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Diocesan conference looks at welcoming students with intellectual disabilities

The Catholic Herald

Feb 7, 2022

Students with intellectual disabilities need more than to be included in Catholic schools — they need to feel they are welcomed, wanted and truly belong, said Beth Foraker, a longtime educator and parent of a student with Down syndrome.

“Belonging is delight, joy and laughter. That is the level up from just inclusion,” said Foraker, who encouraged diocesan parents, educators and advocates during an online conference Feb. 5, titled “From Inclusion to Belonging: Embracing Disability as Part of the Church.” 

Foraker worked for more than 20 years to ensure that her son, Patrick, now 22, could attend Catholic schools in Davis, Calif., with her other children. As a result of her advocacy, he became the first student with Down syndrome in Sacramento diocesan schools to be fully included, she said. In 2015, Foraker founded the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, to support other families seeking a Catholic education for children with special needs. 

Foraker now co-directs a program at the University of California-Davis School of Education that received a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create an inclusive, four-year college program for students with intellectual disabilities, called the Supported Education to Elevate Diversity, or SEED, Scholar program. The first group of 10 students began classes last fall. 

To read the full article from The Catholic Herald, click here.

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