Frequently Asked Questions about the Self-Determination Program
The Self-Determination Program (SDP) is a relatively recent game changer in California for individuals with developmental disabilities. At Undivided, we often hear from families who are thinking about transitioning from traditional Regional Center services to SDP, and they have lots of questions about how it works, if it will benefit their family, and if they have the bandwidth and capacity to manage it.
To demystify Self-Determination and tackle some of the most common questions about the program, we sat down with Christine Tolbert, the Self-Determination Program Manager for the California State Council for Developmental Disabilities. Whether you’re already enrolled in SDP or you’re interested in learning more about how the program works, check out the highlights from our enlightening conversation.
Should I enroll my child in Self-Determination?
Tolbert tells us, “I think that the reason that folks are really choosing Self-Determination is largely because they're not feeling well served by the services and supports that they're currently receiving. Maybe they're unable to find staff or keep consistent staff or services, or they have more unique needs that might be more difficult to meet with the more traditional Regional Center vendors.” Self-Determination also provides more “freedom, control, and flexibility and being able to choose services and supports.”
However, SDP may not be right for everyone. Tolbert says, “I think some of the reasons that folks don't switch, at least those people that do go to the orientation, is they realize that extra added layer of responsibility and choosing and arranging for services. That can feel like a little too much for some people.” Although Regional Center does fund support for making the transition, some families prefer the traditional model or don’t feel that they have any unmet needs that SDP could help with. “At the end of the day,” Tolbert says, “whatever model it is that's working for you and your loved one, that is the one that you should stick with.”
One question parents might have is whether to switch to SDP if respite is the only Regional Center services their child receives. Tolbert says, “I'm not going to say yes or no, because I don't know the number of hours and what the needs are, but I will say that your money will go further in Self-Determination than it can in the traditional model.” Because the vendor is not using part of the funding for overhead, that money can go toward more services for your child under SDP.
How long does it take to enroll in Self-Determination?
What is an Independent Facilitator (IF), and what is their role?
Will Regional Center pay for an Independent Facilitator?
How do I find an Independent Facilitator?
Tolbert gives two resources for finding an Independent Facilitator to work with:
The California SDP Network, which Tolbert explains has “filters available so that you can choose which geographic regions they serve, any special ages, or skill sets that you prefer an independent facilitator to have.”
Local Self-Determination Advisory Committees, run by each Regional Center, where you’ll be able to meet the people involved with SDP in your community, including IFs and families currently enrolled.
Undivided members can also ask their Navigator for our list of recommended Independent Facilitators.
Can I change my Independent Facilitator at any time?
How is my Self-Determination budget set?
What if Regional Center won’t agree to the budget my child needs?
What is the difference between a budget and a spending plan?
Can my spending plan and budget change during the year?
Your spending plan can be adjusted throughout the year if you want to allocate your budget dollars toward different services.
However, what if new needs arise after your budget has already been set by the Regional Center? Tolbert says, “In the event that life happens or there's an emergency or there is a need that came up that was not considered when you were negotiating that budget, you have the right to have probably an urgent IPP meeting, discuss the need, maybe add a goal to your IPP, and attach a dollar amount to that. That can happen at any time in the year.”
What services can be included in Self-Determination?
What does an FMS do?
The financial management service provider is essentially the account holder for your Regional Center budget. The FMS is responsible for paying 100% of your providers throughout the year.
Tolbert has this advice when it comes to working with your FMS:
What's the #1 thing you can do if you're curious about transitioning to SDP? Register for an orientation from the California State Council for Developmental Disabilities and get all the facts.
We don't want you to give up! We want your child and your family to have what they need. Thank you to Christine Tolbert for all of her tips and for answering questions about getting started, what can be covered with SDP, who's available to help, budgets, spending plans, and more. (You can catch the full recording and transcript of our event here.)
If you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter to learn more about upcoming free events, and join our private Facebook group to get your questions answered by fellow parents in our supportive community!