ADAPT Community Network aims to support the learning and development of all employees through our career development programs.
One of our career development programs is The Training Collaborative for Innovative Leadership lead by Peg Gould which provides competency-based training that fosters leadership, best practices, and most importantly, enhances the quality of life of the individuals we support. The course aims to equip employees with the skills and knowledge to excel in their roles and improve the quality of support services through the integration of Personal Outcome Measures (POMS) which prioritizes the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of people supported so staff can better focus their supports and services to improve the quality of their lives.
The cohort enrolled in this year’s Training Collaborative was faced with new challenges due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and changes in the working environment. ADAPT responded to the COVID- 19 outbreak by transitioning many of the in-person adult learning and community connection programs to virtual programming to continue engaging families and persons supported safely from their homes.
Our staff quickly recognized this change would be a challenge for families and people supported. Joanna Perpignand, the Assistant Program Director for Brooklyn Day Hab. 5(Elmwood), says many families did not have the right equipment to participate in the virtual programs and raised concerns about internet safety for their disabled relatives.
Joanna who recently graduated from the Training Collaborative for Innovative Leadership Course saw the virtual shift as an opportunity to use some of the skills and knowledge gained and focused her class project on increasing engagement and communications with those we support and family members during the pandemic. In her role as Assistant Program Director, she’s responsible for ensuring persons supported are engaged, and safe while prioritizing their goals and supporting their aspirations. During this time, Joanna and her team focused on improving and strengthening relationships between the families, persons supported, and the staff. “We had the opportunity to get to know our families on a deeper level,” says Joanna. “As a team, we are continuously working on ways to capture the trust and acceptance of our new world.”
Joanna stated, “429,736 people died from COVID-19. Ten of those people were my family members. I chose this topic because I realized that if I didn’t have the support, empathy, and compassion from my colleagues and even our CEO, [Ed Matthews], I wouldn’t be standing with so much pride, confidence and gratitude today.”
The Elmwood team became innovative by launching unique ways to engage with persons supported. The team recognize birthdays through virtual celebrations mailed cards and care packages, found a virtual garden, and delivered materials to all the people they serve. Joanna and her team contacted all 108 people supported and their family members each week asking and offering Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), in addition to connecting people supported to our Mental Health Service Counselors that assisted many through these difficult times. They also helped in providing additional resources and supports to work through any technical challenges to ensure all those supported could participate in our virtual programming.
The team realized that consistent communication and empathy are essential to their role as direct support professionals. “Families are receptive to someone they can relate to, someone who understands, and someone who helps them,” says Joanna. “This method continues to help us build trust with the families we serve.” Joanna put her heart and soul into her work, allowing herself to grieve with the community. She reflected on her personal experience and the impact COVID had on her and her family and used it to fuel her efforts within her program as she considered the stress and challenges people supported and their families were experiencing throughout the pandemic.
“I don’t trust the internet… I’m afraid my child will get taken advantage of, but the staff taught me about the activities that she was missing out on, and I know she misses her friends,” says parent of a person supported. “We want the families to know that ADAPT and the Elmwood team still have their loved ones’ best interests,” Joanna says. “As a team, we each grew a special bond with all of our persons supported and their families” The Elmwood team continues to create new and exciting ways to provide high-quality services to persons supported and have already seen the impact that her team’s efforts of additional communications and remote support have had on people supported and family members.