June 26, 2012

National Family Voices Honors Co-Founder Polly Arango on the Second Anniversary of Her Passing

National Family Voices Honors Co-Founder Polly Arango on the Second Anniversary of Her Passing

(Photo of National Family Voices Co-Founders, from left to right, Julie Beckett, Polly Arango, and Josie Woll.)

Two years ago today National Family Voices Co-Founder, Polly Arango, passed away, but the systems changes she helped set in motion continue. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of National Family Voices. In the two decades since Family Voices has been in existence:

  • Millions of children and families in all fifty states have received help and support through networked family leaders in 40 National Family Voices State Affiliate Organizations and 51 funded Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2F HICs) supported by National Family Voices. From June 20120 to May 2011 alone, the F2F HICs together served more than 980,000 people.
  • National Family Voices, together with the organization's partners and key stakeholders, has continued to advocate for the rights of children and youth with special health care needs and disabilities on a national policy level, including support for legislation such as the Family Opportunity Act (FOA) in 2005;
  • Hundreds if not thousands of parent leaders, child advocates, and the professionals who serve them have been trained throughout all 50 states. This is a continuation of the tradition Polly began - of training and mentoring family leaders, including parents from diverse socio-economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Contributions from the Polly Arango Memorial Fund, established at the time of her passing, are now being used to mentor family leaders around the country;
  • The family organizations served by National Family Voices continue to build family and professional partnerships to serve parents and children. In 2010 -2011, on average, each F2F HIC partnered with 16 agencies statewide and 11 community-based organizations for initiatives such as: early intervention; emergency medical services; father support groups; independent living centers; juvenile justice programs; oral health programs; parent-to-parent programs; transition planning activities; and vocational rehabilitation, to name just a few.

Polly Arango was a brilliant, dedicated leader, with a big heart, smile, and mission. On this second anniversary of her passing, we honor Polly for her vision, leadership, and tremendous hard work that continue to help so many, many people, throughout the United States, year after year.

And, we recall her words:

"Let us remember as each of us makes decisions that will affect children-whether we are parents, educators, health professionals, or government officials- it is our duty to consider if that decision either affirms or denies a child's most basic human rights." - Polly Arango


Below is the announcement Family Voices distributed on the first anniversary of Polly's passing. We share it here for your reference.

June 26, 2011

It is almost impossible to believe that Polly Arango, one of the founding members of Family Voices and a fearless advocate and champion for family-centered care for children with special health care needs passed away one year ago on June 26th.

We choose to commemorate this time by stopping to reflect upon her accomplishments and remembering the countless lives of children she touched with her courage and fortitude.

Polly learned early on that it would be she, as a parent, who would need to provide education and context to professionals in the health care field to help them to better understand that, as she so succinctly put it, "family-centered care is connecting the science of medicine with the evidence of daily life. " Using her unique experience as a mother and caregiver, Polly set an outstanding example for how to keep her family at the heart and center of her life, while at the same time, ensuring that standards and practices for quality health care remained were realized for all the children and families whom Family Voices serves.

Polly showed us as parents how we can show both our fierce and vulnerable sides and that we can and must ask for and demand appropriate services. She showed us that even though we may be frustrated, we can learn to use that energy as a positive means for assuring that our own children, and others receive family-centered care.

Polly graciously shared her expertise with so many and often her voice was heard all the way to Washington D.C. and the White House although she took such honors in stride. Her beautiful smile lit up the room. She provided tenderness, warmth and encouragement to the many families who bravely shared their stories with her and became a catalyst for her mission. She knew to the depths of her very being that there was nothing more compelling than telling the stories of the families that were living through the experience of raising children with special health care needs. These collective stories remain even more important today to maintain and raise our one, powerful united voice.

In the words of George Eliot, "The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men." Polly Arango answered the call to do enormous and amazing work. There is no better way to honor her life today than to continue in her giant footsteps, acknowledging the trail she blazed for us as well as recognizing the path we must now pave so that others may follow and even perhaps, one day lead as she did.

Thank you, Polly, for all that you were and for all that you are. You remain a lively and spirited inspiration for our ongoing work.