Posted by Jan Plager
The path to independence is a challenge for most of us. For adults with a disability, the path may be littered with learning concerns, communication issues, and social isolation. Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) is a leading provider of residential support services for adults with disabilities, with services designed to meet the range of needs of our residents. The goal of our individualized services is to help people become as independent as possible, using innovative teaching strategies, community supports, and well qualified, highly trained, supportive staff.
Although only having recently begun working at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, I had the opportunity to meet with a long-term service recipient, Katie. She and I spoke at her apartment in Brighton, which she maintains with support from JF&CS staff. Her story is one of persistence, hope, and success.
In discussing her past, it is clear that independence has long been a goal for Katie. As she describes her journey over the last ten years, one gets the impression that she feels she is finally where she wants to be. She is grateful for the help she receives from JF&CS staff. When asked about her journey she said, “Thank you for letting me move in.”
In 2002, Katie graduated from a residential school for students with developmental disabilities. With the help of JF&CS Services for People with Disabilities and state funding, she moved into her first JF&CS residence.
Initially living with roommates in a couple of different apartments, Katie eventually moved to her own apartment on Ransom Road in Brighton. She has worked hard learning how to manage her routines and boundaries and to address the stresses and responsibilities of daily life. She readily expresses her appreciation to her JF&CS case managers for helping her improve her self-calming and coping techniques as well as household management skills.
In addition to her stable living situation, Katie has successfully maintained her employment in the Boston College dining hall for more than three years. She loves to cook and is learning to make healthier recipes and choices to address her health issues. She also now schedules her own medical appointments, which she attends with a JF&CS staff person, and packs her own medications.
The most significant change in Katie’s life was her recent wedding. Katie’s brother, who traveled from California for the event, “gave her away” in a summer ceremony in the backyard of her fiancé’s family home. Katie proudly shows off the photographs from the wedding and is clearly thrilled to be in a committed relationship. Holding her husband’s hand, she said that she “feels great, is doing wonderfully, and that staff are proud of (her).” She is clearly and deservedly proud of herself.
Jan Plager, LICSW, is a Clinical Social Worker with Services for People with Disabilities. A licensed clinical social worker for over 30 years, her work has focused on individuals with disabilities and their families with an emphasis on capacity building and community integration. Jan has a BA from Mount Holyoke College and an MSW from the University of Michigan.