IL UCEDD Collaboration in Evidence at New Beth Lacey Center for Family Support in Cicero

A "one-stop" site for individuals with developmental disabilities and their familie

October 22, 2010

Creating circles of support for people with developmental disabilities and their families
Creating circles of support for people with developmental disabilities and their families

Five years ago, the Institute on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago (Illinois UCEDD) partnered with Community Support Services (CSS) - a nonprofit organization with 30 years of experience providing lifelong family and community centered supports to individuals with developmental disabilities (DD) and their families in the near west suburban Chicago area - to create The Project for Family Support 360 to respond to the unmet needs of families of persons with developmental disabilities in the primarily Latino communities of Berwyn and Cicero. A unique collaboration between people with DD, their families and the community, the ultimate goal was to create a one-stop Family Support Center where individuals with DD and their families could have all of their needs met in one central welcoming location that would offer family-centered, bi-cultural and bilingual supports.

Former CSS Executive Director, Beth Lacey, and Illinois UCEDD Director, Dr. Tamar Heller, collaborated in a joint effort with a group of passionate Latino parents, community partners, and the Illinois Latino Caucus in Springfield, to bring attention to the lack of culturally-sensitive, bi-lingual services for families with children with developmental disabilities in the Cicero-Berwyn area. Spurred on by a planning grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, awarded to the Illinois UCEDD in 2004, the dreams of the families have now become a reality. The collaborative effort led to funding for the purchase and renovation of the building from the Illinois Capital Development Board, the Town of Cicero Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and the Chicago Community Trust for the purchase and renovation of a building.

The former Lawndale News office at 5416 W. 25th Street in Cicero has been re-opened as The Beth Lacey Center for Family Support, named in honor of CSS' former Executive Director. The site is owned and operated by Brookfield-based Community Support Services, and the Illinois UCEDD continues to be a strong partner.

Guests of honor at an opening reception, held last week included Lilia Tenity, Director, Illinois DHS: Department of Developmental Disabilities; Grace Hou, Assistant Secretary of Programs, Illinois Department of Human Services; and State Representative Lisa Hernandez. Noting that the dreams in the room are "palpable and reflected in the brightly colored walls," Fr. Esequiel Sanchez of Mary Queen of Heaven church bestowed a special blessing on the interior in English and Spanish, witnessed by more than 75 local family members, service providers, funders, and state leaders in the Disability sector.

Representative Hernandez has been an active advocate for the Center, along with Illinois State Senator Martin Sandoval. Representative Hernandez spoke of how a group of Cicero and Berwyn families approached her with the idea for a Center five years ago. She thanked them for educating her about what the community needs, and pressing her while they strategized together to bring results. Isela Marquez, a mother/spokesperson for the group told those assembled that "it takes special people with empathy to pursue big dreams. " Her motivation for getting involved with the Center was, and continues to be the children who "are our teachers."

From this location, groups in the near West Suburban Chicago area will collaborate with CSS to help further this unique model of community/family support. The facility has been designed to accommodate the kinds of services and activities that the community has requested - peer-led leadership and advocacy training, family to family resource exchanges, networking and support, information and referral, community connections, and future planning supports - in a space that encourages interaction between families, community partners, service providers, visitors, and CSS staff. New collaborators are invited to join in this effort on an ongoing basis.

For further information on how to partner with CSS to provide your services at the location, or if you wish to receive services for a family member contact Rocio Perez, Site Director at (708) 354-4547 x142.