The Newest Members of IRC’s Language Access and Cultural Competency (LACC) Team

Dr. CJ Cook, DBABlog

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The 2020-21 Budget Act includes $16.7 million in ongoing funding for the twenty-one regional centers to improve and promote Language Access and Cultural Competency (LACC) to better support the language needs of individuals with developmental disabilities, their caregivers, and their family members. The primary purpose of these funds is to improve Client and family experience and to facilitate more consistent access to information and services for multi-lingual, monolingual, and diverse cultural groups.

Welfare and Institutions Code §4620.4 requires that the Department of Developmental  Services (DDS) implement this initiative through its contracts with regional centers. These funds shall not supplant any existing efforts or funds for similar purposes but are intended to augment and provide maximum additional benefit to the greatest number of persons served, their caregivers, and their families. LACC plans shall be posted on the Department’s and regional centers’ websites. You can review Inland Regional Center (IRC) plan by visiting

Over the past year IRC, has been developing programs and hiring staff to ensure Service Access and Equity for our identified low-frequency and other languages. These include Arabic, Mandarin/Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, American Sign Language, and Spanish.

The two newest members of the LACC team are Janera Valdez, LACC Bi-Lingual Consumer Service Technician (CST) III, and Amalia Barcelo-Huizar, IRC’s first ever Parent Ambassador.



Janera’s primary duties on the LACC team is to act as a liaison to the DDS and reference the project activities and budgets in conjunction with the LACC Specialist, Martin Morales. As well, Janera will act as the primary liaison with State Council on Developmental Services (SCDD) during the National Core Indicator (NCI) Survey. Janera will also work closely with the IRC’s Cultural Specialist, Mari Rodriguez, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) Specialist, Fania Pena, during the annual Purchase of Service data review, plan, and reporting cycle.

Janera will also play a critical role in the logistical support for all LACC activities, including focus groups, Service Access and Equity (SAE) Conference, Cultural Competency Training, CBO engagement, collecting survey data, and quarterly reporting to DDS.

When asked about her new position at IRC, Janera said, “When I first started my career with Human Services, I always knew I wanted to use my knowledge and help individuals and families in need of day program services. Now with 10 years of experience in working with adults with developmental disabilities, it brings me a great pleasure to be a part of the LACC team and I look forward to assisting our families obtain a better understanding of the services IRC provides”.



IRC’s very first Parent Ambassador – Spanish Riverside County, Amalia Barcelo-Huizar, will work directly for IRC’s Manager – Community Engagement. Amalia is responsible for organizing Client and community trainings, attending outreaches and events as a representative of IRC, and sharing resources with the community.

The most important duty assigned to Amalia is to build relationships with other parents, then guide and mentor them through the complex Regional Center System of Care. The end goal is to create parents with a strong knowledge of IRC, the Lanterman Act, WIC 4512, the Individualized Program Plan (IPP), and the ability to communicate effectively with their CSC.

She graduated in Business Administration and Tourism Activities at the University of Alicante, Spain. She has experience working in public agencies such as Regional Center OC, CSU-Fullerton, and in the private sector as a bilingual customer service representative.

Amalia is a proud mom of two kids, Victoria and Marc. Marc is a 17-year-old non-verbal autistic boy and a current client of IRC.  Amalia and her family reside in Riverside County.  They enjoy participating in community activities and socializing with other families.



Amalia enjoys advocating for individuals with special needs. She knows the importance of utilizing available resources, as well as building a support team, and a community. She is aware that language and cultural differences can sometimes be an obstacle that prevent parents and clients from reaching out and utilizing IRC resources. Amalia is looking forward to helping parents and clients navigate the available IRC resources.

IRC is currently interviewing for a Parent Ambassador – Spanish San Bernadino County as well.

Posted by:

Dr. CJ Cook, DBA

As Program Administrator, CJ is responsible for the proactive oversight of various units within IRC, including Community Management, Service Access and Equity, and Training and Development. CJ's oversight extends to Language Access and Cultural Competency (LACC), Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), equity in the Purchase of Service (POS), and the National Core Indicator (NCI) project. Furthermore, CJ is tasked with managing the IRC's Performance Contract with DDS and overseeing Emergency Services.

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