State of The Arc - Presented by Board President Helen Pietranczyk at the 2018 Annual Meeting
Good evening and thank you for being here. My job tonight is to give you a recap of the past year…no easy task, I will tell you, as there is much to share. However, I will do my best!
Our Strategic Plan includes four major goals:
- Community Life, whereby individuals with I/DD and their families have access to a full community life.
- Technology, in that The Arc promotes and facilitates the use of cutting edge technology that informs and empowers the I/DD community.
- Self-determination and Empowerment, whereby individuals with I/DD are advocates, empowered at every age to lead cultural change in our community.
- And finally, Governance, which allows the organization to fulfill its mission and pursue its vision.
More information about the strategic plan is available through our website.
These goals, and the strategies created as a result of these goals, guide all of our work, staff and board alike. It is the framework within which everything we do must fit. The staff creates their action plan, and the board determines their responsibilities that will support the strategic plan and the staff. Both staff and board measure their success according to progress made on these goals.
So let’s take a quick look at the past year….
The cornerstone of what we do has been and still is advocacy, and the need for advocacy has increased significantly. Advocacy in the second half of the 2017 calendar year was up 15% over the first half of the year. Almost two thirds of the people we serve require the most extensive levels of support. For every person seeking advocacy support, it takes an average of 24 interactions to resolve their concerns. And all of this advocacy is being delivered, and delivered exceptionally well, by the same staff as last year. How have these advocates managed to accomplish this? Through skillful time management, prioritization, teamwork, and long hours. This is a dedicated and tenacious team of professionals, passionate about the work they do and the people they serve.
A quick story or two to illustrate some of the issues they face:
Our young adult advocate assisted several individuals, who have no natural supports, and are homeless, and have dual diagnoses of both IDD and mental health issues. Their needs included locating the appropriate resources and accessing services.
One of our adult advocates assisted an individual who was terminated from comprehensive/DD waiver services and supported that person in planning for the difficult transition to come.
An education and family advocate supported a family through the emotional roller coaster of getting a diagnosis of an intellectual disability for their seven-year-old daughter. The advocate supported them through medical evaluations, the CCB eligibility process, and the transition process within the school district.
These examples illustrate just a few of the issues faced by those we serve; what may not be apparent is that these stories are frequently the beginning of a long-term relationship between The Arc and these individuals and their families. While the team addresses and resolves one set of issues, over time it has been our experience that new and different issues develop. As “life happens”, as it does to all of us, individuals and families need to learn to adapt to those changes. This can mean a continuing, but different, relationship. Some of our families started with us when their child was very young, even before they got to school, and now the child is a young adult. The Arc advocates are there for them, regardless of age or problem. The goal is the same; to provide the necessary support so that the individual, and family, can navigate life’s challenges, and have a full and rewarding life.
A word about another aspect of the support that the advocates provide; the systems that are supposed to help individuals with I/DD are not easy to access, and I can personally attest to that. There is much confusion about which services are available through which waiver, which is best depending on the circumstances, and how to obtain the services of those waivers. Our advocates spend an extraordinary amount of time helping our families get to, and then navigate these systems.
In addition to direct advocacy, significant work has been put into training, both in person and online. 815 people accessed our training sessions, both in person and web based, July through December 2017. This is more than double the number for the same period the year before. But numbers only tell a part of the story; quality education programs allow individuals and families the opportunity to help themselves, an incredibly powerful process for them. One of our longest running training programs, and a very successful one, is Mobilizing Families, a six-week course, one night a week, focusing on a different aspect relating to the world of I/DD at each session. The families who graduate from this course are better informed, and better prepared, both emotionally and tactically, to support their loved one. In addition, attendees form a bond with each other that lasts for years. Peer support is in and of itself an incredible tool. There are many other trainings available throughout the year, including guardianship training; TAG, which is a web-based resource addressing life after high school; and a soon to be completed web-based training module on the six components of the IEP.
The Community Outreach team, whose goal is to increase awareness and inclusion of people with I/DD, has created an Advisory Council comprised of people with I/DD to help identify opportunities and reach as many individuals and groups as possible. The outreach manager joined the steering committee of the Women’s March, ultimately resulting in our own Donna Gunnison being selected to speak at the event. You will hear “her truth” and more from Donna in the second portion of our evening. LifeAbility sessions were created and presented this past year, to very high praise. March, as I/DD Awareness month, was celebrated in a number of ways, including the creation of buttons to wear, saying either “talk to me” or “we’re more alike than you think”. These buttons were a collaboration with the Advisory Council.The team makes presentations to community groups, so if you know of a group that needs to hear our story, please see Valerie Smith after the meeting, or call her at your convenience.
Events this past year included another successful Summit of Hope, where 434 guests came together to hear the importance of community, in all its many variations. Summit of Hope raised $ 88,850 this past year. This surpassed the previous year by 20 %, a significant achievement and a credit to all those who worked so hard put together the program and the materials. Thanks to the Development team, the Summit of Hope committee and to the speakers themselves, some of whom braved significant anxiety about getting up in front of 400+ people to share their story of community and hope. Our summer picnic in July was attended by 270 people, surprisingly without a major thunderstorm this year, just a little rain! And our holiday party in December was a lot of fun, as it always is, with Santa Claus making an appearance, and good music and food too.
So how do we learn about all that is going on here at The Arc and in the world of I/DD? That is the responsibility of the e-Content and Communications Director; she determines what to communicate, and what is the best way to do so. The e-newsletter, the Arc website, training materials, Facebook and Twitter, YouTube, letters…she does it all, with input from those on the team with subject matter expertise. And the process is ever evolving; communication, in all its many forms, is as critical to our mission as the work of advocacy, training and outreach. It’s the role of communications to share our mission and vision and explain it in such a way that readers and viewers see what we do, and also the passion with which this work is done.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the essential support role filled by our advocacy and administrative coordinator. The work done here makes the entire operation run more smoothly. Much of what you see today is a result of the work done by the coordinator, working alongside the rest of the team.
Last, but surely not least, is the work of our Executive Director. While the strategic plan gives us all the direction, it doesn’t provide “driving instructions”. That’s her job, to along with the rest of the staff, figure out how best to accomplish the strategies and goals. Goals that will impact the lives of those we serve; goals that will improve how those we serve live, and work, and play. In addition to leading the staff, she serves on countless boards and committees, to both represent the individuals and families we serve, and to ensure that those many entities, both within The Arc family and those outside of that family, are planning inclusively.
All of the staff participate as members of the many committees and work groups and boards, outside of The Arc, whose decisions could impact the individuals we serve. At last count, there are 47 partnerships specific to the I/DD community, and an additional 27 partnerships where we represent the I/DD community within a broader context.
While the work that we do primarily involves, and affects, our geographic area, we work with chapters across the state, The Arc of Colorado, and the national Arc organization as well, to promote and address the many issues and causes that involve the people we serve.
Finally, a word about the Board. We have an incredible group of individuals, all dedicated to the volunteer effort of planning and guiding the work of The Arc. They serve on numerous committees, help with fund raising, and in so many ways, support The Arc and the individuals we serve. I am privileged to serve with them…
I could spend another hour, or two, talking about the accomplishments of the organization this past year. But we don’t have that much time, so let me just ask both the staff and the board to stand, so that we can acknowledge them, and give them a hand. So that’s a quick look at the year gone by; now let’s take a tiny peek at what’s on the horizon.
Well, more advocacy, obviously, as it is the core of what we do. But in addition, there are plans to put more and more learning opportunities online, so that families and self-advocates can educate themselves, at their own pace and at times that are convenient for them, rather than having to come at a time and place prescribed by others.
The Family Justice Center is a concept that is being developed here in Jefferson County, where law enforcement, prosecutors and organizations who support victims of all kinds of abuse, will “live” together under one roof. This will allow the victim, who is already overwhelmed, scared and possibly physically hurt as well, to have just one location to go to in order to get help. And those whose job it is to provide the assistance, are all in the same place and can have access to the same information, in real time. The goal of this effort is to make it easier for the victim to report the crime, and to give the support team the ability to respond quickly and efficiently. It is critically important that the needs of victims who have intellectual or developmental disabilities be represented in the planning stages, so that the end result is a team that understands and respects the special needs of those we serve. The Arc is part of the planning committee for this effort and is represented on the work groups as well.[LR5]
We are gearing up for the Achievement Challenge to be held on Saturday May 19; this event, with all of us decked out in our bright orange shirts, really “advertises” the abilities of those with I/DD, and is a lot of fun too! if you aren’t already signed up, please go to our website to learn about this event, sign up to walk, roll or run, and to donate.
There is much more coming, and you’ll hear about these things as they unfold. I hope that this very brief recap has provided you with a little bit of insight into the many accomplishments of The Arc this past year. Thank you again for coming.