CARE Offers Fun, Helpful, Alternative to Employment Programs

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A year ago, 23-year-old Diane had such severe behavioral problems and aggressive, destructive outbursts that she virtually never went out into the community. She needed two Chimes staff members just to help her stay under control.

Today, Diane’s behavior has so improved that she only needs one dedicated staff member, and she regularly goes on community outings.The difference? Diane has been in Chimes Delaware’s CARE (Community, Activities, Recreation, Exercise) Program, which de-emphasizes preparing individuals for work and instead focuses on leisure, social skills, and non-work related activities. “There’s been a huge turnaround with her,” said David Black, Director of Day Services. “She writes now, she paints, draws. She goes out to the zoo, parks, the mall … That stuff didn’t happen before.” Diane’s progress is just one success story from CARE, a program at the enrichment center created six years ago to support the large numbers of individuals being released from state institutions who have disabilites.

Until then, Black said, Chimes Delaware had focused on vocational programs, but those programs didn’t work for many of the new participants. “We saw a lot of behavioral issues, a lot of absenteeism – absolutely no buy-in whatsoever,” said Black, who helped launch CARE. “We realized not everyone wants to join a pre-vocational program.”

So the agency created a new program, one with structured activities designed to be fun but also to increase mobility, communication, socialization and leisure skills. CARE offers arts and crafts, baking and dancing, and musical instruments and table-top games. It also offers day trips to museums,In addition, CARE participants work with pet therapists, art or music therapists, and physical

While such offerings are not unique in Delaware, Black said, CARE is the only one that uses a special
model to choose activities. Each activity must include a “Function-Outcome-Benefit” analysis, which means its function must be identified, the outcome outlined, and the benefit to the individual described. Evaluating the activity’s success is based on assessing the individual’s response. “We look at behavioral indications – the level of engagement of the individuals,” Black said. “If they look as if they’re full-blown into it, then we’re going to keep it up and keep it going.”

CARE provides a valuable and popular service as an alternative to pre-employment programs, explains
Michele Mirabella, Director of Residential Services for Chimes Delaware. “We believe in choice and options for all,” she said, “and this is another choice for people with profound disabilities. Individuals for whom work is no longer a
focus are choosing to move into the CARE Program.” The program began with about 30 participants, and has since grown to about 115. “It’s a really strong program, and the success is shown in the engagement of the people we support,” Black said. “We have a tremendous number of dedicated staff who want nothing but the best for the people they work with and make sure that occurs on a daily basis.”

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