It Starts with Families


We believe that families are an important asset in the equation of ensuring people with disabilities have the opportunity to live their best lives for their whole lives. And, we know when families have access to information and resources, they are more empowered to support and care for the family member with disabilities.

Did you know?

  • Approximately 119,000 or 65% of Ohioans with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) live with their families? And in most cases, the support provided does not end when the family member turns 18.
  • Over 58% of parents/caregivers spend more than 40 hours per week providing support to their loved one with I/DD beyond typical care.
  • 52% of families caring for children with disabilities experience difficulty paying medical bills.

Across agencies and across the lifespan

Extensive research on people with disabilities and their families recognizes that supports are most effective when provided to the family so they have the capacity and knowledge to provide assistance. Strategies to support the family unit must be a fundamental consideration across all agencies, at all levels of each agency, and in all aspects of planning.

As partner agencies and organizations that support people with disabilities, you play an important role in helping to build families’ confidence and encourage a vision for the possibilities and opportunities for the whole family. To do this, we must connect families to important information, research, and resources and support effective family engagement strategies.

Establishing Families as Partners in Secondary Transition

In response to the family research in our It Starts With Families guide and a comprehensive policy review of the Employment First Taskforce agencies' policy on family engagement, the Establishing Families as Partners in Secondary Transition learning series was developed. The intended short-term outcome of the experience is to increase the capacity of agency personnel to understand, at a minimum, the following critical topics through the lens of secondary transition:

  • the value of family partnerships,
  • cultural and linguistically diverse families,
  • implicit bias and the evolution of disability,
  • having authentic and necessary conversations,
  • and universal design, which includes creating and redesigning communication and experiences to better represent and serve families.

The professional learning series is targeted to a group of local cross-agency professionals from local schools, career-technical centers and education service centers, county boards of developmental disabilities, mental health providers, counselors and supervisors from Opportunities from Ohioans with Disabilities, and anyone providing service and support to transition-age youth with disabilities. The hope is for a team of multi-agency professionals serving the same or similar transition-age youth and their families in their community can take this together.

In 2022, several local teams across the state came together to receive the first Establishing Families as Partners in Secondary Transition training in Ohio. Below is a video of a multi-agency team in Hamilton County discussing their experience with the training series. We have also included an Impact Report for this initial training group. It shows knowledge gain on nearly all the learning objectives (12 out of 13) throughout the series. The report and executive summary also include participants’ reactions to the training – showing not only the excitement about the content learned, but the format of training alongside colleagues from other organizations serving the same transition youth and families. Please review the report and watch the video to learn more about the impact you and your team can anticipate from the Establishing Families learning series.

We hope the It Starts With Families guide and Hamilton County training video helps you to commit to Ohio's mission of developing and implementing universally designed approaches that will ensure all families have the necessary knowledge and skills regarding transition education and services and are involved in all aspects of transition planning.

To learn more about the Establishing Families as Partners in Secondary Transition professional learning opportunity, contact ItStartsWithFamilies@dodd.ohio.gov.