From the Executive Director

Time for Transition

Richard J. Robison, FCSN Executive DirectorMy life as a parent of a child with special needs is taking a new course, and my work as the Executive Director of the Federation is nearly complete. Many of you know that my daughter has Down syndrome. Her advent into our world completely revised our family’s assumptions about life and its meaning in incredible and positive ways. Two years after her birth, our family was further enhanced with the adoption of our infant son, who also has Down syndrome. Today both of them are in their mid-thirties and thriving. What emerged from those early days has been an unimaginable journey that reshaped my career. It brought me first into state service at the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) for six years and then on to the Federation for nearly 22 years.

I learned key lessons while advocating for my children, and was able to apply them to the needs of the families served by the Federation. The recurring theme was that the advocacy we did for our children was often hard, but also rewarding. We sensed that, for other families, accessing services would be nearly impossible without the support of peers and lessons learned. That is the model of the Federation: parents who have benefitted from life experience, though they may have struggled, are the best teachers for the next families in need.

Now, as “older” parents, we are supporting our adult children with Intellectual Disabilities to do their work, be part of the community, and continue to thrive. In addition, we have become grandparents on another unpredictable path, as our oldest daughter and her husband have adopted three teenagers, the oldest of whom has Down syndrome. Our newly expanded family is flourishing but demanding. They face some of the challenges of previous eras, but are also benefitting from innovation – the current emphasis on Transition Planning and providing learning opportunities for a new generation of students with Intellectual Disabilities.

My focus is changing, but not the Federation’s commitment to the families we serve. I am confident that the Federation will continue to provide families with the information, referrals, and training – but most of all, hope and inspiration – they need to thrive. The staff of the Federation are deeply committed to its mission and will work tirelessly to do what needs to be done. I am transitioning from Executive Director and the work will be carried, at least temporarily, by a new “Transitional Executive Director” Viv Swoboda. She too is passionate about the mission and brings tremendous experience and commitment to the work.

I thank each of you for your faithful support and abiding commitment to the Federation for these many years. Let us look forward to a strong and vital future for the next generation of families.