Family Empowerment Centers

Family Empowerment Centers (FECs) provide training and information to families of children and young adults with disabilities, between the ages of 3 and 22 in California. These nonprofit organizations offer specialized training, peer-to-peer support, information and referral services. They aim to assist parents to better understand their child’s educational and developmental needs, effectively communicate with service providers, serve as a resource for the IEP process, participate in school reform and improvement activities, promote alternative dispute resolution, and support positive relationships between parents and professionals. Services available through each FEC vary based on the needs of the community. Several FECs are involved with additional federal, state, or local initiatives which expand or specialize their services and support for families with children with disabilities from as early as birth up to age 26. California’s 58 counties are organized into 41 FEC regions. There are currently 32 FECs which support one or more regions.

Seeds of Partnership project, Under the direction of and funded by the California Department of Education, Special Education Division, assists with Family Empowerment Center technical assistance, evaluation support, and coordination of the Family Empowerment and Disability Council.

History of the Family Empowerment Center Establishment

2001 Family Empowerment Centers (FECs) were originally established through Senate Bill 511 (authored by Senator DeDe Alpert), then enacted as California Education Code 56400-56414 in 2001. At this time there were 32 FEC regions identified. These regions closely reflected the Family Resource Center (FRC) regional structure. Regions include one or more county, with the exception of Los Angeles County, which is separated into multiple regions due to high student population density. The California Department of Education (CDE) awarded grants to establish 12 FECs via a Request for Applications (RFA) process. These 12 centers served 24 counties within 12 regions.

2006 Two FECs were added following another CDE RFA process in 2006. There were a total of 14 FECs, serving 27 counties, across 14 regions. There were no further additions for the next 15 years.

2021 The State Budget Act 2021-22 initiated a further FEC expansion, including an increase of the base funding and per pupil rate of existing and new centers.

2022 CDE issued an RFA in 2022, through this process, to more closely parallel the current FRC regions, the FEC regions were updated from 32 to 41. Eight new FECs were established and three existing FECs applied and were selected to serve additional regions. Eligible centers were selected until funds were exhausted. This expansion increased the number of centers by eight and number of regions served by 13. Statewide, this brought the total number of FECs to 22, serving 40 counties, across 27 regions. At this time, the CDE also moved forward to include reference to the FECs within the Special Education Rights of Parents and Children Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B- Notice of Procedural Safeguards.

Through the approval of the 2022-23 Sate Budget Act, funding was made available to CDE to continue expansion of FECs. Applicants that applied for nine of the regions from the 2022 RFA process which were not funded through the 2021-22 funding, were now able to be awarded a grant, through the 2022-23 funding. This established seven new FECs and one existing FEC to serve additional regions.

2023 An RFA was reissued for the remaining region in California, Lake County. As a result, a new FEC was established in this region bringing the number of FECs to 32, providing services within the 41 regions.

2024 For the first time in history, since the establishment of the Family Empowerment Centers enacted into education code in 2001, all FEC regions in the state have an established FEC and are fully funded to serve families of children and young adults with disabilities, between the ages of 3 and 22 in California.