In 1999, Merva Jackson, a social work intern with the former State of Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy, conducted a needs assessment that revealed a profound absence of parent education and training for parents of children with disabilities within the African Caribbean American population in Hartford Connecticut. Among her findings:
Little or no information about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was being disseminated by schools, agencies or advocacy organizations to families and the larger community.
Parents of children with disabilities had significantly limited knowledge or no knowledge of federally protected parental or student rights and the services available for their children.
Determined to educate and empower parents of children with disabilities, Merva founded African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities-better known by its acronym AFCAMP. In March 2001 the grassroots organization was incorporated. She served as the executive director until her passing in 2012.
Today, we serve a diversity of parents, youth and families that need not only special education services, but are also trying to navigate the juvenile justice, child welfare and health systems, including children’s behavioral health. As a voice for systems change, AFCAMP educates, trains and supports parents and youth to become active participants in their education and care, and advocates for policy and program reforms that promote equity and equal access to culturally and linguistically appropriate services within multiple child-serving systems in Connecticut.