First In Families of North Carolina, FIFNC, helps people with disabilities and their families to believe in their dreams, achieve their goals and give back to others.
FIFNC is a grassroots family support initiative founded by families looking for new ways to provide and receive support. FIFNC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, supported in part by funding from the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse services (MH/DD/SAS), Department of Health and Human Services. FIFNC was incorporated in 2001 and obtained its 501(c)3 status in 2003.
First In Families was formed following a state and family stakeholders meeting at the International Parent to Parent Conference in Asheville, NC in 1994. At one planning meeting, a mother was moved to say "North Carolina prides itself on being First in Freedom, First in Flight, and it is time that they are First In Families." Hence, our name was born.
The first two local FIF Chapters were funded in 1996. There are now a total of 14 Chapters covering 49 NC counties. Additional funding through Lifeline Project covers the remaining 51 NC counties.
The manner in which First In Families offers support has changed over time.
At first, the primary function was to give out cash subsidies as a response to applications which were evaluated and rated by local customer-led First In Families Management Teams (governing board of each local Chapter). This was time-consuming as well as uncomfortable to those making the choices. Also, Management Team members realized that funds were limited-a band aid, at best, for the real needs of persons with disabilities and their families.
The FIF Chapters quickly evolved to reaching out to the local communities and their rich resources. This enabled the Chapters to support more people than before, along with "stretching" public dollars further. More importantly, they began building on the strengths of the local community and creating relationships which would be more enduring than any quick cash-subsidized support.
This change represented a shift in focus from a one-time "fix," to a support approach which is more sustainable and based upon longer-term solutions.
In addition to supporting local FIF Chapters, FIFNC promotes self-determination as a philosophy through public education and advocacy efforts. Our Chapters and other programs support people throughout their life span. It is important to us that adults with developmental disabilities are able to design the lives that they want for themselves.
First In Families of NC was incorporated in 2001 and became a tax-exempt not-for-profit in 2003.