Straight from the Executive Director – December 2018


December Newsletter

 Straight From the Executive Director

Denise - Executive Director of SARAH Inc.

As 2018 comes to a close there is much to reflect on. In my first full year in this position, I learned that no Executive Director will be successful without the backing of a strong team. With the support and trust of the Board of Directors, the Leadership Team, our valued staff, and all of the individuals and the families we serve, we comprised a strong team. This team will enable us to continually grow here at SARAH Inc. and continue to do great work in our communities.

This year was filled with learning opportunities, and we identified key areas for improvement. To solidify our place of leadership in this industry we have taken on new initiatives that propel us forward. One of our greatest achievements this year is the launch and success of our Transitional Services program. This service model was developed for people seeking job training, at community assessment sites, to evaluate and maximize opportunities for successful employment. Another accomplishment has been successfully navigating the new fee for service landscape in our continually flourishing KIDSTEPS Division. Our staff has faced many changes and challenges this year, but their perseverance and strategic thinking have triumphantly led to success.

Another topic for review is SARAH Inc.’s participation in the most recent legislative season. As many of you witnessed, we did our part to stay relevant and vocal during the Midterm elections. Multiple emails and petitions were sent out in emails to keep the non-profit voice heard. Our staff made the effort to go to candidate information panels and registered to vote. SARAH Inc. held our first ever Voter Registration event at all three program locations on National Voter Registration Day. And the most noteworthy accomplishment was SARAH’s successful participation in the legislative action required to get the Direct Support Professional minimum wage increase. Legislation was passed which will be effective at the start of the new year increasing Direct Support Professional wages across the state.

A positive note that I would like to end this year on is the stability we have at SARAH Inc. As a non-profit business there are challenges that will always lay before us. We fully recognize that we have to be open to new ideas, to think and act strategically in order to thrive and grow. This is what is so energizing about being a part of the SARAH Inc. family. As Abraham Maslow said, “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen, again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”

Congratulations to Robert!

Enrichment Services DSP - Madison CT

Robert Martin is one of our dedicated Direct Support Professionals at our Madison location. He joined our SARAH Inc. team nine months ago and has truly made an impact. Robert volunteered to become one of only thirty-six Med certified employees on staff. Becoming Med certified is a lengthy process. Over the course of multiple days, Robert attended classes at a DDS facility to prepare for the certification exam. With this particular certification Robert can deliver the necessary medication to individuals in our programs. This is an added layer of responsibility that Robert asked for, to go above and beyond regular tasks on a daily basis. He said, “The process of being Med cert was very difficult, but very rewarding because it is a new level of responsibility.”

Robert is known for coming in and having a smile on his face. He believes that the best part of every day is when he can strengthen his connection between the individuals he supports. Every day at SARAH In Action Madison is different and offers new ways of interacting with people on a personal level. If you haven’t already sent your congrats to Robert on his recent achievements please take the opportunity to do it now. We know that we are happy to help our employees grow and provide them the tools they need to continually succeed.

A Message From the Board

One Saturday in January 2018, SARAH Inc.’s Board members, Executive Director Denise Henry and facilitator Mike Burns of BWB Solutions, met for their annual Strategic Planning meeting. During this meeting the Board decides what their committees will accomplish during the year, and what goals and opportunities to work towards. It was at this meeting that board members determined more feedback and information were needed to adequately make those decisions.

Laurie Jean Hannon is an active member of the SARAH Community and has been on the board for two years. She, with the help of fellow Board members Linda Vigorito and Claudio Denoya, spearheaded a project to create a survey that would open the lines of communication between SARAH management and the individuals in our programs and their families. These Board members, with the assistance of Board Fellow Thairo Arruda, from Yale School of Management,  worked diligently to come up with questions that would reflect how our programs are being run and areas for improvement.

The questions were finalized and with the help of SARAH Inc. Administrative staff, the survey was sent to all the individuals in our Adult Services programs, families and guardians – over 200 copies were sent via post and another 130 by email. We want to thank everyone who completed or returned this survey. This is the feedback we were looking for! The results showed many areas in which we are exceeding expectations and a few areas where we can improve. The results and their significance were discussed at length during the December Board meeting. SARAH Inc. will follow-up with responders who provided their names to discuss their concerns. An action plan has been developed to address areas identified as needing improvement. We will resend this survey next year to reassess our progress.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to take the survey and would like to offer some feedback then do not hesitate to reach out to any Board member or to us here at SARAH Inc.


Therapist and child at a Birth to Three service visit

One component of SARAH Inc.’s 5 year strategic plan has KIDSTEPS focusing on increasing the capacity of children and families to succeed as a family unit. This past fiscal year, KIDSTEPS worked with over 800 families throughout 31 towns in the state. KIDSTEPS therapists travel to homes, daycares, and places in the community where families go together, providing individualized supports to families to address their concerns. Children in our KIDSTEPS program may have a diagnosis of Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or other disabilities that contribute to delays in development. Highly trained therapists and teachers use coaching to help caregivers address their challenges and achieve their hopes and dreams.

This past year a commitment was made to serve more children who have autism. A strategic planning meeting was held among key stakeholders, including our Board Certified Behavior Analyst who develops the programs for each child with autism. One heavily discussed topic focused around equity of access to materials. While the Early Start Denver Model-ESDM (the curriculum followed) states that the materials used are ones that are already found in most families’ homes, it was recognized that wasn’t always the case. Some families have access to very few of these items but deserve the same opportunities for their children. From this, an action plan was made. In alignment with KIDSTEPS continued commitment to supporting all families, we are proud to report that we now have established a materials library. The library consists of boxes that contain the recommended items, such as toys and books. Each family is provided with a box that is used with their individualized ESDM program with the support and guidance of their KIDSTEPS therapists. Additional materials are also available and are stored in the library for families and therapists to swap in/out of as progress is made. We are very proud of our commitment to equity and supporting all children.

Feedback from one therapist stated, “I appreciate, as a therapist, having the autism box to use with families as it supports best practice in following protocol for ESDM. When following a model, having specific materials available is important in data collection to support children and families.

A parent expressed to her therapist, “I am seeing my son take in an interest in a variety of toys and doing things I’ve never seen him do!” We are very excited to put the strategic plan to action. For more information about KIDSTEPS contact Elisabeth Teller 203-453-7592.

Enrichment Services

SARAH Inc. Enrichment Services offer a blended menu of day to day activities ideal for those in the program. These opportunities are based on a person’s needs and desires. One of the main initiatives of our Enrichment Services program this past year was The SARAH Challenge. The goal of employees and individuals who take part in the SARAH Challenge is to get out and be involved in the community for the entire day. A typical day in The SARAH Challenge varies but it can involve volunteering, lunch out in the community, trips to different museums, going to book club meetings, and more. All three of the programs have groups that actively take part of The SARAH Challenge. For example, one group from SIA North Haven loves to volunteer for the James Blackstone Library. They will pick up books and deliver them throughout the community to the elderly and those who are incapable of getting to the library themselves. It is opportunities like these that SARAH Inc. strives to foster.

Another fun program that several individuals in Enrichment Services took part this year was the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Sitercise class. Starting in September and running through early December, individuals over the age of fifty from all three of our locations got together for the Sitercise class. Once a week in Madison these individuals would gather to see friends and to exercise in a specially designed program to increase muscle strength, improve flexibility, gait and balance. We have heard positive feedback from all of the individuals who took the class. There was nothing better then watching old friends interacting while dancing and exercising to the beat.

Employment Services

A brief note from our Director of Employment Services…

Dear Friends of SARAH,

Over the past two years SARAH Inc. has experienced substantial growth, including the launching of SARAH Transitional Services. This innovative new program was specifically designed for new graduates and unemployed individuals who need assistance in deciding if they would like to work. Through assessments at community partners and an interactive, user friendly curriculum, Job Coaches collect vital information to help identify best job matches based on the person’s strengths and personal preferences. SARAH has also added a number of new program services to our menu of services to best serve the people we support. The expansion of Individualized Employment has led to an increase in supported workers getting hired and has allowed them to achieve continued success on the job.

These changes have identified the need for an Agency structure that better supports the direction in which Employment and Individualized Services are growing. SARAH is pleased to announce that an Adult Services reorganization will be underway in which Employment and Transitional Services will become their own separate department. Their primary focus will be to help provide supports to the people who are served under the current SARAH employment programs; Individualized Day Vocational, Independent Supported Employment and group models (Transitional and Group Supported). This change will result in a more efficient, employment program where staff’s sole focus will be the continued growth and success of SARAH Employment Services.

The Adult Services reorganization will accomplish the following objectives:

Jen - Director of Employment Services

The Adult Services reorganization will impact not everyone. Employment and Individualized Services will experience the majority of the changes. A member of the management team will be reaching out to you over the course of December and January to discuss program changes, recommendations and to answer any questions you may have. Team meetings are encouraged. We are expecting the changes to be complete by February 2019. SARAH will be holding Open Houses in the spring of 2019 to have a meet and greet with the new management teams and key staff. Informative presentations will be conducted at the time to educate user-friendly on the many services SARAH offers.

Should you have any questions please feel free to contact me at, 860-399-1888 ext. 311. We are looking forward to these very exciting changes to better support the individuals we provide services to.

– Jennifer Kostek, Director of Employment, SARAH Inc.

Family and Children’s Resource Center

The Family and Children’s Center’s mission is to meet the needs of families concerned about their child’s social, emotional and physical development and educational success. This year we had many notable events including participating in the Westbrook Wellness Fair with other SARAH staff, the free vision clinic and a very successful Mom’s Night Out. We also provided many community members and daycare staff with CPR and first aid training. As always, we are available to assist families and caregivers with help finding resources over the phone. But we are excited to say, we have new and innovative plans for the upcoming year.

We at SARAH Inc. have a wealth of knowledge and experts in their respective fields, all equipped to aid individuals with differing abilities and their families. We want to share this knowledge in a larger capacity than we have in the past. Stay tuned for 2019 because it will be one for the books.

Birth to Three employees at a cpr class

Transitional Services

SARAH’s Transitional Services program is stronger than it’s ever been. After its initial release in February 2018, this service has grown significantly. When Transitional Services first launched it was about providing another option for individuals to consider when they graduated high school; it was created to help bridge that gap between education and employment. But throughout the year it has become much more than that. Giving individuals the opportunity to learn and develop the vocational skills needed to excel through the entire job search, acquisition and retention process. SARAH recognizes that some individuals, no matter their age, who are unsure about whether or not they would like to work. Transitional Services has the advantage of providing on site vocational assessments at local businesses to help identify if an individual may be best suited for a non-work program. The vocational assessments provide vital information to help the individual and their team choose the best program for them going forward.

Beyond our dedicated staff, our continued success would not be possible without our valued business partners. We want to personally thank all of you for helping our crews succeed in the job field. We are providing Transitional Services with the cooperation of the following businesses:

• West Marine • Killingworth True Value • Cuckoo’s Nest • Saybrook Hardware • Zion Episcopal Church • Julia’s Cup of Joe • McKinley Wildlife Refuge • Pennylane Pub • SARAH’s Cupboard • The Community Dining Room • TJ Maxx • Wallingford YMCA • West Marine • Whelen Engineering • The SARAH Foundation

If you want to know more about our Transitional Services program or wish to become a business partner then you can contact our Director of Employment Services Jen Kostek at 860-399-1888 ext. 311.