn from our step-by-step process to create alternative, community-based housing solutions for individuals with disabilities. These families are part of an organization called Integrated Living Opportunities and were brought together by Maedi Tanham Carney, founder of M&L Special Needs Planning. One participating family member, Barbara Goldschmidt, wrote about her experience. Read on to get a firsthand account of the training process, and find Barbara’​s full story at the link below.  

What It Takes to Weave Bridges

A group of about twelve parents from the DC area traveled to Evanston to learn the secrets of Center for Independent Futures’ success. These are some of the qualities we saw in action, the basic elements for creating connections that endure.


Our training started bright and early in the morning. Center for Independent Futures’ Executive Director Ann Sickon asked us to use one word to describe how we were feeling. People said apprehensive, hopeful, exited, overwhelmed. As parents of kids with a disability, we’ve had lots of promises made. Who could blame us for being skeptical? Yet, we were there because the alternative was being home alone feeling stuck and burned out. Ann assured us many questions would be answered during the two-day training.

Holistic Thinking

My husband and I have long contemplated a move from New Jersey to DC because we want our daughter with special needs to be near her sister. In the back of my mind I knew a house or apartment was not the answer. Through some desperate, undirected surfing of the Internet I found Maedi’s website. It contained a diagram for a Full Life model created by Center for Independent Futures. In this multicolored image an individual is placed in the center of “circles of support.”

The circles represent elements of a whole life: learning, earning, connections, fun, wellness, getting around, and community engagement. “Housing” in this model is less like stacking discrete bricks to make a wall and more like weaving strands of energy to build bridges to the world. Our daughter needed it. I need it. I had contacted Maedi immediately.


You can’t build anything without a plan. The successful plans Center for Independent Futures has developed were shared with us in two books. Both contain step-by-step guidance based on the best practices Center for Independent Futures has found useful to date. We saw those plans put into action when we visited three supported housing locations, each a little different. The folks we met during our visits to the supported housing—both residents and staff—were inspirational.


It was an intense two days, as stirring for the trainers as it was for the parents. At the front door, Ann was saying goodbye to parents. I gave her a heartfelt hug and she sent us off with these parting words. “Remember how important it is to celebrate. Celebrate every accomplishment. Don’t complete a task or achieve a skill and then rush to the next item on your list. Celebrate. It’s a way to connect, relax together and appreciate what you’ve done so far.”

As we headed home, I thought about miracles and how they may come as a gentle wave instead of a thunderbolt. I felt the reverberations from all the people we had met, buoyed by shared intelligence and genuine care. 

Thank you to Barbara for sharing her story! To read her complete post, click here. Learn more about Integrated Living Opportunities at www.ilonow.org.

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