Clearbrook, Park Lawn and UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago, members of Intersect for Ability’s network of agencies in the northern Illinois area, have successfully collaborated on projects funded by The Coleman Foundation in the past. These projects include Building Bridges to the Future, The GRACE Project, FIIVE, and Employment First: Bridges to Work Initiative. Each of these projects is a testament to Intersect for Ability’s belief that projects completed within a partnership of organizations will exceed the results of any one agency, resulting in better outcomes for the individuals they serve.
The development of the CHOICE model, dedicated to providing person-centered services and supports that are community based to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), was a natural selection for the next collaboration between the three agencies. The agencies worked closely through the opening of four CHOICE sites, meeting frequently through the process to refine the CHOICE model. The final step in this collaboration project was to develop the CHOICE manual based on the successes, lessons learned, and overall experiences of the three organizations. It is the intent of Park Lawn, Clearbrook. and UCP Seguin to expand on their local collaboration effort and encourage agencies nationwide to embrace the CHOICE model into their own services and supports.
CHOICE Model Overview
The provision of day services for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) is at a crossroad. From one direction, the families of children with I/DD aging out of special education make it very clear that the traditional, large, center-based, Monday–Friday day services site is not what they or their family member desire. From the other direction, it is evident that there is a national and state movement away from workshops and large congregate settings. At the intersection of these shifts is the emphasis on person-centered services, a process of continual listening and learning, focused on what is important to the person now and for the future and acting upon this in an alliance with family, friends, and community (Sanderson, 2000).
What is CHOICE?
Recognizing the shifts in the day services landscape, Clearbrook established the CHOICE model to embrace the concept of person-centered services and support and at the same time, incorporate smaller community-based sites. Developed around the interests and experiences of the individual and partnering with the natural supports of the community, the CHOICE model offers opportunities for employment, volunteerism, socialization, recreation, and wellness tailored to the individual.
How has CHOICE Evolved?
Clearbrook opened the doors to the first CHOICE site in February 2014 just north of Chicago. During this time, Clearbrook formed an Advisory Committee with members of Intersect for Ability including Park Lawn and UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago as well as members of the local school district and parents of future participants. The Advisory Committee met quarterly to review program data, discuss issues, and ultimately determine the viability of the model.
In 2015, following a successful year serving twenty individuals, Clearbrook partnered with UCP Seguin and Park Lawn to expand the CHOICE model to three additional sites in the Chicago suburbs (Park Ridge, Oak Park, Crestwood). A fifth site opened in early 2016 to service participants approximately sixty miles northwest of Chicago in Crystal Lake. As of 2017, the five CHOICE sites currently serve over one hundred and fifty individuals in this non-traditional day services setting. At time of publishing, there is at least one more CHOICE site in the planning phase, scheduled to open in the suburbs of Chicago.
Since the inception of the CHOICE Model, the three agencies meeting as an Advisory Committee have collected program data on a quarterly basis to monitor, evaluate, and adjust the model. These meetings provided a forum for each site to offer suggestions and to learn from one another. Together, the agencies refined the elements of the initial CHOICE model to form the current model.
What is the CHOICE Vision?
As the three partnering agencies began to open their new CHOICE sites, they realized that each site would be inherently different due to agency policies, location, staff, finances, and other factors. Despite these variances, they wanted to ensure that all CHOICE sites had the same vision and maintained the same core elements. The agencies developed the following vision statement that is now the foundation of all CHOICE locations.
The CHOICE model embraces
- Using self-discovery and person-directed services and supports.
- Providing opportunities to pursue personal goals such as education, employment, and leisure experiences.
- Providing daily community access through volunteering and activities that enable individuals to develop and improve skills.
Building from the vision statement, each organization provides a variety of mechanisms for incorporating person-center services and supports and choice into the daily model. Interviews, surveys, group meetings, and sign-up sheets provide insight into individual goals and interests. As specific interests are defined, the agencies provide the opportunities to pursue them through established community employment departments, appropriate community resources for volunteering, or existing social activities. Finally, the emphasis on accessing the local community equates to a large portion of each day being spent off site.