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Hello! Welcome to the Peer Advocacy section of the Tri-Counties Regional Center website. We are excited that you are here, learning about the Peer Advocacy Team and what we do as agency representatives. Each one of us strives to assist the families/individuals we serve to gain the education, the skills and, most importantly, the confidence to become their own, best advocate.

When it comes to identifying your (or your loved one’s) dreams, goals, and aspirations, YOURS is the best voice to help them. You are the key to helping yourself (or your loved one) to live the best life possible.

My name is Jennifer Dwyer, and I’m the Supervisor of Peer Advocacy for TCRC.

We, the Peer Advocacy Team of TCRC, are a small but mighty team, of paid employees and individuals that receive services, striving to bridge the gap between those very real physical, emotional and psychological differences among those with I/DD diagnoses, and the desires of our individuals and families served to live as normally as possible, in spite of them. We have many years of experience among us — regarding living with a disability label — and, drawing on each of our strengths and skills, we each do our job slightly differently but with a shared purpose.

The Peer Advocacy team is comprised of Joseph Buchroeder, Peer Advocate II, serving Ventura County, and myself, serving San Luis Obispo, as well as any outlying areas not otherwise covered by other members of the team. Beginning in early 2018, Jonathan Rosales will be serving the city of Santa Barbara.

We believe that everyone has a voice, whether or not they can easily speak for themselves. Everyone, regardless of ability, has something to contribute, and, in doing so, has to exercise responsibility to become the primary navigator of their direction in Life.

We help share information between TCRC and those individuals that the agency supports. The Peer Advocacy Team, working alongside Service Coordinators and other members of the Circles of Supports, can share the unique perspectives of those served who, for a variety of reasons, may not feel listened to or taken seriously; or who may otherwise feel incapable of speaking or acting in their own best interest. Our group is not meant to be the first point of contact when an issue or question regarding individualized supports and services received arises. That is a Service Coordinator responsibility. The Peer Advocacy Team simply provides that little bit of extra support. We bring our expertise and personal knowledge to situations in real time, on a case-by-case basis, particularly when concerning the quality of services and supports received, and/or other agency-identified objectives.

Peer Advocacy Facts:

The Peer Advocacy Team is not directly affiliated with TCRC’s Office of Clients’ Rights (OCR).

Unlike the staff at OCR, Peer Advocates are not lawyers, and cannot act as representatives at Fair Hearings or related proceedings.

Instead, for example, we can sit in on annual Individual Program/Education Plans (IPP/IEP), helping to ensure the individual and family in question feels heard, and that their needs, goals and aspirations remain at the forefront.

The Peer Advocacy Team supports advocacy groups throughout our area, and the level of support available depends on:
a) the type of internal supports already available to these groups;
b) members’ interest in receiving Peer Advocacy support;
c) the current level of understanding and mastery of Self-Advocacy skills by these existing groups

TCRC assists in funding ten individuals served, plus any needed support staff and/or vendor representatives to two statewide self-advocacy conferences per year. Conferences occur annually in Sacramento, in May and October. Application submission deadlines vary, will be announced accordingly.

TCRC and the Peer Advocacy Team remain committed to the belief that there is authentic power behind peer-directed counseling, support in trying to achieve optimal outcomes for individuals with I/DD—and the families that support them, while also offering choices that are, ideally, wholly powered by one’s (wildest) dreams, his or her short and long-term goals.

After all, who better than peers to understand the “(dis)ability” label — and it’s accompanying desire to live among, just like our so-called “typical” peers — than those who history has labeled as “different”?