Family Advocates work directly with family members to provide hands-on assistance and advocacy throughout their love one’s life.

Special Education and Services for Children

Our advocates help navigate the special education system through direct assistance with creating/completing individualized education plans (IEPs) and ensuring their implementation, as well as identifying and advocating for out of district placements, when appropriate. Family Advocates provide direct support to families by doing classroom observations, reviewing previous evaluations, reports, and plans, and attending IEP and other meetings with the school to ensure the child is receiving all the services and supports to which they are entitled.

In addition to support around special education services, Family Advocates provide expert guidance accessing and coordinating public and private benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSDI), MassHealth (regardless of whether or not the family would qualify), and other in-home and social programming.

Family Advocates can also help find physicians, dentists, and other healthcare providers who specialize in serving children with disabilities. Additionally, we can assist with finding specialists who can perform specific diagnostic testing and evaluations, which can be necessary to obtain the supports needed both in and out of school. Family Advocates can attend meetings where the results of these evaluations and tests are reported to help families understand the consequences and ensure they are thorough and accurately represent the child’s abilities and support needs.

Turning 22

Family Advocates offer comprehensive assistance managing the transition from special education services and supports provided through your child’s school to adult benefits and resources. Although the actual transition often happens at age 22, once your child turns 14, DLS can provide guidance and help families begin the necessary steps to ensure a smooth transition. Transition planning includes exploring post-secondary opportunities, such as employment, day, skill-building, and community housing program options; understanding and putting into place alternative decision-making options such as guardianship and alternatives to guardianship; and connecting with adult service agencies that may provide your child with services when they graduate or turn 22 years old. We can help you understand what needs to be done and create a timeline with you to ensure your child is ready for the transition to adult benefits.

“I can't even begin to say how thankful I am to have my family advocate by my side. She's been at my boys’ school for meetings, and at medical appointments to decipher testing. She's made this experience more manageable for me under difficult circumstances. She truly is a gift.”

- Parent

Expert guidance accessing and coordinating public and private benefits for adults with disabilities including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicare, MassHealth, and other cash and cash-value programs. Our Family Advocates also assist with applications and appeals to the appropriate state agency, whether it be the Department of Development Services (DDS), Department of Mental Health (DMH), or the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC).


Individuals and families of adults with disabilities come to us with various needs and expectations. Some families need help starting the process of applying to the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Department of Mental Health (DMH), or applying for Social Security Income (SSI); some have specific goals such as finding the right day program or employment services for their family member. Family Advocates can help families of adults with disabilities find transportation, a place to live, someone to help them with daily living skills, a job counselor, medical and mental health providers, and help accessing other community and governmental services and supports. We can also help families apply for Social Security, MassHealth, subsidized housing, DDS, or DMH services and supports, or other benefits on behalf of their family member. Additionally, we provide assistance with long-term planning, including advice on special needs trusts, guardianship, and alternatives to guardianship.

Although Family Advocates partner with families of adults with disabilities who need assistance, JF&CS also works directly with adults with mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, and other disabilities through our Clinical Case Management program. Sometimes, a family member may work with a Family Advocate on goals around lifecare planning and benefits navigation, while their adult loved one works with a clinical case manager on separate coaching and life skills training goals. Each family is unique, and JF&CS has the knowledge and expertise to tailor services to best meet the needs of each family.

To learn more, call 781-693-5640, or email your questions to