Are you curious about Regional Center’s Self-Determination Program and how it might improve your child’s services and supports? So are we! For more information, 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 Self-Determination?

  • Self-Determination 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, but opened up to all eligible Regional Center consumers on July 1, 2021.

What Does It Do?

  • 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
  • The participant is given an individualized budget and uses it to 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.
  • A person-centered plan (PCP) 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.

    Testimonial: “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.” — Special X member Martha


Who Is Eligible?

  • 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 It Work?

  • The participant creates a person-centered plan (PCP), 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 to create a spending plan that outlines what the participant will do with the money.
  • 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 a facilitator 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 facilitator can be paid using the plan’s budget.
    • Use your 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 yourself.
  • 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; speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral therapies; respite services; vehicle modifications for accessibility; and much more. Note that you must use generic services first, such as your health care plan or school district

    Quote: “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.” —Christofer Arroyo, manager of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities’ Los Angeles office


What Can I Do Now?


Did you know that Undivided can help you put together a Person-Centered Plan (PCP) for your child, and act as your Independent Facilitator at no cost to you? Learn more about how Undivided can help you transition to the Self-Determination Program here

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