California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) started as a peer support mechanism for executive directors of the fledgling Independent Living Centers in California (ILC) in 1976. Originally the directors were the usual representatives who went to Sacramento to educate public policy makers on issues affecting persons with disabilities.
In 1982, we incorporated as CFILC and formalized our organization. Each member center pays dues based on the amount of Title VII (federal) and AB 204 (state) funding it receives. Full voting members are the Executive Directors (or representative) of an Independent Living Center that meets the requirements of Title VII of the federal Rehabilitation Act.
“Certification” to receive state and federal funding is conducted by the State Department of Rehabilitation. Requirements include:
- the Board of Directors must be 51% persons with significant disabilities,
- the majority of decision makers in the organization must be persons with disabilities,
- consumer control philosophy must be operationalized in all facets of the organization and services provided,
- specific core services must be provided.
Federal law requires the provision of peer support, advocacy, information and referral, and independent living skills training. California law adds two other services, accessible housing referral and personal assistance referral.
Over the years, CFILC grew as the number of ILCs created increased. Currently, out of the 28 operating centers, 22 are dues paying members. In 1994, the members undertook a strategic planning process that reshaped the organization substantially. We identified the organization as a “trade association,” that is, the professional organization supporting the ILCs of the state.
More specifically, our “customers” became the Executive Directors, Members of the Boards of Directors of the ILCs as well as staff and volunteers with the centers. The “products” CFILC could logically provide included information, training and peer support that would enable individual centers to improve their effectiveness in creating positive change in their local communities. At the state and federal level, CFILC works to coordinate efforts for positive public policy changes that benefit people with disabilities.
Once the directors of the member agencies agreed to work together to support each other’s growth and effectiveness, CFILC received a large grant to implement an infrastructure for systems change among participating ILCs. The three year, 3.3 million dollar grant for Systems Change and Community Education was funded by the State Independent Living Council late in 1996. This new funding allowed CFILC to hire full time staff for the first time and have an office in Sacramento.