By Jeremiah Dameron, Foothold Technology
Staff at Foothold Technology are always hungry to hear stories about how AWARDS, our electronic record for human services agencies, is supporting agencies in meeting their goals. More importantly, and definitely more satisfying, is when we get the opportunity to support agencies creating and managing innovative programs that are changing people’s lives. Located in northern New Jersey and serving adults with developmental disabilities in Sussex, Warren, Morris, and Passaic Counties, one member of the Foothold Technology community, Center for Humanistic Change of New Jersey, Inc. (CHCNJ), is serving up some supported employment programs we find quite delicious.
Focusing on the Needs of the Individual Through Supported Employment
In the early 1980s, CHCNJ was a relatively small, residential program serving individuals with developmental disabilities. It operated three group homes and gradually expanded to provide additional services and supports within its northern New Jersey community. But in the early 1990s, a shift occurred within the agency, and in some ways, within the sector as a whole. As Paul S. Kucinski, Associate Executive Director, described it, “As New Jersey began closing down ‘The Edison Project,’ we were asked to serve four individuals needing assistance. We knew, based on history and the desires of those individuals, that traditional Day Programs that existed at the time would not suffice. So, we welcomed these individuals into our residential program and started providing new Day Hab services.”
Since the onset, CHCNJ has operated under a philosophy and belief that everyone has the right to be an active, productive member of the community. As Day Hab services and supports expanded, the agency also expanded its philosophy to shine a light on the fact that all individuals have the right to live and work, as active, visible, productive members of the community. CHCNJ continued to partner with employers in the community and thus provided more individuals with the opportunity to work with a job coach one-on-one. It’s a model that continues today and as Mr. Kucinski described it, “rather quickly, through this experience, we asked ourselves, ‘let’s see what we can do to open something on our own!’” And in 1993, Cones By Design was born.
Cones By Design, A Unique Approach to Supported Employment
Open seven days a week, Cones By Design, is an ice cream store serving seasonal flavors and custom-made ice cream cakes year round. Cones By Design is not just a store. For staff and volunteers, it’s a place to learn new skills, socialize with others, and a place where individuals with developmental disabilities can work as an active, visible, productive member of the community. By breaking up tasks throughout the store, individuals have the opportunity to learn as many skills as possible. “Many individuals that work at Cones By Design see this as a place to work forever. Others learn skills and can take those skills to other places,” said Mr. Kucinski.
The innovative model born out of Cones By Design, in some ways, served as a recipe for success when CHCNJ established the Re-Designs Thrift Shoppe. Celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2017, Re-Designs is a similar partnership of enterprise and CHCNJ, which provides employment opportunities and skills development to individuals with developmental disabilities, not to mention great shopping opportunities for the entire community.
Managing and Addressing Change
In recent years, as New Jersey transitioned to a Fee-For-Service model, like many providers in the state, CHCNJ had to find new ways to document services and supports in adherence with the new guidelines. During the transition, staff at Foothold helped the agency assess workflows, and in terms of documenting services and supports, helped the agency think through changes. In some cases, this meant thinking about what it meant to separate pre-vocational and career planning services from supported employment. “With the transition to Fee-For-Service, our agency needed to track supported employment, small group activities, and some Day Hab programs in new ways to meet the new requirements,” said Mr. Kucinski. “Foothold staff were an invaluable resource for us and continue to be a great partner.”
“Foothold staff were an invaluable resource for us and continue to be a great partner.”
Today, across the entire agency and across all programs, all notes are documented in AWARDS, all Individual Service Plans (ISPs) are tracked in AWARDS, and CHCNJ staff access information daily to check goals and objectives. “Because our documentation is tied to BillingBuilder, it also allows us to track and bill for services with ease,” adds Mr. Kucinski.
As a vendor partner, Foothold Technology is proud to support agencies like CHCNJ. Through innovate employment programs like Cones By Design and Re-Designs, we applaud the focus on programs that provide individuals with the skills, tools, and opportunities needed to ensure each individual’s right and need for community integration can be fully recognized and achieved.
More About CHCNJ
In addition to its innovative employment programs, CHCNJ also runs residential programs in 12 small-settings group homes and one supervised apartment dwelling. The agency provides services and supports to individuals ranging from age 22 to those in their mid-80s. The agency provides several Day Hab programs and a wide array of services and supports in the community. The agency has been a Foothold Technology customer since 2014.