Monday, October 7, 2013

Making sure people and relationships are the focus

We’ve talked a lot this year about the Heritage Christian difference and about how our compassionate culture influences the way we serve. Now, we’d like you to hear from someone who understands the importance of relationships and living out our values: Jennifer Clark, manager at the home on Five Mile Line. 

Jennifer Clark
I have been working with Heritage Christian Services for over 14 years now and have been blessed to share my special gifts, talents and interests in so many ways. I turned some ladies onto the wonderful world of craft shows and now they attend several shows annually and shop for gifts for their friends and family. I have been able to help another actually create and sell jewelry. I love photography and have been able to share that assisting some individuals to create life long memories in scrapbooks, as gifts for their loved ones or themselves. I share pieces of me and my passions in life all of the time with my co-workers and the folks I am blessed to support. We are fortunate to be a part of a great environment that encourages us to share these types of things.

Part of the way I choose to express myself as a person is through my tattoos. I have five and each one holds special meaning to me. They represent love, loss and my dreams. They show the world a bit about who I am. I have always understood however that when I am at work it is my job to help the people I support to shine, be who they are as individuals and be the focus of whatever activity, appointment or outing I am supporting them on.  In order to do this effectively I need to blend into the background, be unnoticed if at all possible. If I cannot go unnoticed then I at the very least want to be noticed for my professionalism. 
One of Jennifer Clark's tattoos is a Claddagh. One hand represents her, while the other represents her brother. The heart symbolizes the love they share, and the crown means they will always be loyal to that love.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Free syposium helps families plan for future


More than a dozen local agencies – including Heritage Christian – are hosting a symposium designed to help families with children who have developmental disabilities plan for changes in the Medicaid system, meeting their child’s goals and future financial needs.Carol Blessing, who has spent more than a decade on the faculty with Cornell University's Employment and Disability Institute, will be the featured speaker on Oct. 10. The free event runs from 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Pieters Family Life Center, 1025 Commons Way in Henrietta, and is open to parents, educators and human services professionals.Child watch and respite care are also both available for free as part of the Partners Toward Independence symposium, which is sponsored by the Golisano Foundation.To register, visit

Read the following Q&A with Carol Blessing to get a sense of what the symposium will offer. 


1.       What is person centered planning? Why is it important to me and my loved one?
Person-centered planning is a couple of things.  First it is a philosophy or a belief that people who are labeled as disabled have gifts and capacity and potential like anyone else and that they have important contributions to make to communities and to society.  Person-centered planning is also a kind of technology for making sure that the person's gifts and capacities, interests and hopes for the future are heard and understood, and more importantly, are used as the basis for designing and implementing service plans. In person-centered work, the voice of the person with disabilities, their families' and their friends should be directing the way services provide support. That is what makes it important - if you are not directing the process, someone else will be.
2.       Why do I need to be concerned about my loved one’s community inclusion?
Community is a place of belonging to something and of relationships with other people who come together around common interests and purpose. It is where gifts can be offered and contributed to make a positive difference in that community.  We need everyone's contribution in our communities to be whole.
3.       My loved one is interested in holding a job in the community; where should they start to look and how can I help them? What resources are available to us?
I firmly believe that the first place to look for a job is in and around the places that reflect similar values and interests that your loved one expresses.  Places that will bring out the best qualities in this person and that will encourage growth in a healthy way.
4.       Why are there so many barriers to employing people with disabilities? What can we do to help change long held perceptions?
Big question. Stigma, stereotypes and discrimination born of negative social perception of people with disabilities is at the top of the list.  Fear of difference and of not knowing what to do in the presence of difference that shows up in the form of what people have come to call disability.  

One important way to help change perceptions about people with disabilities is to take good care to avoid reinforcing them.  None of us are immune from placing stereotypes on or discriminating against others. Be aware of how your thoughts end up in action.  Are the actions representative of the kind of experience we want our sons and daughters to have?

This could mean changing the way we talk about or to people with disabilities, how we interact with people, and where we invite them to show up.  It may even mean changing our own beliefs about people with disability.  

A great way to help others challenge the perceptions that they hold about people with disabilities is to support them in sharing in relationship with someone in a true and caring way.  When we have live stories that include people with disabilities in positive ways, the fear and the stereotypes tend to fall away and we get to know the person for who they are.
5.       What is self-determination and how can it help my loved one reach his or her goals?
Self determination is a set of rights and responsibilities.  The National Center for Self Determination ( defines self-determination in five ways:

it is the FREEDOM to decide how to live your life
it is the AUTHORITY to decide how a targeted amount of resources will be used in the context of this freedom
it is the SUPPORT to organize resources in ways that are life-enhancing and meaningful to you
it is the RESPONSIBILITY to use public dollars wisely AND to give back, to make positive contributions to your community
it is the CONFIRMATION that you matter, that you have an equal voice and that you will be counted in

6.       Things are changing quickly and sometimes it is hard to keep up. What are the top two or three things that I need to be most concerned about?
What to be concerned about is a kind of moving target on any given day.  I would say what you want to be diligent about is:
·         Having the information that you need to make informed choices
·         Having a solid and active network of positive support
·         Having clear vision of a respected and dignified life for your loved one and refusing to settle for anything less