Undivided: Self Determination Program California - Eligibility and Benefits
Undivided Resources

Self-Determination Program 101

Published: Apr. 15, 2021Updated: Aug. 23, 2023
Copy URL

For more information about Regional Center’s Self-Determination Program and how it might improve your child’s services and supports, we reached out to the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities as well as several families who benefit from the program, and break it all down for you here.

What is the Self-Determination Program?

  • The Self-Determination Program is a voluntary alternative to the traditional way of receiving Regional Center services.

  • It was signed into law in 2013 and slowly rolled out over several years through a lottery system, and is now open to all eligible Regional Center consumers as of June 7, 2021.

Why enroll in SDP?

  • The Self-Determination Program (SDP) gives people with disabilities more freedom, control, and responsibility to choose the services and supports that help them meet their goals and be fully included in their community. This can include services or needs that were not formerly covered in a child’s Individualized Program Plan (IPP). For more information, read our article, Unmet Needs: What Are They and How Can Self-Determination Help?.

  • The participant develops an individualized budget with their RC coordinator — based on the last 12 months of expenditures and any changes of circumstances or unmet needs — and can decide what services they’d like and who should provide them (they don’t need to be Regional Center vendors, and can even be family members). Check out this list of approved Self-Determination services on the DDS website.

  • Person-Centered Planning drives the entire process, and is focused on what the person can and wants to do (rather than what they can’t do) and the supports, services, and resources needed to achieve their goals.

"My daughter has been in the new system for seven months, and I have seen a significant difference in her life. She is happy because she works with people who make her feel good; with Self-Determination, she has the right to choose who she wants to work with. She can also choose services that interest her, such as swimming, dancing, and going out into the community with someone the family trusts. I have seen significant improvements in all areas of my daughter's life but especially in her speech, which I did not see for years in the traditional system." — Undivided member Martha

Who is eligible for Self-Determination?

  • Those who have a developmental disability and receive services from a Regional Center (children who are enrolled in the Early Start Program are not eligible).

  • People who live at home or in the community (those who live in care facilities are not eligible, unless they are planning to move out of the facility).

  • Those who agree to participate in an orientation, work with a financial management services agency, and manage the program’s services within their budget.

How does the Self-Determination Program work?

  • The participant creates a person-centered plan (PCP) — often through attending a Person-Centered Planning meeting — which outlines what is important to and for them as well as the services, supports, and resources that will help them reach their goals. The PCP is presented to the Regional Center, which will come back with an individualized budget; this budget is used by the participant to create a spending plan that outlines what the participant will do with the money, including addressing any unmet needs [supports or services the participant couldn’t access for a variety of reasons, or needs that were not covered in an Individualized Program Plan (IPP)].

  • The participant chooses a financial management service (FMS), an independent agency that helps them use their budget to pay for services, taxes, and insurance. Participants choose the level of involvement they want from the FMS. The FMS can also run background checks on staff and keep track of spending.

  • Participants have three options for support in creating their Self-Determination plan:

  • Hire an independent facilitator (IF) to help create the PCP and spending plan, find and hire the right people, decide how much they should be paid, and mediate issues with providers. The independent facilitator fees are paid by Regional Center for the first year; if the participant chooses to continue to work with their IF/or a different IF after the transition, the fees can come out of the participant's budget.

  • Use their Regional Center service coordinator (keep in mind that many have high caseloads and some people consider it to be a conflict of interest).

  • Manage the process themselves.

  • There are many approved services: examples include a health and wellness coach; recreational activities such as swimming, sports, drama, and music; acupuncture and massage therapy; behavioral therapies; respite services; vehicle modifications for accessibility; and much more. Note that because Regional Center is the payer of last resort, the participant must use generic services first, such as the school district, private insurance, Medi-Cal, etc.

"Setting it up is the hardest part. Once everything is set up, it's just little tweaks along the way. Some people use an independent facilitator in the beginning and then manage it themselves, once things get going." — Chris Arroyo, manager of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities' Los Angeles office

How can I get started?




What is the Self-Determination Program?

Why enroll in SDP?

Who is eligible for Self-Determination?

How does the Self-Determination Program work?

How can I get started?

Join the Undivided Community to get more resources like this in your inbox

Related Parent Questions

How do I get started with the Self-Determination Program?
Let your Regional Center service coordinator know that you are interested in transitioning to the Self-Determination Program. Contact your Regional Center to find and attend an orientation.
Should I enroll my child in the Self-Determination Program?
The Self-Determination Program (SDP) gives people with disabilities more freedom, control, and responsibility to choose the services and supports that help them meet their goals and be fully included in their community.
Can I add my child’s social-recreational services and therapies to their Self-Determination budget?
Families will likely need approval to add social-recreational services and therapies 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.

Promise Image
Each piece of content has been rigorously researched, edited, and vetted to bring you the latest and most up-to-date information. Learn more about our content and research process here.
A Navigator is your Partner at each turn
Every Undivided Navigator has years of experience supporting families raising kids with disabilities or parenting their own. Partner with an Undivided Navigator for a free Kickstart to learn first hand what support feels like!
Expert-driven content, guidance, and solutions.
Member events and office hours with real answers, plus access to our private parents' group.
Priority to begin a free Kickstart of the Undivided Support System with a dedicated Navigator.
“It’s so helpful to have one place that you can go to get many answers.”–Leeza Woodbury, with Navigator Kelly since 2020
*Currently offering Navigator Kickstarts to residents of California