What We Do

What We Do

Watch our video PLN Presentation Video

The central purpose of PLN is to create and sustain a personal network for the lifetime of an individual isolated by disability and/or circumstance (the focus person). A network is a group of committed people in a friendship relationship with the focus person and each other. PLN hires Community Connectors from the family’s local community to develop the network. To support this process, PLN assists families through future planning, workshops, and peer support.

What is a personal network?

Most of us have people we turn to for fun, conversation, comfort and companionship. These are the friends and relatives who advise and encourage us. It is often difficult for people living with disability to develop and sustain these types of essential relationships due to disability, lack of opportunity, or society’s perception. This leaves the person isolated and vulnerable. PLN nurtures the development of a network of people committed to the focus person and connected to each other. The people involved in the network are not paid to be there nor are they volunteers or charity relationships. Rather their involvement is based on caring, friendship and commitment to work together with and on behalf of the focus person.

Who can become a member of a network?

Personal networks can include siblings, other family members, friends, neighbours, church, leisure, recreation or interest group members, and former service providers. Just about anyone who genuinely cares about the focus person. Some people in the network may be there for life while others may only be for a while or only for specific interests, just as it is in our own lives.

How do you create networks?

We hire Community Connectors from the family’s local community. We match them with a family based on their values, interests, compatibility with the focus person and their connections to the community. They get to know the focus person, family and their plans for the future. Then the Connector finds out who may already be in relationship with the focus person. Family, extended family, neighbours and people who have something in common may be invited to become part of the network. They will look for people who enjoy spending time with the focus person and are interested in helping them realize their goals and overcome challenges. We do not have a group of volunteers, but rely on the power of shared relationships.

The basic task of the Community Connector is to bring together a group of people who are interested in contributing to a good quality of life now for the focus person and ensure a safe and secure future. The Connector invites them to come together in meetings to celebrate the focus person and consider how to best support them. The Connector nurtures the developing network by keeping in regular contact and getting commitments to action.

Planned Lifetime Networks is responsible for finding Community Connectors. We provide training, mentoring and supervision. The Connector works on contract for PLN. We handle all the paperwork for the running of the network, invoicing the families, and paying  the Connector.

Who are the Community Connectors?

Community Connectors are people hired from the community who share the vision of Planned Lifetime Networks and the family. They see the gifts and contributions that every person has to offer and are enthusiastic to invite others to share them. They are chosen because of their knowledge and connections to their community. Community Connectors can be from any walk of life but all have the gift of hospitality.

How long does it take to create and maintain a network?

The first step of network formation is the exploration phase. This takes about 10 hours over a 6 to 8 month period. The Connector gets to know the focus person and the family. They explore the gifts, interests, current activities and relationships of the focus person and the future plans and dreams. Most of the time is spent in individual meetings. It is also a time when the family and Connector can assess their long term compatibility and PLN’s ability to meet the family’s needs.

The second step is the development phase. This may take about 30 hours over a 2 year period. The goal is to recruit network members and introduce them to each other. Potential network members are contacted and invited by the Connector to the first network meeting. Regular network meetings and celebrations are scheduled and more members are recruited when necessary. During this time the commitment and strength of the network will be assessed and long-term members identified.

The third step is the maintenance phase which is ongoing for the life of the focus person. Two to three hours of connector time per month are generally required. Maintenance activities include regular planned contact between the connector, the focus person, the family and the members of the network. This includes continued network meetings and celebrations as well as getting together individually with the focus person. PLN ensures the personal network meets regularly and has sufficient membership to fulfill the goals.

Each network is as unique as the people in it. The time required to create and maintain a network will vary widely depending on many factors such as:

How easy it is to get to know the family and focus person.
Whether there are connections and relationships already in place.
What the activities and goals of the focus person are.
What changes take place in the focus person’s and the network members’ lives.
What kind and the amount of involvement the families want the Connector to have.

How is this process different from other network building services?

This process pioneered by Planned Lifetime Advocacy Networks of Vancouver, British Columbia, has several features that distinguish it from many others that try to reduce the isolation that individuals with disabilities often experience. The first is the continuation of the network is ensured by the ongoing support of a paid Community Connector hired from the community by Planned Lifetime Networks for the lifetime of the focus person.The second distinctive feature is the strength, longevity and flexibility of the network is maintained by the relationships that are created between the members of the network as well as between each member and the focus person. The network’s activities, undertakings, and gatherings all provide opportunities for the members to get to know each other.

The fact that we are not connected to government or other transfer payment organizations means that we can maintain our values and aims without risk of being eliminated by the changes of philosophy or priorities that inevitably seem to happen. We are committed and accountable to the families that pay for the development of a network for their relative.

What are the limitations of personal networks?

Networks can’t replace families. Families are the foundation of a healthy network. The blessing and cooperation of the family is necessary to allow network members to make their contribution.

Networks do not work miracles nor can they guarantee that all will be well. They require hard work, perseverance and commitment. New contacts take time to develop into nurturing relationships. The process can be slow and it may seem at first as if nothing is happening. But even though results may take time, pleasant surprises occur frequently.

Networks do not replace social services but they can reduce the impersonal and isolating aspects of the services. Networks can be there for the focus person as eyes, ears, arms, and legs when the parents are no longer able to be active in their loved one’s life.

What are the benefits to the parents of establishing a personal network for my family member while they are still alive?

First there is the opportunity to share the wealth of knowledge that the family has about the focus person with other interested people. It enables Planned Lifetime Networks to have the detailed information and experience that is needed to assist the network once the parents are gone. The family gets to see their relative flourish both socially and emotionally and have peace of mind in knowing that others will be there for their loved one.

How does PLN assist families?

Most importantly, PLN helps families plan for the future. We do this by offering a Future Planning Consultation to families applying for Lifetime membership. Other ways we help parents:

We run workshops every spring and fall covering such topics as wills and estate planning, power of attorney and guardianship, record keeping, new initiatives in future planning, relationships and networks, and other topics of interest to families.
Family orientation meetings are held in the occasionally for families interested in finding out more about Planned Lifetime Networks.

 “Good Life Sessions” are a series of meetings for parents to come together to discuss concerns, share ideas, celebrate accomplishments and work together on the steps towards a Good Life for our children. Typically, each meeting focuses on one chapter from the book, “A Good Life, For you and your relative with a disability” by Al Etmanski. 

Other times the topic develops according to the needs of the parents at that night’s meeting.

We also have gatherings in January and August to come together to meet and share with other families.

Check the Calendar for dates.