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Florida Conference Helps Families Dealing with Disabilities

Having a special needs family member can sometimes mean battling for services, resources and information. But thousands of families found the answers they needed at the Family Café conference in Orlando this past weekend.

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[Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong with Department of Health and Children's Medical Services staff]

Fort Myers resident Candy Rhodes knows special needs well. She has a special needs 16-year old, two special needs nephews, plus a disabled mother and aunt. She said her need for information, resources and support is so great, the Family Café Conference was well worth the 3-and-a-half hour drive to Orlando. “Yeah, it is hard, it’s hard if you have no support system and nobody to turn to, that’s why you see so many cases of abuse and neglect of older people and children, because they don’t have anywhere to turn and they don’t know where those resources are available,” she said.

Nearly 8-thousand people from across the state attended the Family Café, making it the largest conference of its kind nationwide. Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong said bringing families and different support agencies together makes the conference a really powerful resource. “We’re really working hard to bring services together in ways that are centered on people with disabilities so that we can make their lives better,” he said.

Candy Rhodes said access to agencies like the Florida Department of Health is great, but she said being able to network with other families is a big part of the experience too. 


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