The recent Penn-Mar-Change, Inc. merger has been exciting for both organizations. And while we have many services and supports in common, each brings to the table innovative approaches that can eventually be adapted organization-wide to strengthen our position as an industry leader.
A perfect example of this is Change’s focus on providing a new way of delivering services and supports to transitioning youth who are moving from school-based services into the adult system.
Both organizations believe everyone deserves a self–directed experience with full autonomy over the choices that will impact their life’s journey. To that end, we began an initiative in July that has seven transitioning youth receiving services and supports that are fully provided within their homes and communities.
What’s changing is that they will not be receiving traditional center-based segregated services that are programmatically driven. The new approach rather focuses on individualized supports that help people to take steps that move them closer to their personalized concept of a “good life.”
Our initiative is about getting away from programming and the continuation of attending school in a building. Our transitioning youth will no longer be required to “fit in” but rather to explore and pursue what it is they would like to learn and do to make their lives more meaningful as they transition into adulthood.
We are offering them supports to be able to access and participate in things that you or I would do. Therefore, we will provide supports where they need them, how they need them and when they need them within the scope of the funding they are eligible for.
For starters, we have revamped the admission process. People no longer have to apply to come to Change. If they are interested in learning more about self-directed versus center-based services, we will come to them. Building tours will be replaced with personal visits to their homes to introduce them to the services and supports we provide that are directed by the family and their loved one as a team.
If they decide to move forward, we will observe the youth in their natural environments — at home, in the community, at school — trying to understand their interests, skills, and their vision of a “good life.” Once we determine what that looks like, we help them think through the steps to achieve those goals and chart out a life course with the family.
This new endeavor involves creative funding approaches and a full-on partnership with the transitioning youth and their family. It is important that they understand budget limitations and how services are funded. When possible, we can use outside resources that other providers have, modifying services over time as a person’s life trajectory changes.
This initiative is in the early stages but we plan to utilize data heavily to learn from our new approach and continually improve it over time. Not all transitioning youth and their families are ready for this self-directed experience. It’s a non-traditional personal investment that involves a lot of work in exchange for the freedom to manage their own life plan. But our organization stands ready to serve as a broker for youth and their families, with a trained staff on board to help when needed.
We believe this intensity of one-to-one support in the early years will help people with disabilities to naturally connect overtime to their community through competitive integrated employment, book clubs, recreational activities and church groups, just to name a few opportunities. We hope to set young adults on a path where they may not need as many day-to-day supports in the future.
Although we will continue to offer a variety of opportunities to the people we support, we hope to convince more people who have been in the system for some time to take a long look at the benefits of this radically innovative, self-directed approach. We also look forward to sharing the success stories of our pioneer transitioning youth in the months and years to come.