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Regional Center’s Social-Recreational Funding Is Back!

Regional Center’s Social-Recreational Funding Is Back!

Published: Nov. 22, 2021Updated: Oct. 11, 2023

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Funding for social recreation and other essential Regional Center services is finally back! In 2009, the Department of Developmental Services was tasked with reducing their budget by 10%, resulting in deep budget cuts and the alteration or suspension of vital Regional Center services, including funding for summer camps, swimming, horseback riding, art and dance classes, and more. In 2021, AB 136 was passed, restoring access to several of these programs to Regional Center clients as of June 30, 2021.

We spoke with Chris Arroyo, the regional manager of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) to get the inside scoop!

What services were restored?

After Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the 2021–2022 state budget, $19 million was added to the general fund to restore access to the following services:

  • Social-recreation services
  • Camping and associated travel
  • Educational services for those ages 3 to 17
  • Non-medical therapies, including specialized recreation, art, dance, and music. Some examples include:
    • horseback riding
    • swimming lessons
    • dance or gymnastics classes
    • summer and day camps
    • YMCA programs
    • art classes
    • sports leagues
    • visits to universally accessible parks

What are the benefits of social-recreation services?

Benefits of social-recreational services for kids with disabilities

Arroyo says that social-recreational services are “more or less programs in recreational settings,” where people with disabilities can:

  • interact with their peer group, either with other individuals with disabilities or people their own age
  • make friends and maintain friendships
  • learn social skills and healthy boundaries
  • participate in supervised outings in the community, such as going to the movies, baseball games, or visiting parks and beaches.

Creating social-recreation based goals for an IPP

Arroyo tells us that creating goals for your child’s Individualized Program Plan (IPP) will be similar in process to determining IEP goals. He suggests:

  1. Creating specific goals so that you can show how your child is progressing.

  2. Ensuring that goals are supported by the service you are requesting.

For example, if your child participates in a Saturday recreation program where the group meets weekly, their goal might be to learn conversational turn-taking. By participating in the activity, your child can learn conversational skills by practicing with their peers and observing them.

Arroyo also shared some great tips for preparing for an IPP meeting:

  • Bring documentation to show where your child’s needs are, but avoid approaching goals from a deficit-based perspective. He says, “If I stink at math, and we do a deficit-based analysis and provide me services based on that, I’m going to be in a day program where I work on math six hours a day. And if I stink at math, do you think I’m gonna be happy working this stuff out? I’m going to be frustrated.”

  • Instead, rely on person-centered planning (PCP). What kind of life does your child want to build? A person-centered plan focuses on the whole person and their desires, interests, preferences, and dreams. Person-centered planning begins with a person’s vision of themselves in the future, and it brings together the various people and organizations involved in their life now to help bring that vision to reality.

Social skills are essential to creating a quality life because they help individuals interface with others while working and build fulfilling friendships with others. Arroyo says, “Sometimes friendships just make the difference between everything.”

There are several resources you can use to align your child’s goals with the services they want to use. In addition to Undivided's guide to IPP goals, check out:

IPP goals can also help determine the appropriate amount of service time your child receives; however, Arroyo says clients typically receive between two and four social-rec hours per month. Policies will vary among Regional Centers.

How can this affect my child's IEP services?

Arroyo tells us the Regional Center may be able to supplement the services offered by the school district. However, because Regional Centers are payers of last resort, you will need to:

  1. Show that the school’s offer of a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) is providing fewer minutes of service than recommended based on your child’s evaluation.

    • For example, if it is recommended that your child receives two hours of speech therapy, but the school is only offering a half hour of service.
  2. Show that you tried to utilize generic sources such as Medi-Cal to obtain the service, but they did not respond or you were denied.

    • Arroyo suggests sending a letter to the provider if they do not respond, including dates you attempted to contact them, as the letter can be used as proof of implied denial.

    After collecting the appropriate documentation regarding the school’s offer of FAPE and your attempts to go through generic providers, you can present the information to your Regional Center and request those services through them.

How are services affected by the Home and Community-Based Services’s new rules?

According to DDS, the Home and Community-Based Service (HCBS) requires that individuals receive services “in the most integrated settings of their choosing.”

Many Regional Centers are still in transition to full compliance. As part of the process, Regional Centers may work with some vendors, such as summer camps, to become fully integrated so that they can continue offering services to Regional Center clients.

Self-Determination Programs (SDP), however, are required to be compliant now because the program was created after the rules went into effect.

Can families add social recreation services to their Self-Determination budget?

According to Arroyo, families will likely need approval to add social recreation services to their budget unless they are shifting around less than 10% of the total.

If you aren’t currently using SDP, you can request an IPP meeting to access these services.

What services and programs are offered at my Regional Center?

Download Regional Center’s brochure on what services it commonly funds for children ages 3–18 here (go here for Spanish).

Arroyo says that every Regional Center must post a list of its vendors. Users should look for the “transparency portal” on their Regional Center’s website. If you can’t find it immediately, you can use the search bar.

If your Regional Center doesn’t offer a specific service or program, you can:

  • Visit the Director of Community Services at your Regional Center to request they develop more vendors in areas you’ve noticed a shortage, and ask about funding announcements and whether they are helping to create these programs.

  • Attend a meeting with the board of directors if you feel there have been unnecessary delays or the process is taking too long. Ask the board to make a motion for the Executive Director to prioritize establishing these programs.

    • Arroyo suggests attending the meeting as a group if you are aware of other families affected by the issue. By doing so, you can show the board that it is not an individual issue but a systemic one.

Thank you to Chris Arroyo for the information! If you missed our live chat, you can watch the full recording here.



What services were restored?

What are the benefits of social-recreation services?

Creating social-recreation based goals for an IPP

How can this affect my child's IEP services?

How are services affected by the Home and Community-Based Services’s new rules?

Can families add social recreation services to their Self-Determination budget?

What services and programs are offered at my Regional Center?

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Undivided Editorial TeamStaff

Reviewed by

Brittany Olsen, Undivided Editor
Jennifer Drew, Undivided Senior Editor


Chris Arroyo, Regional manager at the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities

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