Virtual Future Planning (V-FIN)

Virtual future planning for adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and aging families

The UIC Department of Disability and Human Development in partnership with The Arc of the United States and The Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University and partners will, in this three-year project, develop and rigorously test the efficacy of an online version of an evidence-based future planning intervention, The Future is Now.  The project’s goal is to improve outcomes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families by supporting them to make effective person and family centered plans for the future as family caregivers age.  The objective is to support people with I/DD and their families to develop and take action on future plans (legal/financial and residential plans; and a letter of intent, a document that serves as a roadmap for families in the future).

Community living and participation is the NIDILRR outcome domain on which our project will focus. The primary outcomes are: 1) Increased participation in future planning; 2) Increased self-determination and daily choice-making of the person with I/DD; and 3) Decreased family members’ feelings of caregiver burden. The expected products include the online version of the Virtual Future is Now (V-FIN) curriculum which incorporates self-paced modules paired with live Zoom sessions taught by peer trainers over five weeks.  Additionally, a train-the-trainer curriculum will be developed to train agency staff to implement V-FIN to sustain the program and help increase dissemination of V-FIN in the project’s final year. Our stakeholder partners include: Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered’s Self-Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center, Sibling Leadership Network, and Association of University Centers on Disabilities. 

Content Section


National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research Field Initiated Program


Recruitment for Virtual Future is Now in Illinois:
Has your family member with intellectual and/or developmental disability (IDD) talked about what they want for their future? Not sure on how to prepare your family and loved one with IDD for their future?

If yes, you might be eligible to join the VFIN research study, which consists of an online & interactive training program offered by the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois Chicago. The VFIN training program is for adults with IDD & their family members residing in Illinois to help them initiate the future planning process. This training will consist of weekly 1-hour Live Zoom classes and self-paced materials on Google Classroom for 8 weeks in Winter 2023. To know more, visit:

For screening your eligibility, please visit: or contact us at phone: 312-996-1002 or E-mail at

Publications and resources

Arnold, C. K., Heller, T., & Kramer, J. (2012). Support needs of siblings of people with developmental disabilities. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 50(5), 373-382.  

Arnold, K., Caldwell, J., Factor, A., Abdelrahim, R., Nelis, T., & Heller, T.  (2021). The Future is Now: A future planning training curriculum for families and their adult relative with developmental disabilities (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Heller, T., & Caldwell, J. (2006). Supporting aging caregivers and adults with developmental disabilities in future planning. Mental Retardation, 44, 189-202. 

Heller, T., Caldwell, J., & Factor, A. (2007). Aging family caregivers: Policies and practices. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Research Review, 13, 136-142. doi:10.1002/mrdd.20138 


Principal investigator
Tamar Heller, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences 

Katie Arnold, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences
Joe Caldwell, Brandeis University Lurie Institute for Disability Policy
Kelly Hsieh, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences
Jinsong Chen, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences 

Robin Jones, ADA advisor, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences
Matiana Ovalle, Latino liaison, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences
Timotheus Gordon, Consumer advocate, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences
Jae Jin Pak, Consumer advocate, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences 
Randa Abdelrahim, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences
Piyush Mishra, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences