|T-TAP||Training and Technical Assistance For Providers|
Lessons Learned from Community Rehabilitation Programs: Facilitating Change "One Person at a Time" - Jim Meehan
View as DOC
Organizations often have difficulty determining which approach may be the most successful when shifting their services from facility-based to community-based. Some close their traditional sheltered workshops or day programs in one massive transformation. However, this radical approach can cause the most upheaval and negative reactions. As an alternative, some organizations have implemented a “one person at a time” approach to organizational change. An advantage to this approach is that the organization's board, staff, and parents are not threatened by sudden change. A disadvantage is the length of time that elapses before individuals with the most significant disabilities are offered access to community services.
One approach to the “one person at a time” strategy is to offer
services to individuals who have the most significant challenges first rather
than last. When organizations decide to work with those who have the greatest
challenges to employment, staff must be risk takers and passionate about the
right of an individual to be given the chance for a job. Committing to an anything-it-takes
attitude broadens the possibilities and expands the options for those who might
have difficulties in a community job setting. If individuals who have the most
support needs are successful, their success can have a far-reaching impact
on the entire organization's efforts for change.
Over time Friendship’s commitment emphasized quality job placements over quantity, which in turn led to a one person at a time approach. Today, Friendship, Inc is working to provide customized job development to every individual that receives services from the organization. Friendship emphasizes a team approach with discussions occurring at each planning session for every person served. The staff utilizes individualized assessments and focused job development when looking for the "right job match for the person." The ideal of the right job for the person contrasts with placing a person into any available job. Friendship has worked diligently to foster an atmosphere in which experimentation and innovation is not only acceptable but also required. The organization generates and maintains enthusiasm by talking about all its successes, sharing stories, providing education and training to alleviate fears, and taking a leadership role throughout the state and the nation.
Case Study Example:
While every person is unique, one example of a highly successful venture is Friendship's support of Corey. Corey is a 48-year-old man who spent much of his adult life in a sheltered workshop with limited “real” work experiences offered to him. Because of Corey’s significant disabilities and challenges, a regular community job did not seem possible, but, after attending training on self-employment, a staff member presented an idea for Corey to own a business producing and marketing dog treats. Friendship redirected money that had supported Corey within a sheltered environment to support his customized employment. Friendship assisted him with initial start-up costs of product and fees associated with registering the business with the secretary of state and his membership to Pride of Dakota, a North Dakota Department of Agriculture marketing services made up of almost 400 member companies. While this initial outlay of money came from the organization, Corey's business is now self-sustaining.
Corey had to learn the process of making, packaging, and marketing his products and has shown persistence and ability in completing all required tasks. During the process of selling his products to local businesses, Corey has become more outgoing and willing to accept change in his routine. He has re-connected with family members, including a cousin who had lost contact with him. He has been reunited with friends at social events and made new friends, which has broadened his social network.
Corey also has developed a strong friendship with Julie, the owner of one of the businesses that sells his products. Corey feels increasingly comfortable entering her store and interacting with her. These typical social activities are an amazing step for a man who previously had limited contact within his community. Until she met Corey, Julie had never interacted with anyone who had a disability. “Corey has really taught me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, ” says Julie.
Corey is becoming more and more active in the community at craft shows, local businesses, and working at Julie’s store. Corey’s plans are to broaden his customer base by selling from a website, increase his customer contacts, and expand the number of businesses that display his product. The most important impact of Corey having his own business is how he has changed and has continued to grow through his business contacts.
The benefits of Corey’s business are not one sided! Corey’s success not only has had an obvious effect upon him, but also has had an equal impact upon a businesswoman. Her ideas of people with disabilities have been forever changed. Likewise, Friendship’s staff members have seen this success as an example of the possible. Corey's success demonstrates how anyone can have a richer experience when that person works. It has also strengthened the organization’s commitment to finding community work for everyone. Friendship's one person at a time approach has had a ripple effect throughout the entire organization. Some of the changes that have occurred include the following: all consumer wages have been increased to at least minimum wage; group living arrangements have been decreased in favor of more individualized supports; and leases on large office space has not been renewed.
CRPs that choose to concentrate on individuals with significant challenges may find that their success creates a can-do atmosphere with benefits extending throughout the organization. Working with those who generally are the last to experience the move into the community, creates significant challenges that require staff to be directive and suggest new experiences, while recognizing individual’s interests and choices. This requires great respect for the person and an obligation to use person centered planning, job discovery or other approaches that place the individual's interests and needs in the center of all planning. Organizations also have a responsibility to train staff to understand thoroughly all elements of customized employment, particularly self-employment. CRPs will almost certainly need to support unusual or first-time approaches, which will be outside of traditional job placement, and, therefore, outside of many organizations comfort levels.