From the Executive Director

From Humble Beginnings to National Involvement

Retired Federation Project Director Betsy Anderson recently shared a letter with me: On April 4, 1975, The Federation’s founder and Executive Director, Martha Ziegler received the first official letter from Harvey Liebergott, then with the Bureau of Information for the Handicapped in the US Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare which provided a grant of around $25,000 to fund a new pilot parent program. Harvey estimated that it would take around ten million dollars to fund a comprehensive system of information and referral organizations across the country –an amount not likely to be appropriated. Even so, he urged Martha to “think of the project as a model that could be utilized nationwide”. Today there are over 100 similar parent organizations across the country.

Betsy also shared the Federation’s first proposal to operate a lay advocacy institute (today known as the Parent Consultant Training Institute). Here are some other excerpts from those early documents that mark our first days: “The Federation for Children with Special Needs is a newly incorporated, non-profit organization composed of most of the state-wide and regional parent organizations that have been organized to promote the interests of children with special needs, including those with developmental disabilities.”

The Federation developed as a formal outgrowth of the Coalition for Special Education, which was an ad- hoc group of some 40 state and regional citizen groups that joined together in 1972 to lobby for the passage of Chapter 766, then known as the “Bartley-Daly Bill”.

“One of the co-founders of the Coalition is Martha Ziegler of the Association for Mentally Ill Children. Ms. Ziegler will be one of the directors of the new organization. Since the enactment of Chapter 766 in July of 1972, the Coalition has continued to promote the successful implementation of Ch. 766. Members of the Coalition are aware of a need to educate and directly assist parents; the Federation was formed expressly for that purpose.”

In order to utilize these available funds for parent education, information and referral, and other activities of help to parents, Coalition members decided to incorporate The Federation for Children with Special Needs. So it all began!

40 years later, the Federation continues its mission as a powerful voice for families; informing, educating and empowering. Thanks to each and everyone who has contributed to this success.