Community Integration - The Need & The Solution

Adults with developmental disabilities represent one of the most vulnerable populations in our community.  By definition, an individual with a developmental disability was either born with this disability or incurred it during childhood. Some examples of commonly recognized developmental disabilities include Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Autism.  During the adolescent years, these individuals and their families receive a great deal of supports through public school system and local organizations like the Special Learning Center. Unfortunately, as the age of those with special needs increases, the resources and available services often decreases. It can be difficult to find information about relevant services, and families are often left to try and sort through an abundance of online information alone. As a result, the transition to adulthood can be very overwhelming to these individuals and their families. 

In addition to difficulty in finding services, once services are located – there is often no state funding to support them contrary to popular belief. Things like special needs camps, specialized athletic programs, tutoring and even outings in the community are left to the individuals. For those on a fixed disability income of less than $900 a month to cover rent, utilities, food, household maintenance and other basic needs – there is often nothing left at the end of the month. As a result, those who rely on support are often left feeling isolated, and unable to access the community around them. In 2016, local business owners pooled together to support families in addressing these needs by hosting a bowling fundraiser. Support from the local community was overwhelming, bringing in over $20,000 in its first year and thus leading to the formation of the Day Solutions Foundation (DSF) nonprofit foundation. 
 
Shortly after its origination, Day Solutions Foundation got to work using these funds to support the success of local programs and needs. DSF created scholarships for special needs camps, tutoring programs for teens and adults, and began to develop relationships with local agencies and programs to come up with solutions for bridging the gap between what the state covers and the needs of families. Quickly discovered, the largest need in our community was for financial assistance in getting community integration programs off the ground and helping our individuals discover their communities – many for the first time. Day Solutions Foundation began offering monthly scholarships to day programs in the Jefferson City area in 2016 – first with Day Solutions, then several other day programs in the area in the years to follow. Very quickly, word of this program and successes spread throughout the community and gained the attention of the United Way of Central Missouri. In 2019, through generous support from the United Way Community Support Grant, the foundation was able to expand this program to the entire central Missouri region to both day programs as well as 24-hour in home care providers.
 
In 2021-2022 local provider grant recipients are: Day Solutions, One for All, Osage County Community Living and Vantage Supported Living. Each provider agrees to provide the necessary staff supervision and transportation to and from the outings. DSF is simply covering the cost of the activity, and the funds for the activity are exactly what the individual with a developmental disability does not have. 

Community Integration funds may be used to cover the client cost of social outings like movies, skating, bowling, local concerts or even lunch with a friend. Funds may also be used to coordinate large group outings like trips to the zoo, hayrides and baseball games. During these activities, not only is quality of life enhanced but organic relationships are formed between our clients and local businesses, charities and community members. These relationships have led to new opportunities for our clients, including volunteering with nonprofits, building friendships and even gainful employment.

The funds provided by the United Way Community Support Grant have also allowed the internal fundraising efforts of the foundation to be allocated to further the growth of additional community programs like Stars Night Out and Night to Shine Prom. Since first receiving the grant in 2019, the foundation has been funding the cost of our local Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Program Stars Night Out, (formerly Friday Night Rec) to make this program free of charge for all attendees. This equates to thousands of dollars per year, and since beginning to cover this cost for families, the attendance at this program has increased dramatically. The Day Solutions Foundation and the families in our community are both grateful and rely on the support of the United Way.

Our 2022 goals include continuing our current programs, looking for opportunities for new community partnerships, and increasing the number of providers and families that are aware of the available grants that the United Way has made possible. The foundation’s goal is to make sure that individuals are able to continue to access their community, their friends and families, and that providers are educated that there is funding available to help. There will always be a need for this type of service, and with the United Way’s support, Day Solutions Foundation will continue to offer the solution.

Story by Danielle Schwartz, Day Solutions Foundation | March 2022

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