Five years ago, Susan was not sure this move was going to work. She was apprehensive, she was unsure of herself and the thought of being in a new home with new roommates was certainly unknown territory for her. At that time, Susan led a comfortable structured life along with hundreds of others within the confines of one of Illinois’ largest state operated developmental centers. However, she knew she could do more and indicated to others, including her family guardian that she wanted to move out of the large facility. Based on her request, referrals were made and a placement opportunity gave Susan a chance to experience living with just a few others in a community home.
The move to her new home managed by Charleston Transitional Facilities, was not without initial difficulties. There were necessary adjustments to be made as she encountered a new living environment, new housemates and a new day training agency. Adapting to these major life changes would, of course, take some time. Fortunately, skilled staff members from both the state facility where she had lived for eleven years and the new community home, worked carefully together over time to craft a viable and ultimately successful transition plan. Eric Edquist, Vice President of South Suburban Operations at CTF, explained that during Susan’s transition, she had “worked hard on her deficits which led to expanding her potential.” Increasingly, he said, “She is now settling into a kind of motherly role looking out for others,” within the home.
“I like my staff here. I go shopping more and eat out more and I like to sleep on the weekends,” said Susan during a recent ARC of Illinois interview. These happen to be some of her favorite things to do along with spending time with her very supportive family members.
Since moving to her home in Chicago’s far south suburbs, Susan has also been able to take some vacations with her housemates that would not have been possible before. “There’s not too many people here,” she said. The small group allows for some more conventional excursions. She has already been to Disney World in Florida and to Virginia Beach where she experienced a dolphin cruise and fresh seafood for the first time.
This year, a group trip was planned for New Orleans, but because of her new found sense of autonomy, Susan, who was not at all interested in going to Louisiana, was simply able to say she would rather stay home. Her decision to do just that was supported. Susan’s cousin, Karen, who is also her guardian, indicated that Susan is now “much more in control of her environment to do the things she wants to do.” She also added “Susan has more choices to interact, to be involved in volunteering, crafts or even getting a manicure. Susan’s ‘To-do’ checklist is longer now.”
One of Susan’s initial independent inclinations when contemplating which community day program she would attend, was to choose an agency that was separate from the program that others from her home were involved in. It was her desire as she revealed, “To make new friends” at work.
Southstar Services, her chosen day training agency, also offered Susan another significant opportunity. She became involved in an energetic advocacy group, the Ray of Hope Self Advocates, which has resulted in a noticeable growth in Susan’s self-confidence as expressed by those that know her best. The group promotes self-advocacy by interviewing prospective employees, serving on agency committees, participating in speaking engagements and promoting the notion of moving in the direction of fulfilling one’s dreams.
One of Susan’s dreams is to someday be employed in a restaurant; another, is have her own apartment, maybe with a friend. A third aspiration is to someday go to Colorado where she could visit with her cousin. All appear to be practical and attainable. She is currently in the process of pursuing one dream at a time.
So, at this point, what does the future hold for Susan and what is she most looking forward to? When asked, she responded with candor that she wanted to “find a new placement” and mentioned that a person was working with her and her guardian to find a home where she could possibly have her own room. Indeed, Susan’s local case manager is now in the process of seeking another living arrangement that meets her expectations.
Following another successful transition, for Susan it would appear it soon will be time for her to establish a plan to work on dream number two or even dream number three. Susan’s choice.
By Phil Gibboney