For several years now my daughter Beth has been the recipient of Independent facilitation. If the funding for this support ends in March 2019, Beth and us, her family, who are now seniors, will have no one to walk with us in community and ensure that Beth’s dreams of citizenship come true.
The scope of the work of Beth’s independent facilitator provides her and us, with so much greater and more consistent support than anything else we have had access to in the last 38 years. That work has encompassed strengthening Beth’s relationships (within herself, her friends, family, community), growing Beth’s personal support network, assisting Beth to discover and make connections in community, connecting Beth to information, knowledge and resources, and the dynamic cycle of planning and action.
I have learned through this walk with Beth and her facilitator an important lesson. Incorporating both planning and implementation through actions that are tested, reflected upon, change and revised when necessary or desired, is an ongoing, step by step, organic process. So much like the way most of us move through life. It is so very different from what we have experienced through the linear, paper driven “person directed planning” (PDP) offered to us by social service agencies, a plan that sits on a shelf, unrevised by changing desires or circumstances.
Although through independent facilitation the cycle of planning and implementation can take many forms and is customized to the needs and desires of the person being facilitated, Beth’s preferred tool for setting goals and achieving them is Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH).
This tool is very visual and directed by the person themselves, the chief “PATH finder,” with an independent facilitator guiding the process and another making a graphic recording for future reference. Over the last 10 years, Beth has led a group of family and friends, fellow Pathfinders, in 4 “PATHing” days. And in between these large gatherings, steps are constantly being revised, changed, new goals added, some let go. Beth decided that now was the time to create her next PATH.
The process always begins with Beth’s dreams pointing to her “North Star.” Dreams are important to everyone. They are the organic way each of us chooses our goals in life. The independent facilitator listens deeply to how Beth names her dreams, drawing her out, clarifying, having Beth draw them or having them drawn by the graphic facilitator. Other pathfinders contribute with their insights and experience of Beth, which are then checked out with her before recorded. Beth is encouraged to share her dreams which are rich and vital, guiding her, and us, as we move forward together.
Once all of Beth’s present dreams are voiced and recorded we move together to what might be positive and possible from those dreams in a certain time frame (usually for us 2 years). Dreams are examined and broken into achievable goals and portrayed as if they had happened. The independent facilitator encourages wide participation, continually checking in with Beth for correction and consent. All is graphically recorded.
We then go back to the present and record what is happening now in Beth’s life. That too is recorded on the graphic PATH. The rest of the day is spent stretching from what is now to what is possible and positive in the near future. We discover together who we might need to enroll outside of those gathered to accomplish Beth’s plans. And each person is invited to place their name on the graphic record in coloured marker (Beth’s is always pink). The independent facilitator then guides us back and forth from the now to the positive, possible future, thinking first about what might be realized half way, then next month from now and finally next steps. We explore what Beth, and all of us together, will need to make us stronger along the journey. All is beautifully recorded on the large graphic.
Finally at the end of the day the independent facilitator invites Beth and each of us to give one word of our PATH finding experience and then the graphic PATH is named. Beth named her most recent PATH “Beth’s Path to Happy Days.”
Immediately after the completion of her latest PATH, Beth started working, with her facilitator, on steps to achieve those possible and positive goals she has set. We know that it will be a step by step, action/reflection process and that life doesn’t work in straight lines. It may throw us an unexpected curve causing a total reexamination of where Beth is headed. Life is like that for all of us. But for now, guided by her Independent Facilitator, and supported by her family and friends, Beth is busy, making real the positive and possible happy days she dreams about.
What will happen to Beth’s “Happy Days” future if, in three short months, there is no independent facilitator to walk beside her and guide both her and us?
Beth’s Mom – Roz Vincent-Haven