February 26-28, 2017 • Atlanta, GA


<< Back

Darlene Freeman

When I first opened the email requesting nominations for this Family Leadership Award I instantly thought of Darlene Freeman. I have known Darlene for the past 20 years. Our relationship began when I was her daughter, Deaven's early interventionist in their home in Maine. Darlene immediately struck me as a mother who was a "get things done" kind of Mom. She followed through on every recommendation and was a true collaborator with her IFSP team to ensure her daughter made astounding progress. As a mother of young child, Darlene reached out to other parents that she met at family gatherings, and at her daughter's preschool program. She offered guidance and support in a very neutral manner to other parents and became the parent that was able to make every new Mom or Dad of a deaf child feel they knew what their next steps were.

Over the years as I met many other families, Darlene became the Mom I referred other parents to for support. In recent years Darlene became Maine's Parent Consultant for our state's EHDI program. In this position, Darlene called every parent that had a baby refer on newborn hearing screening and supported them through the follow up process, every step of the way. Darlene would go out of her way to ensure each family was heard, concerns addressed, and they felt supported. In this role, she not only supported our EHDI program, but also has been instrumental in supporting families in early intervention.

Darlene became involved in our Hands & Voices chapter in Maine and later became our chapter president. She has grown our chapter and family support in Maine tremendously! She was instrumental in supporting the writing of a request for proposal to start a new Guide By Your Side program of which she was the first Guide By Your Side program coordinator in Maine, ensuring families throughout our rural state had access to parent to parent support.

For the past two years, Darlene has been an active participant on Maine's Deaf Culture Festival committee. She worked to bring the family perspective to this festival and ensured the festival was family-friendly. As a result of here efforts this past year's festival was widely attended by families from all over Maine.

Most recently her ideas led the way for Maine's HRSA grant application embedding family support throughout our EHDI system. Her ideas are innovative and always family-centered. She strives to embed families into every aspect of Maine's EHDI system and encourages professionals to always remember the family perspective. She is collaborative and supportive of both families and professionals coming together to support deaf and hard of hearing children. Darlene has changed the face of family engagement in Maine. When I think of family support and family engagement I automatically think of Darlene Freeman. I can't think of another parent that deserves this honor more.