Jewish Family Service of Dallas — Inclusive Faith Based Communities Symposium

Inclusive Faith Based Communities Symposium

Statewide Need
Faith communities may have issues, questions and concerns that affect their ability and willingness to welcome and fully include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Many faith communities in Texas have done a great deal to advocate for and serve the needs of Texans with IDD. Many are interested in networking and connecting with other organizations to receive training and assistance to provide an environment and services that would allow them to be more inclusive.

Project Goal
Create a collaborative initiative through two symposia to share successful community awareness, building and inclusion strategies for embracing people with IDD and their families within faith communities. Empower participants to create opportunities in their communities that support individuals with IDD and their families in their efforts to reach their highest potential socially, emotionally, behaviorally, academically and spiritually.

Project Summary
This project developed the Faith Inclusive Network of Dallas (FIND) to build a collaboration of varied faith communities to share and develop successful strategies for inclusive programming that embraces people with IDD. A project advisory committee (PAC) was established consisting of faith community leaders. Effective Advocacy, Inclusion Programs and Leadership Outreach PAC Subcommittees were also formed to further identify and partner with self-advocates and to promote awareness of the importance of inclusion. The project director traveled to attend two inclusive community symposia to research content, logistics and successful models to prepare for the FIND symposia.

The first symposium, “Spreading the Light of Inclusion in our Faith Communities”, was held in 2013 with the goal of identifying and understanding challenges for faith-based organizations and communities with persons with IDD and to create a model for inclusion that can be replicated in the four-county target region. The symposium utilized nationally recognized professionals as keynote speakers and religious leaders representing Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu faiths, as well as self-advocates, to serve on panels and in breakout sessions.

A second symposium was held in 2014 followed by a “Models of Inclusion” workshop to share information and best practice models. A second workshop was held in 2015 to provide information, education and planning advice for faith-based communities on topics which they had requested as a follow-up.

  • Impact
    • 175 people were trained in formal and informal supports in preparation for the symposium
    • Two symposia were held, attended by 370 participants who benefitted from over 54 speakers, presenters and panelists
    • Two workshops were held for 90 participants who could not attend the 2014 symposium
    • Inclusion strategies for faith-based inclusion of people with IDD were shared among diverse religious communities

Project Period
Mar 2012 – Feb 2015

5402 Arapaho Rd.
Dallas, TX 75248

Geographic Reach
Dallas, Collin, Denton and Rockwall counties

State of Texas shape in blue with Dallas, Collin, Denton and Rockwall counties highlighted in orange