What is a Circle of Support?

A circle of support is a group of people interested in getting together to assist a focal person enhance and expand his or her life by helping to reach key personal goals.

Why have a Circle?

Persons with limitations have traditionally been excluded from meaningful relationships and experiences in the broad community that surrounds them. They have been thought of as incapable, ynworthy and undesirable. But everyone learns and expands their worlds through family, friends and experiences that can only be achieved in the real world.

What benefits does the focal person get from the Circle?

Circle members provide new and creative pathways and connections to growing experiences in the community, like suitable and stable employment, a safe and wholesome place to live, transportation, recreation and exercise, someone to hang out with, simple opportunities to communicate with a caring person, etc.

The point to remember is that persons with developmental disabilities miss out on the simple daily human contacts and pleasure we all enjoy.

Who are the members?

Family members, friends, interested individuals and sometimes community resource persons. Coworkers, church members and neighbors often become Circle of Support members.

We considered the following to help us select members for our loved one:

Think about all the people involved in your child's life. Who are the people that your child is closest to? Which family members? Does he or she have a favorite therapist, teacher or service provider? If appropriate to do so, ask your child.

Who do you talk to or turn to for advice? Who do you get help from? Who are the most important people to you? Get a piece of paper and write their names down.

These are the people you may wish to invite to the planning meeting for your child. You may later decide to ask this person to become a member.

How many members are required?

There is no set number. There may be as few as five or six or as many as ten. Membership does not need to be fixed number; it can change.

How much time does a Circle member commit?

Again, there is no fixed standard. A monthly meeting with the group is necessary to keep stability and focus on goals and objectives. Beyond that each member determines his or her own interest and commitment.

Our loved one's Circle of Support members may participate by phone, conference calls, e-mail or in person, depending upon whether or not we all need to meet in person.

Important purposes of a Circle:

  • a group of people who agree to meet on a regular basis on behalf of the focal person,

  • to help clarify goals,

  • to help identify and overcome obstactles,

  • to find new opportunities,

  • to expand the person's range of experiences,

  • to enhance and enrich his or her life,

  • to achieve the maximum level of independence and self-sufficiency.

What do members actually accomplish?

  • bring new ideas and connections

  • help learn new skills

  • connecting by phone

  • share frustrations

  • trouble shoot any difficulties that may come up

  • celebrate successes

  • help find jobs, housing and supports

  • find respite care providers

  • deepen friendship

  • listen

  • overcome transportation obstacles

  • write stories

  • introduce fun, change and laughter

This page is derived from the work of Beth Mount, Marsha Forest and OMRDD.

For more information on creating a Circle of Support, Person-Centered Planning and How to Select a Service Coordinator click here.

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