Our Story

Florida's Voice

On March 22, 1984, Arlene Lakin was blessed with a beautiful baby boy. This little angel, however, was born with a severe developmental disability and multiple medical conditions. With love and dedication Arlene and her husband took this baby home to love and to care for him. As time went by they realized that, due to his congenital medical conditions, it was too difficult for them to care for him at home full time with two other young children to attend to. So they made the difficult decision to place him in a residential center.

As stressful as this decision was, the difficulty was only beginning. The search to find a facility to take him in and provide complete care was arduous. As they began the process of finding the best care for her son, she learned that there was a movement to deinstitutionalize, thus there was a paucity of available beds in facilities in Florida for children with special needs. She and her family learned firsthand the politics of disability and the frustrations of having a loved one with a developmental disability.

Once her son was placed, Arlene became an activist parent and joined a national organization called VOR that supported large facilities. It was then that she and her husband decided they needed an organization like VOR in Florida.

And so, in 1995, Arlene took the legal step of forming what was then titled “Florida’s Voice of the Retarded.” They started with a core group of six families who came to her home and invested enough money to incorporate with the State of Florida and then to file for tax-exempt status with the IRS. Once FVOR was operational, they started a charter board and slowly began to get their name known throughout the state. In time, the name has changed to “Florida’s Voice on Mental Retardation” and then more recently to “Florida’s Voice on Developmental Disabilities.” Now FVDD helps families with any of the five state-recognized developmental disabilities.

Arlene Lakin, President of FVDD, shares, “Although the original vision of FVDD was to ensure that persons with profound disabilities would always have the option of a large residential setting, our vision has broadened over the years to be the statewide ‘voice’ for all families, whether their loved ones are self-advocates, living independently and working, or anywhere along the continuum of life – including those like my son who are on the profound level of disabilities and are not able to work or live independently.”

FVDD desires to support all families with their objectives and to keep all families informed regarding what is going on in the State of Florida. To learn more about what we do, see FVDD in Action.

If you would like to join a group of dedicated individuals, families, agencies, and professionals who strive to be a voice and an advocate to make a difference in the lives of persons with developmental disabilities, please consider becoming a member and/or making a donation.

Become a voice of many and remember: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” (Author Unknown)

A caseworker in the former Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) intentionally and improperly coded my son so he would never be eligible for residential services by HRS,” shares Arlene. It was this incident and the plethora of other obstacles that became the impetus to create a “voice” for families in Florida.