I look back at 2020 and just wow. We started our year off with our Level 1, 8 hour advocacy course in Sacramento, CA where 30 Parents, Advocates, and Professionals gathered all in one room together in person to learn how to create powerful IEPs that honored the Unique Needs of Our Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. Little did we know that a month later the entire world would change. Schools closed for most of the state in March, IEPs were being canceled, Transition IFSPs were stopped, our individual Advocacy referrals stopped coming in. However, our advocates did not stop. They began hopping on every webinar available to them, scouring their resources, helping establish best practices for DHH children in Virtual Learning and sending resources out to every SELPA in our state, so when our parents began asking for accommodations for distance learning, it wouldn’t be the first time the district had heard this might be needed. In July, individual advocacy services became necessary again. Our team of advocates navigated 15 families through the IEP process during 2020. In October We raised just over $900 to support the ASTra operations budget. Presently our Advocacy Support & Training Program is an unfunded program.
As we look towards 2021, We are looking at hosting our level 1 training as a 4-8 week Online Series. We are revamping our ASTra referral process to make it easier for parents to get connected with an advocate. We are looking ahead to secure ongoing funding for our ASTra program. Our volunteer advocates donate their time, talent and resources. With funding we can provide transportation for Advocates to be physically present at IEP meetings, we can dedicate office hours to meet with parents to go over advocacy related needs, we can support more families. With 17,000 Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in California, we have a goal to increase our capacity to serve 45 families state wide during the year. We can only do that with the support of our community. We hope to be able to expand our individual advocacy services so that our advocates can be available to more families so that All California Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children can reach their highest potential.
ASTra Coordinator, Region 2 Area Representative
California Hands & Voices