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Principles of Self-Determination

Dignity and Respect All people have the right to be treated with dignity and to be respected as a whole person. All people have the right to “the dignity of risk.” Many of our greatest lessons are learned when we make choices that we later realize were mistakes. The network of support makes risk possible by providing safety and supporting growth.

Choice and Control People have the right to choose what they will do with their lives. When people need help, friends and family can be most effective in assisting them to broaden their experiences and to exercise their right to make their own choices.

Relationships It is essential that relationships are maintained and expanded. Paid services can isolate people. Relationships provide everyone with strength, support and security. The development of new relationships is crucial.

Giving and Community Everyone has the ability to give to his or her community in a meaningful way. When we give of ourselves, we feel a sense of belonging. Community membership includes having your own home, a job, involvement in your community and making a difference in the lives of others.

Dreaming and Planning All people have hopes and dreams for the future as well as goals they want to achieve. A supportive team helps people identify these dreams, then creates a plan to prioritize and realize these dreams.

Fiscal Responsibility When there is control over how funds get spent, there is also responsibility to live within a budget. There is an obligation to those waiting for services as well as others needing government funding. Making things happen does not always require money. To find the best quality for the most reasonable price, people are able to purchase in and out of the service system.

The Role of Professionals Professionals become partners with the people who hire them. They assist people in understanding what their choices are and realizing their dreams.

Choice Has Limits Public funds will not be used to support choices that are illegal or harmful to the person or others. The choices must be available to all.

Self-Determination is Not Abandonment Self-determination is not an excuse for abandoning someone in an unsafe situation on the grounds that he or she “chose” it. There are limits to the level of risk society will allow people to take with their own lives and physical well-being. It is not acceptable to offer a “choice” of either excessive restrictions or no support at all. Self-determination means becoming more creative in helping people find ways to learn decision-making and manage their actions.

Whatever It Takes An answer of “No, we can’t” is replaced by “How can we make this happen?” There is a commitment to help people determine their dreams, respect their dreams, and help their dreams come true.


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