Advocating for Progress: IRC’s Participation in ARCA Grassroots Day

Community EngagementBlog

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In the bustling heart of Sacramento, the annual Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA) Grassroots Day drew stakeholders from across California’s developmental services community. Among them stood representatives from Inland Regional Center (IRC), a beacon of support for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Armed with passion and purpose, IRC’s team, comprising staff, vendors, parents, and clients, came together to advocate for crucial initiatives that would shape the future of their community.

The Team



Sofia Benitez is the Senior Community Partnerships Manager at 24 Hour Home Care in Riverside, bringing extensive experience in disability services and advocacy. With a background in Sociology and Gender and Sexuality studies, she is dedicated to making a difference and educating the community. Sofia is honored to represent Inland Empire vendors at IRC grassroots events.


Chuck Mason brings his enthusiasm to the role of supporting the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Cultural Specialist at Inland Regional Center, leveraging his extensive background in educational and community interpreting. With a deep sense of pride, he joins a vibrant team dedicated to making a tangible difference in the community. His commitment to inclusivity and accessibility drives his passion for this work, and he looks forward to contributing to the Center’s mission of empowerment and advocacy for individuals with disabilities.


Tenika & Elijay: Tenika Doyle founded Chasing 7 Dreams to address the lack of inclusive spaces for children like her son, Elijay, on the spectrum. Inspired by her own childhood memories, she developed EKAAMP, a summer camp tailored for children with autism. What began as a one-day event has grown into a thriving organization empowering young people with developmental disabilities in Southern California.


Monica Munguia, an experienced professional in Human Services, assumes the role of Program Manager with Inland Regional Center’s Community Engagement Team. Drawing from her background at North LA County Regional Center and her degrees in Education and Special Education, Monica is dedicated to community empowerment and collaboration. She prioritizes equity and transparency within and outside the organization. Outside of work, Monica enjoys cultural events with her family. Since 2019, she has been honored to serve in the Regional Center system. Reflecting on her role during ARCA Grassroots Day 2024, Monica emphasizes the importance of facilitating dialogues and connections between IRC representatives and legislators. She believes in IRC’s role as a catalyst for positive change, empowering the community’s voice in the legislative process. She is proud of the successful collaboration among the delegations of all 21 regional centers in California.


Mari Rodriguez, Cultural Specialist at Inland Regional Center, is dedicated to advocating for individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. With previous experience as a consumer service coordinator, Mari has a passion for promoting independence and inclusion. In her role, she addresses disparities between IRC and the community, striving to bridge the gap and provide necessary resources for success. With a master’s degree in Public Administration and a background in Sociology and Social and Behavioral Studies, Mari is committed to positively impacting the lives of families and consumers.


Estefania Pena, with over a decade of experience in the deaf community, serves as the Deaf and hard of hearing Cultural Specialist at IRC. Leveraging her own experiences as a Deaf individual, she advocates for equality, provides training, and raises awareness about American Sign Language (ASL) and inequalities within the Regional Center System of Care. Estefania also plays a key role in advancing Deaf services statewide, serving as Co-Chair of the Deaf Specialists Collective and participating in the DDS Deaf Steering Committee for the California Department of Developmental Services.

Our IRC delegation discussed the following priorities:


Urging for Timely Provider Rate Increase

At the forefront of IRC’s advocacy efforts was the plea to uphold the promised provider rate increase without any delays. Alongside ARCA and the Lanterman Coalition, IRC stood firm against any impediments to this essential raise. This increase, slated to align provider rates with the costs of 2022, was not just a matter of fiscal adjustment; it was a lifeline for the dedicated Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who uphold the fabric of community life.

Recent minimum wage hikes had added further strain, making recruitment and retention of DSPs even more challenging. The delay in this increase would not only betray promises made to the community but also jeopardize federal funding, costing the system dearly in the long run. IRC emphasized the urgency of honoring commitments and ensuring adequate support for those on the front lines of care.

Embracing the Master Plan for Developmental Services

Another cornerstone of IRC’s advocacy was the call to embrace the forthcoming Master Plan for Developmental Services as a historic opportunity for comprehensive planning. Rooted in the principles of the Lanterman Act, IRC emphasized the need for equitable service availability, amplification of Employment First initiatives, and lifespan planning that respects the roles and needs of family caregivers as they navigate aging.

By fostering conversations centered on overarching goals and long-term vision, IRC aimed to steer the development of the service system towards a future that prioritizes inclusivity, empowerment, and sustainable support for all individuals with developmental disabilities.

Supporting the Repeal of Fees on Families

Additionally, IRC lent its full support to the Governor’s proposed repeal of fees imposed on families receiving regional center services. Termed by some as “disability taxes,” these fees posed a significant barrier, particularly for Early Start families seeking prompt access to essential services for their young children.

By advocating for the elimination of these fees, IRC sought to alleviate financial burdens on families, streamline service access, and foster stronger, more collaborative relationships between service coordinators and the families they support.

Looking Ahead: A Collective Commitment to Progress

As the echoes of ARCA Grassroots day faded, IRC’s resolve remained unwavering. The journey towards a more inclusive, supportive, and equitable future for individuals with developmental disabilities demanded continuous advocacy, collaboration, and unwavering determination.

Armed with the lessons learned and the connections forged, IRC and its allies reaffirmed their commitment to championing the rights, needs, and aspirations of every member of their community. For in the collective pursuit of progress lies the promise of a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow.

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Community Engagement

Inland Regional Center's Community Engagement Unit can be reached at [email protected]

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