by Erin Jerome
Support Coordination: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Last year, we talked about how to find the best support coordinator in New Jersey. In order to find these coordinators, however, you will have to first approach a support coordination agency. When receiving services through the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), these agencies & their coordinators will help guide you to service providers within the state. New Jersey has a lengthy and varied list of agencies, so make sure that whoever you choose to represent you or your loved one, meets all of your specific needs.
Your strongest advocate as a person with a disability will either be yourself or those closest to you. The Support Coordination Agency you select is not just responsible for facilitating the services you need right now – they can also play a big role in reaching your future goals. It’s important to identify what type of life you want for yourself and then to work with your coordinator to identify what types of services will lead you towards success. Don’t be afraid to THINK BIG and defy preconceived notions of what people with disabilities can achieve. Focus on what you want and GO FOR IT! Your support coordinator can open doors for continued education, volunteering, employment, and more. A great place to start would be to use DDD’s Person-Centered Planning Tool to hone in on your desires and vision for the future.
Figuring out the path forward can be especially daunting for students with disabilities and their parents when aging out of the school system. DDD provides a timeline for this transition period for those who are Medicaid eligible.
Knowledge is Power
After you become clear about your goals, now is the time to choose which agencies with which you would like to interview. The first step is to DO YOUR RESEARCH. Most agencies have websites filled with important information. Go down the list of agencies in your area and take a close look at the following:
- Does their mission match up with your values?
- Who is on their senior leadership team and what are their backgrounds?
- How do they describe their services? Does this match up with your expectations?
After you’ve found a few agencies that appeal to you, taking some in-person meetings is the next step. Remember that you’re interviewing them, not the other way around. If you don’t feel like your thoughts and concerns are being heard, be sure to speak up. The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities provides a helpful guide to choosing your agency, including some questions you should have for your options like:
- How will you choose the right support coordinator for me, and how many people will my support coordinator work with?
- What training do your support coordinators receive?
- How much experience do your support coordinators have working with individuals with my disability?
Also, reach out to your personal network of families and school faculty to see if any of them have worked with these agencies in the past. Ask them if they were happy with their experience and if they would recommend their services.
Keep Your Options Open
Choosing your support agency can be an empowering decision that can put a great team behind you. Remember though that the services you receive are no longer through a contract, but fee-for-service. This should make it easier to transition to another agency if you are unhappy with your service. There are so many resources available to help you live life to the fullest, especially when you are working with a team of people passionate about helping you. Ask your support coordinator for help with new programs, assistance, or making an experience possible, and we, of course, recommend you check out the Easterseals New Jersey’s programs with your coordinator to see if we can be of any assistance to you or your loved one.