Cheryl Walfall-Flagg is saving for when she and her husband are no longer around. She is saving for her son's independence and ability to live and enjoy life to the fullest as an adult.
Cheryl and her husband live with their three boys in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her 19-year-old son, Sean, has been an ABLE account holder since 2017. Her husband, as legal guardian, recently opened an ABLE account for his 14-year-old nephew Davante. In addition to being big Marvel Cinematic Universe fans, Sean and Davante are both on the autism spectrum and meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability criteria, which makes them ABLE-eligible.
A founding member of the ABLE NRC’s Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Outreach Ambassador Program, Cheryl has been working with ABLE NRC since 2018. As a mother, she understands the positive impact an ABLE account can have on her kids’ finances and future lives, especially as young black men with autism. In her role as an Ambassador, she is working hard to make sure that other parents of children who have disabilities, and in particular parents in the BIPOC community, are aware of the increased financial stability that an ABLE account can provide.
Cheryl has also been raising awareness on ABLE accounts through her work for a North Carolina nonprofit. Families & Communities Rising, Inc., oversees Head Start and Early Head Start programs in addition to other family and community services for early childhood social-emotional health, prevention of child abuse and neglect and respite care.
In order to gain the kind of knowledge she needs to support her own children and better serve children and families, Cheryl participates in a variety of advocacy and family support groups. She is also a parent member of Rethinking Guardianship, a North Carolina Statewide Workgroup whose goal is to educate North Carolinians about adult guardianship and alternatives to adult guardianship. These groups serve a primarily marginalized or BIPOC population, individuals with disabilities and their families, who may be low- to moderate-income, many of whom qualify for an ABLE account.
Cheryl has been a key resource on all things “ABLE.”
One strategy Cheryl is piloting is integrating the ABLE Employer Toolkit and ABLE Service Provider Toolkit into the resources offered by North Carolina’s Head Start programs. These resources make it easy for employers and service providers to inform their employees and customers about ABLE accounts. As both an employer and as a service provider, Head Start programs can benefit from both of these toolkits for their staff and families they serve. ABLE NRC applauds Cheryl’s efforts and looks forward to sharing this strategy that Head Start programs and other service providers across the country can use.
Using her personal experience and knowledge to help others, Cheryl states, “Our boys face many struggles because as young black men with autism; their education, health, social well-being and earning power are impacted by how society views and treats them. We are changing that trajectory through academic, social and financial education, empowering them to reach their highest potential. BIPOC families and individuals who face similar struggles need to know that there is an opportunity to achieve a better life experience with an ABLE account.”
Cheryl Walfall-Flagg’s Highlight from the July 2018 AchievABLE Newsletter
Cheryl Walfall-Flagg is the mother of Sean, a 16-year-old ABLE account owner and budding artist. Cheryl and her husband, Terence, have another son, Terrell (18), and her husband’s nephew, Davante (11), for whom they are both legal guardians. The Flagg family set up Sean’s ABLE account in their home state of North Carolina. As part of her work at the Orange County Early Head Start program, and as a parent advocate, Cheryl engages in multiple parent resource groups where she shares information about ABLE and its benefits.
A key part of Cheryl’s ABLE strategy has been the decision to contribute a set amount to Sean’s ABLE Account on a quarterly basis instead of on a monthly basis. This approach allows flexibility for those months where her family might not have funds to contribute.
Cheryl contemplated using ABLE funds to pay activity fees for a social club that Sean, who is on the Autism spectrum, participates in. Cheryl realized that paying for a monthly activity out of the ABLE account undermined their longer term goals and bigger ticket items that could be secured by these funds, such as college for Sean. As a result, the Flaggs use ABLE as a savings and investment account instead of a checking account.
As an ABLE Advisor, Cheryl wants other parents of ABLE-eligible youth to know that, “The first thing to know is that the account is easy to set up. I’m not a financial or a mathematical person. I’m just a mother looking out for her son’s future. The other thing is to start to plan sooner than later. Many parents are so consumed with their child’s disability issues and are in survival mode – trying to figure those day-to-day things out, we have to take that one step back. Do that piece of financial planning for the future. The ABLE account is one easy, simple way to get that done. It is one simple thing you can do.”
The ABLE National Resource Center is proud to have Cheryl as one of our 2018 ABLE Advisors.