Caring Solutions Helps Developmentally Disabled

Story by Sally Troutman Boyd

Here’s an interesting exercise: Do you know anyone—relative, friend, someone in your community or from your past—who has a developmental disability?

Chances are that you do.

A developmental disability is mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, head injury, autism, a learning disability related to a brain dysfunction or any other mental or physical impairment which occurs before the age of 22.

“I feel for families,” Madeleine Hawn, executive director of Caring Solutions, said. “It’s overwhelming to know your child has a disability, and then it’s debilitating in itself for the parent or guardian to try to navigate the system of possible services through the Missouri Department of Mental Health, funding availability, paperwork involved and more.”

Having worked in the mental health field for more than 30 years with those who have developmental disabilities, Hawn knows the system and is always willing to help point people in the right direction.

In 2001, she started a nonprofit agency whose focus was and still is on designing services around the unique need of each individual with a developmental disability. In fact, they called the organization Services By Design but soon after added the doing business as name Caring Solutions.

Most of Caring Solutions’ clients require 24-hour-assistance. Many have multiple disabilities, medical issues and behavior challenges and need awake staff in a home setting in the community. Others may be best suited to live with companion staff in an apartment or house.

Caring Solutions was the first nonprofit in Missouri to offer host family settings for those with developmental disabilities. A trained staff member—most have several years of experience in the field—opens their home to the individual. It’s not a short-term commitment either. Several have been in this type of family setting for several years. The consistency of the Caring Solutions employee who provides assistance and teaches daily living skills is an important component for success.

“For example, one of our host family staff has had two of our clients living in her home for about eight years,” Hawn said. “One of the young men goes to a sheltered workshop and the other is retired, but she takes him to volunteer with Meals on Wheels and other organizations. She and these two individuals are active in the community. They are happily living and learning… they are indeed like family.”

Other services include providing services in the natural home of the individual, respite services, small group homes and more. Caring Solutions is open to exploring what’s desired by the family and what’s best for their loved one.

“Bottom line is that if we are chosen to be the agency to serve an individual, it’s personal with us,” Hawn said. “We’ll know the individual and give him or her our all so we can tap into the abilities each person has.”

“Madi” Hawn is executive director of Caring Solutions and can be reached at 314- 942-7350 or at www.caringsolutions.org.