ICF Advocates for Choice
Choice without Boundaries
ICF Advocates for Choice Board of Directors
Families working for families
SUSAN H. JENNINGS (Pennsylvania) is the mother and Co-guardian of a profoundly Autistic adult son named Joey Jennings who resides at White Haven State Center in White Haven, Pennsylvania.
Susan graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in Biology from St. Bonaventure University. She is a retired graphics Web Designer and the mother of four children and a grandmother to 5 children.
She is one of the Founding Members of KIIDS - Keeping Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities Safe, a Pennsylvania statewide grassroots efforts to protect the Pennsylvania State Developmental Centers. She led a successful effort to defeat HB 1650 that would have closed all four Centers at once.
When PA Governor Tom Wolf announced that he was closing two of Pennsylvania's State Centers, Polk and White Haven, she organized the families to fight the closures with rallies, with enlisting legislators to write and approve a Moratorium bill which after passing both the Pennsylvania House and Senate in record time, was stopped by a Tom Wolf veto.
So she organized the Center families to file a class action lawsuit in federal court entitled Jennings v. Wolf to stop the Center closures and preserve ICF care in Pennsylvania.
She is also a proud member of Together for Choice and the National Council of Severe Autism, where she serves on the Policy Committee.
EMAIL: [email protected]
JOE VALENTI (Nebraska) is the President of the Family and Friends of the Beatrice State Developmental Center, an Advocate for the Developmentally Disabled and father to an adult son who resides in the Beatrice State Developmental Center.
Joe Valenti, former CEO of CBSHOME Real Estate, has a
history of exceptional business achievement, underscored
with an ability to foster a culture of collaboration and
Valenti’s instrumental role in driving the success of
CBSHOME and its predecessors for more than three
decades can be attributed to his unwavering commitment
to listening first, and then taking decisive action. He is well-
known as a top executive who served as a role-model,
mentor, and teacher of the industry to ensure solid bench
strength and grooming of future leaders. With more than
$1B in annual real estate transactions, Valenti catapulted
CBSHOME to unprecedented sales and market-share.
Prior to his success at the helm of CBSHOME, his early roots in real estate came as a top
performing Real Estate Agent. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he and two other individuals
purchased Wurdeman of Omaha. He then co-led the merger of Allen Young Real Estate
and Maenner Real Estate to merge with Wurdeman to form HOME Real Estate, setting the
stage for fierce competition with CBS Real Estate. Further championing change, Valenti
facilitated the integration of HOME Real Estate and CBS Real Estate to form CBSHOME
Real Estate, a tremendous force in the market. As CEO, he was well-regarded for the
ability to merge cultures and processes, drive technology advancements, and arm Agents
and employees with state-of-the-art systems, administrative support, and best industry
As a recognized industry leader, Valenti was named to the SP200 (Swanepoel Power
200), a prestigious list of top CEOs and other C-level industry leaders. In 2016, he was
recognized as one of 100 Most Influential Real Estate Executives.
Valenti also has a passion to “give back,” having served as the President of the Omaha
Area Board of Realtors and the Nebraska Realtors Association, as well as participating on
numerous association committees. In addition, he is heavily involved in philanthropic
service, as an advocate for the developmentally disabled.
He was educated at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln with a Bachelor of Science in
Business Administration. He holds multiple licenses and designations in real estate, as a
Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Broker, Certified Residential Specialist, and Certified
In his spare time, Valenti enjoys spending time with his wife, four children and nine
EMAIL: [email protected]
DEBRA WALLACE, (TEXAS) Board Member of PART, Parents and Allies for Remarkable Texans and serves on the Policy Committee for NCSA (National Council on Severe Autism), Co-President of Texas Families and Friends for Choice
1 Served on the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities for Governor Ray Maybus of Mississippi
2. Served on the Governor's Council for Developmental Disabilities for Governor Edwin Edwards of Louisiana
3. Served on the Special Educational Advisory Board for the Austin Independent School District in Texas.
4. Served on TSAC, the non-profit Texas Society for Autistic Children
5 Served as the Secretary for the Capitol Area Autism Society
Debra worked as a Special Education and secondary English teacher for 24 years and she and her husband Stephen Wallace raised 5 children and 10 grandchildren. Their youngest son Justin is severely autistic and resides in the Austin State Supported Living Center (an ICF). She has two Masters Degrees, one in Special Education and the other in Curriculum & Instruction.
JOAN KELLEY (Kansas) is theVice President, of the Kansas Neurological Institute Parent Guardian Group
1. ▪ Twenty seven years as primary caregiver and advocate for individual with profound autism
2. ▪ Former Licensed, Therapeutic Foster Care Provider, State of Kansas
3. ▪ First hand experience with HCBS Waivers, State of Kansas 1998-2005
4. ▪ Behavioral Intervention strategies implemented with interdisciplinary
5. ▪ Guardian for 30 yr old grandson who resides at Kansas Neurological Institute (KNI)
EDUCATION: Continuing education includes:
• Shaklee Institute - Explosive/Noncompliant Children and Adolescents
• University of Kansas - Behavioral Intervention for Children with Autism
• Professional training and oversight with Masters and Phd
level Autism behavioral specialists in Colorado and Kansas since 1993.
MOTIVE: As a grandparent and Guardian, I’m honored to serve in advocacy for highest risk DD
individuals. Utilizing resources, hiring extensive professional and paraprofessional staff enabled
my husband and I to successfully care for someone unable to express his own needs, thoughts and desires - until dangerous, unpredictable behaviors became so prevalent that a centralized
care environment became necessary.
The ICF, centralized care environment has been the successful option in which our loved one has been able to thrive for the past 12 years. Being a solution-oriented person, I welcome opportunities to find solutions, particularly within the team
Judge Stephen Wallace
Senior Legal Consultant
It is with the deepest sorrow that I must tell you that Stephen A. Wallace passed away on December 17, 2021.
Stephen Wallace was the epitome of a fine Southern gentleman, devoted to his beautiful wife Debra, his family and to his friends and colleagues. Stephen was an accomplished legal mind as an attorney and Judge, and an outstanding disability advocate, who generously and selflessly donated his keen intellect, passion and talents to fight for his severely autistic son Justin, and parents and families nationwide struggling to find and preserve the appropriate services our severely disabled loved ones need to survive.
Steve's wry sense of gentle humor and his quick wit were reminiscent of Mark Twain and will be sorely missed by all who had the honor of knowing him. He had an extremely kind heart and jumped to the defense of the underdog, even at personal cost. His integrity and honor were unquestionable.
It was Stephen's legal arguments that preserved the existence of the Texas ICF for his son Justin and for Justin's peers. Another of his outstanding advocacy accomplishments was the letter he primarily authored to the ACLU which turned back their considerable legal challenge to the existence of ICFs. Stephen also wrote letters, tirelessly attended meetings, lobbied legislatures and policymakers and represented the needs and concerns of so many families in need of disability services. He was always willing to freely share his ideas and information.
Stephen Wallace was a wonderful individual that we will miss greatly. Our sorrow is lessened only slightly with the comforting thought that we had the privilege to know him.
Debra, our hearts and our prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time. We will miss Steve greatly and all the good he accomplished will live on.
. As Mark Twain once said:
Let us endeavor to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
ATTORNEY STEPHEN WALLACE (Texas) was a member of PART, Parents and Allies for Remarkable Texans and serves on the Policy Committee of NCSA, (National Council on Severe Autism), Co-President of Texas Families and Friends for Choice
Stephen graduated as a Political Science / History major from Texas State University.
He worked as a teacher at an ICF, the Austin State School before he earned his paralegal degree from Texas Stare University,
Stephen worked as a Parent Trainer for the ARC and served on the Advocacy, Inc. non-profit Board.
Stephen worked as a Special Education Teacher in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Stephen received his law degree from Louisiana State University. He worked as the Research Attorney for the Louisiana Seagrant Program and was the Lead Counsel for the Louisiana Office of Oil Spill Mitigation for the Governor of Louisiana. Stephen then entered into private practice for 5 years before becoming a Texas Administrative Hearing Officer, the position he held until his recent retirement.
His youngest son Justin, is severely autistic and resides at an ICF, the Austin State Supported Living Center.
EMAIL: [email protected]
STEVE WATSON (Oklahoma) is a former high school English teacher and assistant varsity football coach.
Steve has a Masters in English and Secondary Administration from the University of Central Oklahoma
Steve was a Football letterman and has a BS in Education from the University of Georgia
Steve has been married 30 years to Jennifer
His Daughter Sarah lives at Santa Fe Place, an ICF, in Moore, Oklahoma
Steve works part time for Santa Fe Place as the Community Outreach Coordinator
Steve also serves as the Moore Kiwanis advisor to Aktion Club of Santa Fe Place
EMAIL: [email protected]
RITA HOOVER (Arkansas) lives in Maumelle, Arkansas, a suburb community of Little Rock. Rita has been a member of Arkansas’ statewide parent-guardian association, Families & Friends of Care Facility Residents (FF-CFR) Board of Directors since 2000.
She served as President of the Alexander Human Development Center and Conway Human Development Center Parent Organizations. In 1988, she served on the Board of Directors of The Howard County Children’s Center, a Day Program for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, located in Nashville, Arkansas.
Rita has been active in organizing Capitol Day for FF-CFR, delivering a Statement of Support for Arkansas’ Human Development Centers with over 5,700 signatures to the Governor, attending legislative committee meetings at the State Capitol, and advocating to her U.S. Congressmen in Washington, D.C. She organized and assisted with the production of three televised Public Service Announcements for the Centers, organized FF-CFR’s Christmas lighting project by providing Christmas displays on all five campuses, and is working on the newest Christmas project, FF-CFR Tinsel Trail.
Rita holds a Bachelor of Science in History Degree from Texas A & M-Texarkana and was nationally certified as a Paralegal. She is now retired working full time in advocacy work.
She is the mother of Tim Hoover, who resided at the Alexander Human Development Center from 2000 – 2007 and then the Conway Human Development Center from 2007 – 2017, two of Arkansas state-supported residential care facilities. Tim passed away in 2017. Tim’s memory is the motivation for Rita’s advocacy work on behalf of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
EMAIL: [email protected]
Rebecca Japko is the President of PART - Parents and Allies for Remarkable Texans, representing the 13 state-supported living Centers (ICFs) in Texas.
I feel my youngest sister, Linda has trained me all these years on how to respond and love those with disabilities especially those who have extreme behaviors and high medical needs.
After our mother could no longer take care of Linda and through a series of events, she now lives at the Brenham State Supported Living Center since 2012.
I have been a volunteer for eight years at BSSLC and now serve on the Human Rights Committee. My love for my sister has pushed me toward advocacy for all people with disabilities and their right to receive the best care. After working as a postal clerk for seventeen years, I decided I could do more. I went back to school to become a nurse. I spent most of my career as a school nurse but I found the most rewarding position was as the nurse manager at an Alzheimer’s 22 bed facility.
I am now retired and want to focus my time and energy advocating for those individuals with IDD who require 24/7 supervision to be safe.
We love hearing from you, let us know what’s on your mind
620 East Mulberry Hill Road
Mansfield, PA 16933