What is Self-Determination?

Self-Determination is a voluntary service delivery system offered to most individuals served by the California Regional Center system as of July 2021.

Self-Determination offers greater flexibility and choice in service delivery, leaning on five core principles:


In general, Self-Determination is about flexibility in service provision. Freedom specifically means the freedom for people with disabilities to exercise the same rights as all people, to make choices and decisions and to be part of the community, as anyone would be, disability or no disability. The freedom to decide who they want to spend time with, who they want to provide them paid and unpaid supports, who they want to live with, what they want to do during the day. This is the freedom to not necessarily go to the same day program as everyone else who lives in their home, or to not have to go to only programs that are vendored with the Regional Center. However, it’s freedom; a person might want to do that, and if they do, that freedom isn’t necessarily being taken away.


Allows people and their Circles of Support to manage a budget to determine how to best meet their needs (within certain parameters and guidelines.) Maybe they don’t need to use all of their respite this month, but they would like to “save some up” for the summer – with Self-Determination, they can do that! Maybe they want to pay their respite worker more and have less hours, but a more reliable, long term, worker, who might have special training or qualifications that meet their specific needs, will provide consistent services and avoid the disruptions of changing workers – in Self-Determination, they can do that!


Some people fear, and other people might hope, that the Self-Determination program means traditional services and the Regional Center will be going away, but that’s not true. Some people fear the Self-Determination program because they feel like they will be all alone, but that’s not true either. There is still tons of support available in Self-Determination, and the program actually gives people a unique opportunity to expand their Circles of Support with Person-Centered Planners, Independent Facilitators, Financial Management Service agencies, and a community in general.


Self-Determination does require more effort and responsibility from the participant or family, but it doesn’t have to be nearly as much work as some make it out to be. Responsibility means, for both the Regional Center and participants, among other things, ensuring the wise use of public funds. This is still taxpayer money and it has to be treated as such. No matter what some may hope, Self-Determination isn’t going to allow the Regional Center to buy tickets to Disneyland, or a car. Responsibility means that everyone - the Regional Center, the providers, and the participants - has to do things right to ensure the flexibility and program as a whole remain available. Responsibility also means that people have to take responsibility for the decisions in their own lives, including the lives of a person with a disability!


Most importantly, confirmation means “nothing about me without me.” It is validation of the critical role of each of the participants and their Circles of Support in making decisions about their lives and designing and operating the services that they rely on.

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Pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code 4704.6, individuals served by Regional Centers have certain appeal and complaint rights in regards to vendored services. Please click here for the Department of Developmental Services' website and/or contact the Department of Developmental Services at 916-654-1987 for more information or if you would like to file a complaint.

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