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Family Transition Project

The Family Transition Project supports individuals and families who want to explore the possibilities of community life, for those currently living in large institutions. Hope is at the heart of the Family Transition Project. We offer resources, advocacy, and encouragement through our unique lens of personal experience to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families who are in the process of transitioning from institutional to community living or just considering a transition. We share our own transition success stories and those of loved ones and many other FTP families.

Family Transition Project Mentors are a group of four self-advocates who have lived in state operated institutions and can speak personally to the challenges and benefits of transitioning to the community. They will engage one on one with individuals with I/DD and their families or address large groups.

We know that transitions are all different and people face different barriers, so we offer a listening ear and compassionate support to individuals and their families. We share choices that have worked, but don’t prescribe cookie cutter solutions. We are here to support individuals and families as they work towards their own specific goals.

How We Help

  • Provide individualized information, resources, and connections to individuals and families interested in learning about institution to community transition from a family perspective.
  • Provide self-advocates’ experience for one-on-one support
  • Provide advocacy and support for the entire transition process and beyond
  • Present to groups about the experience of moving from institutions to the community, self-advocacy, barriers met, and the positives of community inclusion

Family advocates meet one on one with self-advocates and their families by phone, email, or in person – whatever is most helpful. We are here to listen and learn their histories, their needs, and their concerns.

Family Transition Project Staff

Katherine Hamann


Katherine is a veteran of developmental disability services, thanks to her sister, Margaret, who has lived 63 of her 77 years in Illinois state operated developmental centers. Because of Margaret, Katherine volunteered at the Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park and then worked there for 11 years as an employee in various departments. Margaret’s transition to a CILA home was Katherine’s transition to The Arc of Illinois and the opportunity to connect with individuals and their families who wanted to explore moving from SODC’s to the community. She is Director of the Family Transition Project and proud to facilitate The Arc Transition Mentors.

Family Transition Project Mentors

Susan O’Connor


Sue O’Connor has lived in Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee, Illinois, and now lives in a CILA home of her choice in Park Forest. Sue loves talking to people and takes the opportunity to politely educate people who ask her in public settings if she has a disability. She makes friends wherever she goes. She has overcome her shyness to speak up for people with disabilities on numerous occasions, for organizations like The Alliance and The Arc of Illinois as well as for friends who request her help. With the support of her family and guardian she has successfully advocated for the home and daily activities she has always dreamed of, including plans to volunteer at a nursing home. Sue loves her friends and family, pizza, dogs, shopping, eating out, and traveling, as well as her advocacy work. She continues to think of new advocacy projects. Quote, “All institutions need to be shut down.”

Robert Peterson


Bob Peterson is well known in Illinois disability circles as a seasoned and impassioned advocate for community living. Many don’t know that he lived for several years at Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee. He served 9 years on the board of The Arc of Illinois, is now an Arc Mentor, and is an officer for the Arc’s National Council for Self-Advocacy. He has been involved with many advocacy organizations including Partners in Policymaking, The Self Advocacy Alliance, the Going Home Coalition, SABE, and UIC. He has served on advisory committees, testified at hearings, and spoken at rallies and press conferences. He can be found at numerous events talking to legislators and other movers and shakers in the disability field. Bob has been interviewed, quoted, recorded, and filmed by a number of Media outlets. Bob likes movies, eating out, socializing with friends, time on his computer, and always advocating! Because he uses a wheelchair, transportation takes planning, but as he pointed out, “I didn’t have to worry about PACE when I was living in an institution because I didn’t go anywhere!”

John Porter


John Porter is an experienced and skillful advocate for himself and others. He spent six and a half years at Howe Center in Tinley Park, Illinois, in what was supposed to be a temporary stay. Now he lives in a CILA of his choice in Pontiac, Illinois, closer to family and friends. He has made job and home changes since Howe, as he has advocated for what he wants and needs. The latest transition is to apartment living. He has many friends in the disability field and he knows who to call! He is proud of his years of affiliation with People First, the Arc of Illinois Mentor Program, and the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, where he now serves on the board. John enjoys going out, all sports, keeping up with the news and social media, and phone conversations with friends near and far. John would like to see funding shift from institutions to services in the community.

Robert Rowley


Robert Rowley grew up on a farm in northern Illinois and still remembers driving a tractor. He has lived at both the Singer Center in Rockford and the Murray Center in Centralia. For the last nine years he has lived in a CILA home in Marion, Illinois. His room is all his own, decorated with purchases from work earnings. A few of his favorite things are Cardinals memorabilia, his collection of baseball caps, and his large flat screen TV and comfortable chair. Although he has started to use a walker for balance, he still works in recycling, shops for himself, does his own laundry, and socializes with his girlfriend. He bowls, attends baseball games (usually The Miners), eats out, and attends weekly church gatherings. He is justly proud of the fact that he quit smoking since he moved out of Murray and has kept on track. What does he like about community living? “I can go more places and do more things.”

Key Resources

Transition Coordinators

Each SODC assists individuals who would like to live in the community to find a provider that will help them fulfill their wants and needs. This is done through person centered planning with their Individual Support Team in conjunction with the Transition Coordinator, Bureau of Transitions Services Center Representative and their Individual Service Coordinator. The individual’s wishes are paramount in this process. The individual is given the option to visit various providers and choose the provider and location that is the best fit. Once a provider has been chosen and the individual has moved, the SODC provides monitoring weekly for the first four weeks and monthly after that for a year. The SODC also provides technical assistance and support should issues arise with the placement.

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