By Denise Fitzgerald
Each agency you visit provides unique programming based on many factors that include who they serve, the philosophy of the agency, access to community, availability of transportation/agency vehicles, staff to participant ratio, equipment, and more.
Typically participants in a Community-Based Day Support Program (CBDS) gather each morning at a center and head out for community activities with staff for the bulk of the day.
Participants in CBDS are supervised and often travel in small groups, sometimes in agency vehicles, sometimes in staff cars.
Each agency has a unique application process and it is important to find out as much about their expectations for follow-up as possible. Agencies usually will want to exchange contact information and you are welcome to request additional general information after your initial visit.
Specific questions about your child's admission status or other details pertaining only to your situation should be directed towards the DDS (Department of Developmental Services) transition coordinator assigned.
It’s good to bring a recent photo of your son/daughter, and to be able to articulate a little about their needs in terms of daily living, mobility, and communication. If you think the agency might be a possible fit MUCH more information will be collected and sent in the referral packet.
For the initial visit, just bring an open mind!
Prior to Visiting a Program:
- Was the website helpful in describing the range of program options? Is CBDS listed?
- Did the agency respond within a reasonable time to your request for information?
- Were you asked to provide any information about your son or daughter?
- Was information clearly stated about who the program serves?
- Did you ask additional questions about the population currently served?
Observations Based on the Tour/Visit:
- Is the program within a “reasonable” distance to the participant’s residence?
- Was the outside environment clean and the entryway accessible?
- What type of setting is the program located in?
- Are there outdoor spaces available for participants during time at the center?
- Does the agency have vehicles? Do they use staff cars, public transportation?
- What is the staff:participant ratio?
- Are there opportunities for participants to volunteer in their own established sites or otherwise have individualized activities? If so, how does this work for staffing?
- What is the staff turnover in the agency, especially with direct support workers?
- For toileting and personal needs, will your son or daughter be assisted by staff of the same gender?
- Are there daily/weekly schedules posted?
- Will your son or daughter have choices on what (s)he does each day?
- Are the activities things your son or daughter would be interested in? (Please list some.)
- How many days each week do individuals access the community?
- How many hours per day are participants in the community?
- Where do participants eat lunch? How often do they eat out?
- Will your son or daughter need money? How will you know when to send it?
- If your son or daughter needs therapies, can they get those and also participate in CBDS programming? How exactly does that work?
- How is fitness or exercise worked into the program?
- Participants have “human rights” as adults. What does that mean for your son or daughter within the context of this CDBS? As a parent, what are your rights in determining your child’s choices in general, and specific to diet, exercise, and activity choices?
- Are there aggressive participants in the program? What precautions are taken to keep your son or daughter safe?
- Are there any other participants who are blind or visually impaired?
- What extra supports will a participant who is blind/VI receive?
- Does the agency contract with the DDS/MCB (Mass. Commission for the Blind) partnership? (MA only, these services need to be requested as referral with DDS, MCB/DDS provides some O & M, staff training, APH quota materials)
- All adults have Individual Service Plans (similar to an IEP, but brief, data driven). What are sample goals and how often will you meet with staff to review goals?
- How does communication between home (or group home) and day program happen?
- Who will be the contact person at the day program if you have questions?
- What training is provided for staff?
If the parent feels there is a potential “fit,” they should contact their DDS service coordinator to discuss making a formal referral. There will be lots of medical information requested, along with information from the school. The student's school will typically supply all testing that is part of the student's file, as long as there is a signed consent to release information. A comprehensive transition portfolio could also be developed in the last few years of school. Please make sure that the portfolio is shared with adult providers!
Transportation to the day programs can present a hurdle. It is crucial to understand transportation options depending on the type of program you select for your son or daughter. Work directly with the agency and DDS to become informed of transportation options.
Transitioning to a new agency post-Secondary education can be exciting! It is understandable that new programming brings new concerns. Please reach out to your DDS service coordinator for answers and to make suggestions.