For children and adults with developmental disabilities, just getting by on a day-to-day basis can be a challenge. And their families often have a difficult time determining the best ways to help their loved ones enjoy happy, fulfilling lives.
Caring Solutions was founded in 2001 by Madeleine Hawn, who now serves as executive director. “My objective was to truly design services around the needs of each individual—not simply to fit them into the first available place,” she says.
A developmental disability is one that impacts muscles or nerves, hindering mobility, vision, hearing or thought-processing. Most recipients of Caring Solutions’ services have a primary diagnosis of mental retardation, but many face the additional challenges of autism, mental illness, behavioral disorders, physical impairments and other medical issues. Because functional capacity varies so widely, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And, notes Sally Boyd, the organization's director of development: “Developmentally disabled people are, first and foremost, individuals who deserve to be treated with respect.”
Prior to admission, Caring Solutions staffers get to know each client. They also meet with family members, previous service providers and anyone else who can offer input into designing an effective program. As a result, everyone from direct care providers to Hawn herself truly get to know the people they serve.
Caring Solutions offers more living arrangement options than similar organizations in the region. Upon its founding, it became Missouri’s first nonprofit care provider to place developmentally disabled people into host family homes. Because the hosts are employees of the organization, this arrangement ensures greater support and oversight than traditional foster care. Additionally, a stable, long-term living arrangement enhances the overall quality of care—and the client's quality of life.
From a few hours each month to all day, every day, the staff offers personal care, social activities, behavioral support, vocational training, transportation to and from medical appointments—and respectful, compassionate companionship. “We know that our clients have every right to choose who provides service to them,” says Boyd. “And they have the right to expect a staff that genuinely cares about them, their needs and their development.”
Caring Solutions is funded primarily by the Missouri Department of Mental Health. Additional funding comes from county boards and private donations. The organization also relies on volunteers who donate time and resources to help plan fund-raising activities.
The organization also has an adopt-a-home program through which individuals, groups, businesses and organizations can sponsor a Caring Solutions home by helping with yard work, painting and other maintenance projects. For more information about Caring Solutions, call 942-7350 or visit caringsolutions.org.
Volunteer Spotlight: Jeanne Gladden
When Madeline Hawn first considered starting Caring Solutions, a charity to assist developmentally disabled individuals, Jeanne Gladden tried to talk her out of it. Not that Gladden didn't share her friend’s compassion and desire to make a difference. It’s just that she knew how extraordinarily difficult founding a viable charitable organization could be.
“I asked, Are you sure you want to do this?” Gladden recalls. “But there was no discussion about it. I could either help her or get out of her way!”
Gladden’s background is in the business world: She's the founder of The Quality Coach, a consulting company that works with companies to improve productivity, customer retention and, of course, quality.
“Let's treat this as a business," Gladden told Hawn. “Because without tending to it as a business, the vision will never be realized.” The two women made a formidable team: Hawn had an innovative idea; Gladden knew how to make it a reality.
Today, Gladden serves on Caring Solutions’ board of advisors, along with other professionals who share a passion for providing compassionate care and highly customized services for its clients and their families.
“I'm certainly not from this field, but I had so much respect for what the people who are in it were doing,” says Gladden. “I was just so pleased to be able to support their efforts and help make them possible.”
Gladden says everyone involved in Caring Solutions is deeply committed to its mission. The diverse backgrounds of its supporters, she adds, demonstrate that everyone can use his or her specific gifts to make a difference.
“When I was asked to help, I'm so glad I didn't say no,” Gladden adds. “It's a privilege. In fact, I can't visualize a time when I wouldn't want to be part of Caring Solutions.”