An Interview with Support for Families of Children with Disabilities

This is one of a series of posts sponsored by CVS Caremark All Kids Can, a commitment to making life better for children of all abilities.

This week, I interviewed Juno Duenas, Executive Director of Support for Families of Children with Disabilities (SFCD), an organization in San Francisco serving families with children with disabilities.

Support for Families Special Event

Kids & Grownups Play at an Event Hosted by Support for Families of Children

How did SCFD get its start?
In 1982, Joan Cassel, Helen Rossini, and Marge Zeidman— all professionals in counseling fields and mothers of children with disabilities—volunteered to run a support group and answer phone calls from parents of children with disabilities. SCFD grew from there with an emphasis on family-to-family support. Most of our leadership, staff, and volunteers are also family members of children with special needs. My own involvement with SCFD began after my daughter was born with significant disabilities.

What is your guiding inspiration in serving these families?
Children with disabilities need opportunities to grow and develop like all children, but many of these families are confused by the complex systems designed to aid them. They often feel isolated and worried about the challenges their children face.  To help these kids reach their potential, parents and caregivers need knowledge and support. SCFD is here to provide families with the support and resources they need to help guide their journey.

Blowing bubbles at SFCD eventI know how difficult it is to navigate those services from personal experience. How do you help families like mine?
We believe children with special needs grow and develop best when their family can determine its own vision and can partner in decision-making at all levels. Families need access to culturally and linguistically responsive information and resources and a way to network with other families. We help them collaborate with professionals and community members to create a family-centered system of services and provide a wide range of information and parent-to-parent support services free of charge.

I’d love to hear about the SFCD project that excites you the most.
Our Special Needs Inclusion Project that the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust supported this year promotes acceptance and inclusion of children with special needs. We provide training and technical support to local after-school programs to aid positive, inclusive experiences for all children. And our new SF Inclusion Networks project provides professional development for early care/education staff to help them create rich environments where children with and without disabilities can learn and grow together!

I love that you support inclusion! What past programs at SFCD are you most proud of?
That’s like asking a mom which one of her children she loves the most!  Almost nothing makes me prouder than graduation day for a new class of volunteer Parent Mentors. These parents, guardians, foster parents, and family members of children with disabilities complete extensive training that prepares them to mentor other families and continue a circle of support. This is the essence of SFCD!

How can people get involved to help support your mission?
Visit our website, where you can make a donation or learn more about volunteer opportunities. If you have a child with special needs in the area, contact our Warmline (415-920-5040) to get information and resources, or join our mailing list.

Thanks to SFCD and Juno for sharing more about this important work helping kids with disabilities in the San Francisco area!

Photos used with permission from SFCD.


    • Gina B says

      Agreed. Underserved children with special needs have some of the biggest challenges to overcome; nice to see someone trying to help!

    • Gina B says

      Thanks, Estelle. It’s my mission to spread hope for families who struggle with the particulars of special needs, nice to share when others help them!