The short story is, we have a new employee. Her name is Sari. She started on Monday. We (John, Matt and me) have been frantically cleaning a section of the office to make it just right for her arrival. Her area is over in the corner behind the counter.
So, what's the big deal, you ask? Truthfully, this is huge. Last spring I wrote about the day Sarah and I visited the Adult Activities Center where the County Board of Developmental Disabilities would likely place her when she ages out of the job training program she is currently in. As in most states, that will happen when she is 22. However, there is a waiting list for services, so there is no guarantee of that happening for several years. The greater issue for me was the general idea of sending Sarah to a large facility with 200 plus other adults with disabilities to "hang out" all day. Not my vision of where she would be after all these years of hard work. I soon found out though there are not a whole lot of alternatives due to funding shortages they claim.
A separate concern for me was the transition process. If you live on the eastern side of Cuyahoga county and have a high school student with a disability, they are often in a program referred to as CEVEC. It is an excellent operation. The entire concept is they train the teens in the community in real job sites. But then on their 22nd birthday, or there about as some districts will let them finish the year, they transfer over to the County Board of DD and a whole new set of adults and placements take over. Huge disruption to a young adult in my opinion. Especially for those who transition is already a difficult issue.
So last spring, I started dialogue with staff members from both entities. Some were cooperative, some were not. My concept was this: Find a company placement in the final six months of CEVEC that would then hire them as an employee once they reached their 22nd birthday and aged out. Behind the scenes the adults can handle the paper work involved in transitioning from one bureaucratic entity to the other. For the young adult involved, it would be a seamless transition. In fact, they would not even realize a transition is occurring.
Going into this I knew I had an advantage in these discussions, as my husband and I own a business. Not only do I see the challenges from a parental view point, I can pilot the thought process with jobs. So after many meetings, drum roll please, our first new employee from CEVEC arrived this week. She is a delightful young woman with Autism. During the interview process we learned she has some distraction issues and does not like to work in a large environment.
Hence, the corner area. It has a feel of privacy so she will hopefully be more comfortable. Yet it is in the snack/lunch area so she will have to interact and socialize with the employees for short periods. This is important to her family. She comes to us initially with a job coach who will stay with her until she learns her duties. She will start out with shredding. We are a medical billing company so we have an endless mountain of paperwork that must be destroyed appropriately. The concept is when Sari turns 22 in January, she will become a member of our staff and I will be her immediate supervisor. Behind the scenes, the County Board of DD could be called in for consult if needed.
It's a start. A small beginning that I hope will make a difference. For Sari, and one day for our Sarah. I'm pleased with the initial phase. Sari is so excited and her family is thrilled.