Our History

Center for Independent Futures was founded in Evanston, Illinois, by Kay Branz and Jane Doyle, two women raising daughters with developmental disabilities. From their first meeting over 20 years ago, Kay and Jane together navigated the challenges of the school system and advocated for programs and experiences that would help prepare their children for the world beyond high school.

Due to the lack of available services from the state of Illinois, the women decided they needed to create ways to develop and obtain services on their own. Kay and Jane sought best practices to support not only individuals with disabilities, but also their families. From this approach, Center for Independent Futures was created.

At its founding in 2002, Center for Independent Futures worked closely with a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization called Toward Independent Living and Learning (TILL). Center for Independent Futures embraced TILL’s model, which enables individuals with disabilities to become active, contributing citizens and live independently in their chosen communities. Later, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) in Canada introduced Center for Independent Futures to Personal Networks, a service designed to enable individuals with disabilities to sustain their quality of life. Northwestern University, also located in Evanston, proved an invaluable resource to Center for Independent Futures during the development of the New Futures Initiative, a process to create community-based housing options.

Over the years, Center for Independent Futures has expanded the scope of its services. Today, it supports hundreds of individuals throughout the Chicago area and consults with organizations around the country. Locally, Center for Independent Futures provides coaching and tutoring services and oversees four dedicated residential facilities in Evanston. Ann Sickon, who serves as Executive Director, and a dedicated team made up of the board of directors, auxiliary board, staff, professional support, family partners, corporate sponsors and foundations, and private financial supporters, have Center for Independent Futures poised for an unprecedented period of growth and a rapid expansion of services, including cutting edge online support for the Full Life Process™ that will allow Center for Independent Futures to help more people than ever before.

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We uphold a vision for the future where individuals with disabilities have access to all opportunities of a full life.


We create innovative product and service models that give individuals with disabilities and their families the skills and opportunities to realize full lives.

Our Core Values

  • Equality: Individuals with disabilities have the right to access all of the opportunities of a full life in their communities.
  • Leadership: Individuals and families provide the leadership that drives our work.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration among individuals and families amplifies advocacy and expands resources.
  • Community: Building relationships and networks is essential to sustainable futures.
  • Innovation: Realizing full lives requires innovative approaches using both conventional and untapped resources.

Our Philosophy

Center for Independent Futures creates opportunities for individuals to access choice, experience, responsibility, and relationships through their own processes. Our goal is for each individual to reach his or her greatest potential and become a contributing member of the community.

  • Our models emphasize choice: an individual's right to make decisions based on his or her hopes and dreams.
  • We believe individuals learn best through experience: the opportunity to see, taste, touch, hear, feel, or try something firsthand.
  • Our products and services encourage responsibility: the right to have ownership of one's ideas, actions, and choices.
  • Most importantly, Center for Independent Futures' work is grounded in relationships: the ties and connections, whether familial, professional or personal, that strengthen and sustain us.