February 2019 Newsletter


Straight from the Executive Director’s Desk

Kristi Asks the Real Questions

Enrichment Services Attendee in Westbrook CT

SARAH Inc. continuously looks to hire talented, energetic, and highly motivated individuals who want to make a difference helping people with disabilities help themselves. One recent step SARAH Inc. has taken in our recruiting process was to overhaul our Direct Support Professional (DSP) hiring process. In late 2018 we adopted tools from the ANCOR* DSP Hiring Toolkit to revamp the hiring process by the use of more behaviorally focused interview questions, prospective DSPs watching a Realistic Job Preview video about DSP work, and including a participant in one of the two interviews.

One enthusiastic individual in the new hiring process is Kristi of our North Haven location. Kristi created specific questions to ask prospective DSPs during the interview. Sample questions Kristi came up with are:  “If I felt someone was mean to me and I asked for your help, what would you do?” And “If I fell, how would you help me?”

Kristi loves being involved in the interview process! “It makes me feel good and proud of myself that I can do that” Kristi told us. She likes “meeting the person and talking about our program.”

This is the kind of meaningful engagement that provides an added level of responsibility and validation for the adults in our programs!

These enhanced interview techniques and the recent increase to the DSP minimum wage (effective 1/1/19) will hopefully help with recruiting and retaining valuable Direct Support Professionals.

*ANCOR (The American Network of Community Options and Resources) is a national organization described as ‘A Community of Providers for People with Disabilities’ of which we are a member.

What’s Happening with SARAH’s Staff

George and Samantha, new SARAH Inc. Employees

SARAH Inc. is excited to introduce George Reid-Perry, Director of Enrichment Services, and Samantha Cilenti, Human Resources Manager, to our team!

George Reid-Perry has been a resident of the Shoreline for the past seven years, recently settling into Niantic Village with his family, just a short twenty minutes from SARAH Westbrook. He has been an active member of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce for the past several years, including serving as a co-chair for the Young Professionals branch of the Chamber.

He’s had the opportunity to work with some great non-profits over the past decade in the capacity of Director overseeing residential, transitional, and employment services during this time. His experience includes working with adolescents and adults, primarily in the fields of education and disability support, focusing on developing the necessary skills to transition to the next stage of their lives. In addition to George’s professional commitments, he has also volunteered with the Bureau of Education Services for the blind focusing on adaptive sports for children who are low vision/blind.

George’s personal and career interests has led him to continue in the field that he loves, and brought him here to SARAH, to continue in the tradition of stellar service! The work that has been done by SARAH in the community over the past 60 years shows the type of strides and progress that can be made when we work together to achieve a goal of inclusion for individuals with disabilities.

Growing up in Newtown, CT, Samantha Cilenti is a 25 year Connecticut Resident. She has a Masters Degree in HR Management from Sacred Heart University and an undergraduate degree from UCONN. During her time at Sacred Heart she received the Silver Medal of Excellence for the HR Masters program and had a 4.0 GPA when she graduated in 2018. The knowledge and skills received during her time in school inspired her to pursue a career in Human Resources. Working to help individuals and to further promote fairness in a company can be extremely rewarding.

Sam has been working in Human Resources for 5 years and has been in non-profit Human Resources for 4 years at Boys & Girls Village which is social services for at-risk youth and their families. They offer services close to the Human Services that SARAH Inc. provides, which allows her to see similar challenges that could be addressed to enhance and streamline SARAH Inc.’s HR department. Prior to Boys & Girls Village, Sam worked as a Recruiter for a domestic staffing agency.

We are very excited to welcome these professionals into our SARAH Inc. family. Their skills and abilities are assets which will help us further excel in the Human Services field.

Straight from the Executive Director’s Desk

Denise - SARAH Inc.'s Executive Director

This year at SARAH Inc. is going to be a year of substantial growth and furthering legislative advocacy. Our agency is a high profile provider of services and supports for people with intellectual and physical disabilities and has been a recognized industry leader for over 60 years. Our Adult Services programs provide life skills and work training in addition to employment support. The KIDSTEPS program offers early intervention services for infants, toddlers and their families to help them reach their full potential. Our mission at SARAH Inc. is to Enhance Skills and Enrich Lives of All Individuals with Differing Abilities.

SARAH Inc. has long been an advocate for people with disabilities. We are actively involved in advocacy through attending legislative events across our service areas, regularly contacting and communicating with legislators, actively participating in events at the Capitol and engaging in other events throughout the year in conjunction with other provider agencies. SARAH Inc.’s leadership, participants, family members and individuals from our Board of Directors are all included in our advocacy efforts. Our agency is a team, and every member has a crucial role to play. Elisabeth Teller, Director of Children and Family Services is widely known in Birth to Three circles. Recently, Elisabeth represented SARAH Inc. at the Inter Agency Council to meet with the new Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) to discuss reducing/eliminating family support costs in the Birth to Three programs. Jen Kostek, Director of Employment Services, attended The Arc’s Family Day at the Capitol on behalf of SARAH Inc. And the agency will be tabling at the Non-Profit Day at the Capitol in April. With so many new faces in state government following the election last year, our community needs to take the opportunity to use our collective voice to make sure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are included in the vision of a better Connecticut.

We welcome the legislation passed last year which led to funding for Direct Support Professionals (DSP) to receive a wage increase to $14.75. We were a catalyst in securing this legislation: as Executive Director of SARAH Inc., I submitted testimony on behalf of the wage increase and participated in several legislative events to promote an increased wage for DSPs.

When legislators consider a further statewide minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, it is important for them to recognize such an increase would mean community non-profit providers would need additional funding to meet this requirement. It is our responsibility to educate legislators and prepare for future changes.

Ensuring that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have equal access to a good life should be an on-going consideration to all lawmakers. But, as we have seen in the past, the supports people with disabilities need to take part in the community are often the first things to be cut from the state budget during difficult fiscal times. We will work with the new administration and with legislators to recognize that non-profits provide more efficient services and better quality of life than high-cost, state-run institutions.

All of us at SARAH Inc. will continue to provide advocacy and high-quality supports to those in our programs and their families. If you have any questions or comments about the legislative session, our programs, or anything else, please contact us at 860-399-1888.

Enrichment Services

Volunteers from SARAH Inc.'s Enrichment Services Program

Individuals at our SARAH in Action Enrichment Program in Westbrook are enjoying a new volunteer opportunity created this year at the Westbrook Senior Center. Every Friday morning a group of volunteers from Westbrook heads over to the Senior Center to make baked goods. These items are then enjoyed by the seniors on Monday.

This volunteer opportunity is appreciated by all involved! The SARAH Inc. volunteers enjoy the purpose and engagement provided by their efforts at the Senior Center and the adults who eat the baked goods created by our volunteers reap the tasty benefits!

Based on the great work done by these volunteers Westbrook Senior Center Director, Courtney Burks is confident that more volunteer opportunities will open up for our eager teams. This is a great endorsement for the capability of our participants! We are always looking for opportunities to volunteer our talents to benefit the community. Please let us know if you need the services of a cheerful, competent workforce for your volunteer needs.

Employment Services

Jen - Director of Employment Services

At the beginning of February we launched a new and improved Employment Services program. This reorganization has been a long time in the making and we are already seeing a positive impact within the programs. The expansion of Individualized Employment and Transitional Services has led to an increase in supported workers getting hired and has allowed them to achieve continued success on the job.

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. Should you have any questions please feel free to contact Jen, the Director of Employment Services, at jkostek@sarah-inc.org. We are proud of all of the individuals making this program reorganization such a success.

In addition, SARAH Inc. will be at the Third Annual LEARN Disability Summit. Jen Kostek will be on location throughout the day to answer your questions about our services. The event will take place on March 16th at Mohegan Sun, from 10am-3pm. Other State and Local agencies attending are: Dept. of Developmental Services, Dept. of Children and Families, Dept. of Social Services, and more. If you plan on attending make sure to drop by and ask about SARAH Inc.

A Message from Wendy

Wendy - a KIDSTEPS Early Intervention Employee

SARAH’s Birth-to-Three program, KIDSTEPS, is leading the way reshaping how eligibility reports are completed. Therapists and teacher teams have started completing the eligibility reports in the family’s home on the day of the scheduled evaluation. Teams are provided with a computer, a Hot Spot, and a mobile printer. The Hot Spots are used to connect the computer to the internet, and connect the mobile printer to the computer. One team member completes testing to determine if the child is eligible for Birth-to-Three services. The other team member collects information on the child’s birth history, routines, and family concerns using paperwork the family has completed ahead of time, as well as information obtained during discussions with the family during the visit. This information is input into KIDSETPS’ on-line reporting software during the visit. Once eligibility has been determined the report can be printed on the mobile printer at the end of the evaluation and shared immediately with the family.

In the past the information collected during the evaluations was written down and team members would complete the evaluation the next time they had free time. This might mean during a canceled visit, at home after work, or on the weekends. The report was then flagged as “done” and an alert was sent to the office to print out and send back to the team members for distribution to the family. This would often mean the family may not get the report for several weeks.

Now the reports are completed right at the evaluation. A copy can then be given right away or within a week, if the office needs to print it. This means that team members no longer need to complete the report after hours. It also allows for other paperwork commitments to now be completed during any canceled visit time. This is a win-win for all members involved and has been getting positive responses from both the Birth-to-Three teams utilizing this new option and the families who are receiving their report in such a timely manner.

Wendy Hof, MS, OTR/L Pediatric Occupational Therapist KIDSTEPS, Birth-to-Three

A Message from the Board of Directors

SARAH Inc. has developed a strong partnership with the Yale School of Management (SOM). This partnership entails having a Non-profit Board Fellow from Yale sit on our Board of Directors. Thairo, a Yale Fellow pursuing his Masters in Business Administration (MBA), who currently sits on our SARAH Board is preparing to pass the baton to Pete, the new Fellow pursuing his MBA. We asked both of these Fellows to discuss their overall thoughts about SARAH Inc. and what they think about their experiences.

Thairo, joined our Board in April of 2018 and immediately started to help the organization. He started by working with the Director of KIDSTEPS to improve the overall efficiency of their program, which includes a plan to maximize the families’ experience during from evaluations to in-home visits and more. Some of the other projects he was involved in sourcing new opportunities to diversify organizational revenue streams and evaluating SARAH’s current strategic plan.

He believes that SARAH Inc. was a blessing in his life and he is leaving with a different mindset then when he started. Working with the Board was an outstanding experience and he grew not only professionally, but personally as well. He had the chance to interact with a group of passionate people working to achieve goals they care about.

He stated: “It is so beautiful to see everyone’s passion for enhancing the lives of hundreds of children and adults. It helped me understand that we are here not only to enjoy our lives but to love each other above all things.”

When asked if he had any advice to give to Pete coming into SARAH he said: “Pete is a brilliant Fellow. I think he will be an excellent addition to the board, as the long-term partnership of SARAH Inc and Yale SOM has been very fruitful for both sides. One piece of advice I would give to Pete is to be proactive and to engage in opportunities to help SARAH. Especially in the consulting aspect, which he is an expert.”

Pete - Director, SARAH Inc.'s Board of Directors

Pete, is in his first year at the Yale SOM working towards a Master of Business Administration. At the beginning of the month, he attended his first board meeting and was impressed by the overwhelming compassion each Board Member felt towards the people in SARAH’s programs.

While on the Board, he is looking to better connect with the New Haven community and to offer his management skills to our organization. Already Pete is looking at the numerous growth opportunities that SARAH can explore and new initiatives that will aid in SARAH’s mission to enhance skills and enrich lives of all individuals with differing abilities.

Pete will be serving on SARAH’s Board until early 2020 when he will be graduating with his MBA. We are excited to see what he will bring to the table and what we can learn from his experience in the business field.

SARAH In the News

Employment Services Ad for the Learn Disability Summit
Joining the 2019 LEARN Disability Summit SARAH Inc. will once again be joining the Annual LEARN Disability Summit. The event will be held on March 16th at Mohegan Sun, from 10am-3pm. This Summit is free and family friendly, the community is coming together to help provide information that could be beneficial to all.

This years summit will include many seminars from experts in their field including: Secondary Transistion 101, Understanding your Child’s IP, and more. If you plan on attending make sure you stop by and say Hello to Jen Kostek, the Director of Employment Services. If you have any questions or would like to hear more about what SARAH Inc. can offer you and your families then please contact us at marketing@sarah-inc.org.

SARAH Inc. Continues to Support Employees through the NADSP Membership.

SARAH Inc. is demonstrating its commitment to Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and other employees by becoming a member of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). Membership in the NADSP means that our agency is making an investment in staff development and devoting organizational resources to equipping DSPs with the tools needed for on-the-job success.

SARAH Inc. is initiating its membership with NADSP in 2019, which will continue throughout the calendar year. NADSP Membership will help strengthen the mission of the agency, which is to Enhance Skills and Enrich Lives of All Individuals with Differing abilities.

“All of our members are sending a clear message to their staff, that they truly matter,” says Joseph Macbeth, Executive Director of NADSP. “Beyond just the symbolic gesture, organizations are also receiving exclusive access to resources and information that will improve supports and services.”

The vision of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) is a world with a highly qualified and professional direct support workforce that partners with, supports, and empowers people with disabilities to lead a life of their choosing. NADSP works to elevate the status of direct support professionals by improving practice standards, promoting system reform, and advancing their knowledge, skills and values, through certification, credentialing, training, professional development, and accreditation services. www.nadsp.org

We are proud to be members of the NADSP and look forward to growing and offering the best to our DSPs in the upcoming year.

2019 NADSP Logo