On October 29, 2021, Cara Coleman (JD, MPH), Family Voices’ Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, was publicly celebrated in a series of University-sponsored private and public events—including one event before an audience of 80,000—as the current recipient of the Edward “Moose” Krause Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor given by the University of Notre Dame’s Monogram Club.
The award is bestowed annually on a former Notre Dame athlete for “exemplary performance in local, state or national government; outstanding dedication to the spirit and ideals of the University; demonstrated responsibility to and concern for their respective communities; and extraordinary commitment and involvement with youth.” Ms. Coleman serves as the national legislative advocate for Family Voices, a national family-led organization that supports a network of 59 federally funded Family-to-Family Health Information Centers and affiliated organizations providing family-to-family support, education, training and technical assistance to families and professionals in every state, five territories and three tribal communities. Family Voices is an active partner in multiple research, program, and policy initiatives focusing on elevating the role of families as equal partners in improving health care outcomes for children and families.
During her daughter Justice’s life, Coleman saw firsthand the complex caregiving responsibilities that are required from families of children with disabilities. It was the challenge and extent of those responsibilities that caused Coleman to step back from practicing law and to find new uses for her advocacy skills. While Coleman and her husband, Jason, developed extraordinary skills as direct caregivers, she also translated these experiences into a passion for educating others, including health care professionals, about the gifts and challenges of providing such care for a child, and the supports and systems changes needed to help these families and children thrive. A dedicated advocate for families and the vital role they play in meeting the health care needs of children with disabilities, Coleman shares her extensive knowledge and experience in promoting effective family professional partnerships by working in multiple arenas to improve health care and services.
“Family Voices is thrilled to congratulate Cara and her family on this much-deserved national award,” noted Nora Wells, Executive Director of Family Voices. “We are so proud to have Cara as a colleague and our national policy and advocacy director. Cara’s extraordinary accomplishments shine a spotlight on the achievements of families across our nation who are striving to care for their children with special needs and to improve care for all children through partnership with professionals.”