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“I just had to speak up and not wait for others to make things better.”

We have all been in situations that called for us to advocate for our kids. Using the power of our voices and our passion for speaking up is necessary for every family.

Families have shared with us why they first chose to speak up at community meetings, hearings, and medical or therapy appointments. This critical input shapes the programs and services that are used not only by our children but by all families. Finding the voice to speak confidently in these decision-making situations is an essential first step in family leadership.


For more than 25 years, Family Voices has empowered families to advocate for their children and navigate the systems that serve our families. Knowing what is possible, what has worked for others, and finding the confidence to speak up leads to improvements.

Understanding that we all learn differently and may be at different places in our advocacy journey has guided Family Voices to continue to create new family leadership resources and learning opportunities. Visit our website to find these tools, worksheets, and videos. You can even register for one of our 2023 in-person leadership and advocacy learning sessions.

Wisconsin Family Leadership InstituteWiFLI

Family Voices will host two WiFLI series in 2023. One is for parents looking to begin in family leadership and a second, more advanced session is for those looking to boost their existing leadership skills. Both sessions offer a chance to learn and connect while taking the next steps to becoming a meaningful community leader.

WiFLI 2022:  Family Participant Stories

We asked the families who participated in our Fall 2022 WiFLI series why they wanted to get involved in or expand their family leadership skills. Following are a few of their stories.

  • When I started this journey, it was about getting what my child needed. But along the way, I realized I was fortunate enough to stay home and fight. I knew many others either didn’t have that option, were burnt out, or were told no and didn’t think of any other options. This was no longer just about my child, but I wanted to make changes for others going through the same things I was struggling with too.
  • I have advocated for my daughter’s rights since she was born. Something that greatly concerns me is the low participation of BIPOC or LGBTQ families in advocacy organizations and activities. While I work to have our voices heard, empowering these families to communicate their needs and wants is more important.
  • My drive to be part of that organization is to provide information, resources, and activities to families in the rural and remote areas where I live. I do not want a parent to feel alone in the middle of nowhere. I know that feeling, and it is a lonely one.
  • As most parents hear their child is going to have special needs, our minds think, ‘Okay, they are experts in this field; they will know what to do to help my child.’ Those experts often don’t know what’s right for my family and give the bare minimum of information. Since 2018, I have been trying to hold those experts accountable.

What is a Family Leader?                                    

Becoming a family leader means:

·  Advocating for your child’s needs and the wider community

·  Making time and giving space to become part of the solution

·  Being part of long-lasting changes to community systems

What Does Family Leadership Look Like?

Supporting Other Parents or Families

Some family leaders provide one-on-one support to other families experiencing similar issues with their children. You can plan gatherings where families learn from and offer support to each other. You can also become a support parent through an organization like Parent to Parent of Wisconsin.

Serving on a Committee or Advisory Group                  

Family leaders can help an organization become more effective at supporting all families and children by serving on its committee, board, or advisory group. Families bring their perspectives and first-hand experiences to the table when decisions are made. Many organizations reserve seats specifically for parents and families, but too often they go unfilled. We created our State-Level Committees and Councils resource as a guide to these opportunities.

Impacting Systems Change with Policy Advocacy                                                 

Family leaders are at the decision-making table, at the podium, or in a legislator’s office sharing their experiences to shape policies. This can also be done virtually by offering your ideas and point of view to elected officials via Zoom, email or phone. Families often share their powerful personal stories and give recommendations for policy change.







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