Friday, May 28, 2010

Good News Friday!

Last year, I told you about some Imagine! consumers who were participating in The Dream Rocket Project.

Well, those talented artists are now being showcased nationally for their work.

The Dream Rocket quilt panel created by artist/consumers in the C.O.R.E./Labor Source art class was selected by the international Dream Rocket Project team to be in a show at the Great Explorations Children's Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

This show began May 1 and runs through August 1, 2010. Great Explorations Children’s Museum, located next to historic Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, is one of Florida’s top museums and one of America’s top museums for children. “The quilts are hung right by our main stage, so they are always enjoyed by visitors as they watch the demos about chemistry and all sorts of different things,” Hannah Dahm, Art Liaison for Great Explorations Children's Museum told us. “I hope your consumers are proud that their work of art is now hanging in a museum!”

In the photo to the right, the Imagine! quilt is the large one smack dab in the middle of the display.

Schools, groups, and individuals from all over the world have been joining in the Dream Rocket Project for the past six months. Once all the panels are submitted, they will cover a 37 story tall Saturn V Moon Rocket at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. So far, the project has participants from 39 states and about 20 countries including Bangladesh, Kenya, Serbia, Finland, Australia, Norway, Haiti, and Germany.

Imagine!’s Dream Rocket quilt panel, along with information about Imagine! and the art class, has been included frequently throughout the Dream Rocket’s website and on the Dream Rocket’s Facebook page since the beginning of the year.

Congratulations to all the artists and C.O.R.E./Labor Source staff members who have been involved with this intriguing art project.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Graduation Day

Graduation season is upon us. For most of us, this is a time for families to celebrate the success of loved ones, and to look forward to their promising futures.

Unfortunately, for families of who have loved ones with developmental disabilities who are at graduation age, it can be a time filled with great uncertainty. Individuals who have developmental disabilities and are transitioning into adulthood are transitioning into a void.

I don’t say this to generate fear or to point fingers, just an acknowledgement of what parents can expect. Here’s a short, unhappy list:

Fewer services. Anyone who knows anything about our system of services here in Colorado knows there is a substantial waiting list for services. While I find the data on the actual numbers to be suspect, I don’t deny a lot of people who need services aren’t getting them, and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities are disproportionally represented on that list. For example, if your child is currently receiving services under the Children’s Extensive Support (HCBS-CES) Waiver, there is no plan in place to transfer them to Supported Living Services (SLS) when they reach adulthood. Many families assume they will continue to receive funding for services for their loved ones who are transitioning to adulthood. Sadly, that is often not the case.

Guardianship issues. Many parents are in for a shock when they learn that they do not automatically retain guardianship when their sons or daughters with a disability become adults. Take a look at what our friends at The Guardianship Alliance of Colorado have to say: the law provides that when all persons become 18 years of age they are emancipated, i.e., released from paternal care and responsibility and have full legal rights or capacity. The law does NOT say that if a person has a disability or illness that causes him to be unable to manage his own life, then he is not emancipated. Rather, in that case, it is necessary for a court to make a legal determination that (1) the person is incapacitated, and (2) someone should serve as his guardian. Retaining or regaining guardianship is a complex process, especially when parents are caught unaware.

Economic pressures. The sudden and surprising end of services when a child transitions into adulthood can force parents into some difficult financial straits. Many are forced to quit jobs in order to take care of their loved ones, or suddenly find themselves paying for services previously covered by waivers targeted for children out of pocket. These economic pressures often lead to significant emotional stress as well.

So parents who may have had great hopes for their children when they were younger are suddenly faced with a bleak future when confronted with the reality of the transition into adulthood. Given the current state of the economy, I fear far too many parents are going to be hit with this reality.

My one hope is that as more and more families realize the void they are facing, they will become motivated to be more and more vocal about the need for a systemic overhaul in the way services for their loved ones are funded and delivered. Imagine! can produce the numbers, but we need help communicating a need for action that has been long overdue.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to highlight Imagine!’s Dayspring department, which has been providing parent education and therapeutic services to some of our youngest consumers for more than 20 years. Dayspring believes that the family is the child’s first teacher, and takes a whole child approach to encourage parents and children to build upon their strengths. Dayspring provides services and supports to children where they live, learn and play.

The Dayspring team consists of occupational and physical therapists, early childhood developmental specialists and speech language therapists. In addition, Dayspring offers parent and professional workshops on topics such as: sensory processing, the value of play, facilitating language, and feeding and eating concerns.

Why are these Early Intervention supports so important? Take a look at some numbers:

• One study calculated the total cumulative costs to age 18 of special education services to child beginning intervention at: (a) birth ; (b) age 2; (c) age 6; and (d) at age 6 with no eventual movement to regular education. The data showed that the total costs were actually less if begun at birth! Total cost of special services begun at birth was $37,273 and total cost if begun at age 6 was between $46,816 and $53,340. The cost is less when intervention is earlier because of the remediation and prevention of developmental problems which would have required special services later in life.

• A 3-year follow-up study showed that for every dollar spent on early treatment, $7.00 in savings were realized within 36 months. This savings resulted from deferral or special class placement and institutionalization of severe behavior disordered children.

• A recent evaluation of Colorado's state-wide early intervention services reports a cost savings of $4.00 for every dollar spent within a 3-year period.

You can learn more here.

Dayspring also has an Activity Calendar that offers great activities and opportunities for children to meet their goals through fun and play in the community. Much of a young child’s learning takes place when they direct their own play. Learning occurs as children touch, manipulate, experiment and talk about things, while interacting with people who facilitate without directing.

Dayspring staff members are dedicated and caring professionals who represent the best of Imagine!, and I am proud to be associated with Dayspring and the fine work they do.

You can learn even more about Dayspring by watching the video below.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Good News Friday!

Earlier this week, we received a call from Bob Charles to let us know that his family - he and his wife Judy and their three children, Bob, III and his wife Dianne, Dale, and Janice - will be donating $100,000 to fund the Naming Gift for the Longmont SmartHome. The home will be known at the Charles Family SmartHome. We are extremely grateful to Bob and his family, who have already done so much for Imagine!'s clients. We are overwhelmed by the generosity of this additional gift and the commitment of the Charles family to the people Imagine! serves. What an incredible treasure this family is to our community and indeed to our state, nation, and beyond.

Good news travels fast, and you can see a story about the donation from this morning’s Longmont Times-Call by clicking here.

The Charles family has been incredibly supportive of Imagine! over the years. Robert F. (Bob) Charles, Jr., is the founder of the Imagine! Foundation and was its president for the first three years. In 2008, Bob and Judy pledged $100,000 toward the development of Imagine!’s Boulder SmartHome, which was named the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in their honor. In 2009, the pair donated a $60,000 gift in honor of Susan LaHoda, the Imagine! Foundation’s Executive Director, also to be directed toward the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome. And showing that the spirit of generosity doesn’t just reside with the parents, the Charles children have now gotten in on the giving act for this latest, incredibly bighearted donation.

To learn a little more about Bob and Judy, check out this video, which was made when they were honored in 2008 as Imagine!’s Donors of the Year.

Bob and Judy, you and your family are amazing. Your generosity is such a motivating factor for everyone associated with Imagine!. Thank you. We will do our best to live up to your inspiration.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Idea Generators

Throughout this blog I have consistently talked about how important it is for us to look for new ideas and approaches to the provision and delivery of services for individuals with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities.

But I want to let you know that I understand that this is something that is easier said than done. New ideas don’t usually just pop up out of nowhere – often the process is complex and involves a lot of factors coming together just perfectly, like in this video:

We at Imagine! have made a commitment to making idea generation and sharing part of our organizational culture. I know this is not going to happen overnight, but the long-term benefits to seeking out new ideas and approaches are incalculable, especially considering the ever growing need we are facing without a corresponding growth in resources to meet those needs.

We are tackling this commitment in several ways.

Our ever increasing use of social media has opened the door for consumers, families, funders, and other community members to engage with us on a conversation level in a way never before possible. Ideas can be shared freely and publicly and built upon. And I’m finding that as more and organizations get on the social media bandwagon, my ability to discover new ideas and approaches from others, and then engage in dialogue with the organizations and people who have those ideas, has increased exponentially.

Another great source of ideas is our hard working Direct Support Providers right here at Imagine!. They are the ones on the front lines every day, and who better to see first hand how an idea may make everybody’s life easier? Unfortunately, great ideas haven’t always been passed up the chain of command in the past. Maybe a supervisor was too busy to act on the idea. Or maybe the employee worried that the idea would be ignored so it didn’t get shared in the first place. Either way, I know there are great ideas out there just waiting to be heard. That is why I am so pleased that the 2009-2010 Imagine! Leadership Development Group (LDG) created a project designed to make the sharing of ideas easier across our company.

Using a social media platform, the LDG is creating a system for idea sharing in which the “chain of command” no longer applies. Good ideas can be shared with all levels of employees, from the person who has been with Imagine! for only three months all the way up to senior managers with 30 plus years of experience. It can cross generations, departments and management levels, evening the playing field for anyone who has a good idea. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this project plays out – it has a great deal of potential to change the way provide our services in a very positive way.

Another way we are committing to being active in our pursuit of new ideas in still in its infancy stages, but it is something I am very excited about. I recently finished reading a book called “Chief Culture Officer: How To Create a Living, Breathing Corporation” by Grant McCracken. The main point of this book is that every organization needs to commit to being aware of what is going on in the world of pop culture, to be able to identify key developments while actively searching for that “a-ha” moment – where the time, place, and need all combine to not only provide the perfect space for an organization to come up with a new idea, but also to develop that idea into a successful reality.

McCracken argues in his book that having a Chief Culture Officer at an organization, one who is charged with the responsibility of tracking the world of pop culture, will pay dividends for the organization short- and long-term. I’d like to take it a step further. At Imagine!, we have a vast array of intelligent and connected employees who have a variety of hobbies and interests outside of work. If we can harness that knowledge through a culture of awareness of how what is happening outside of our DD world can potentially impact what we do inside of our DD world, many more fresh and unique ideas will be germinated. And if we have a system in place to share those newly germinated ideas, the likelihood that we can improve upon what will only increase. Again, this is early, but I see a great deal of potential here.

I’d love to hear ideas from others on how to best encourage and implement new ideas. Feel free to share!

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Good News Friday!

Readers of my blog and those of you familiar with Imagine! are aware of Imagine!’s SmartHomes project, the development of two homes in Boulder County that use technology to enhance the quality of life for consumers, augment the effectiveness of staff as caregivers, and provide cost and energy savings for Imagine!. As the first such homes in the nation, the SmartHomes are serving as a model for the future of residential care for people with cognitive disabilities. In addition, creating this model has enormous potential to impact groups of people with related concerns (dementia, autism, chronic mental illness, Alzheimer’s) through partnerships with other agencies.

In order for this project to serve as a model for the future of residential care, however, we need to make sure people are aware of this ambitious project. And indeed, interest in this unique model continues to grow.

The project has garnered significant media attention, in print and on television, locally and nationally. Just last Sunday, the Longmont Times Call ran this great article about our Longmont SmartHome. And you can see all of the media coverage of the SmartHome over the past year by clicking here.

We’re not just relying on the media to spread the word about our SmartHomes, however. Members of the SmartHome team have traveled across the state and even the country to give presentations on this project.

Imagine!'s Director of Business Development Greg Wellems has traveled the length of the nation, from Alaska to Washington D.C., in the past year, giving presentations about Imagine!’s SmartHomes project to audiences at a wide variety of conferences. And now other members of the SmartHome team are being invited to speak to interested audiences.

On May 12, SmartHome project manager Sterling Wind will be presenting our SmartHomes Project at the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials Colorado Conference. He will be a member of their “Aging Gracefully in Place” panel.

Keeping busy, Sterling will then turn right around and head to Keystone, CO, to present May 13 and 14 at the Colorado Association of Homes & Services for the Aging Conference. The presentation title will be “Lean & Green: Breaking the Residential Service Delivery Routine.” Joining Sterling will be Hanni Ruehrdanz, Imagine!’s Staffed Sites Manager.

On May 20 through 22, Greg will be back on the circuit, giving a presentation on the history and future of the SmartHome in Dublin, OH at the Ohio Association of County Boards Serving Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Spring Conference.

And on June 17, SmartHome team member Fred Hobbs will be presenting at the Alliance June Training Summit in Fort Collins, CO. His presentation will be: Getting Social: Why Service Organizations Need To Embrace Social Media.

And recently, the international community has started looking at our SmartHomes as a model to emulate as our International Campaign continues to gain momentum! We had a very high profile visitor tour the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome this past Tuesday.

Angelos Pangratis, Chargé d’ Affaires and Acting Head of Delegation of the European Union to the United States, toured the home and was very engaged throughout the tour, asking tough questions and creating lively discussions.

The visit was facilitated by our friends at the Colorado European Union Center of Excellence.

We are incredibly excited about this opportunity to place our innovative and unique project on the national and international stage! Keep an ear out and you are sure to hear more in the future!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

All About Community

Spring is in full bloom here in the Rockies, and it seems like everyone is coming out of hibernation. Neighbors are reconnecting as they venture outside again to do yard work or to take a walk to the ice cream shop. The talk turns to the weather or marveling about how the neighborhood kids grew over the winter, and smiles and laughs abound.

It is a perfect example of how a community comes together, and to me, it serves as evidence of the power of community. We all need those connections.

Colorado’s relatively unique system of services for individuals with developmental disabilities also builds vital connections because it is community-based, and I believe that structure has brought many advantages to the State and to the populations we serve.

This is the case because when the system was built many years ago, it was done so with significant input from the end users, the families and individuals who benefit from the variety of programs and services available to them.

Let me list just a few of the many ways this community-based system brings value to the State and to consumers and their families:

• The system allows for advocacy, including the advocacy role of community centered boards, to take place at the local level, resulting in users having significant influence on services.

• The community-based system is in a better position to track key data and project future needs, such as the number of children eligible for Early Intervention services in an area, or how many children in the foster care system are diagnosed with a developmental disability.

• Community-based third party organizations help keep watch on State expenses, policies, and regulation which increases the likelihood of cost effective programs and services.

• Communities know best what their needs are, and a community-based system provides more motivation to keep up with best practices to meet those needs.

• A community-based system creates incentives for seeking new resource possibilities.

Even more important, a community based system of services means that the services provided reflect the interests and values of the community. Let me give you a simple example.

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships and organizing group activities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Two years ago, through its University of Colorado Boulder Chapter, Best Buddies partnered with Imagine!, and 28 Imagine! consumers and 27 CU students participated in a variety of events. The collaboration continues today with even more consumers and students taking part.

One of the most well received Best Buddies events was a recent opportunity for some of our consumers to meet University of Colorado football coach Dan Hawkins. For some of our consumers who grew up in Boulder, and bleed gold and black with their friends and families every Saturday during the fall, this was an extremely exciting moment.

But what if the consumers participating weren’t from Boulder? What if they were from Ft. Collins, and had grown up supporting the Colorado State University football team? Would they be excited about meeting Coach Hawkins? Probably not. They might even be angry about it.

Now this example may be simple, but it does illustrate why community matters. Unfortunately, there has been a trend in the way services are delivered in this State that has moved us further and further away from the services being community-based. Funding mechanisms now in place are set up to deliver a “generic” service to individuals with “generic” needs.

But no individual’s need is generic, nor is any community generic. Across this great State of ours, community values vary widely, and of course, every individual served in the State has different needs, goals and desires.

The shift from community-based services to a more uniform approach has resulted in generic quality services with no corresponding cost savings. Nobody – not the taxpayer, not the community, not the families, and certainly not the consumer – has been better served by this shift.

So let’s make sure we are doing this right. It is too important to mess up. Let’s not take the community out of the equation.

Then again, what do I know?