Impact Story - Kat (The Children's Center)

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For families of medically fragile and severely disabled adults, there aren’t many options for care once they reach the age of 21. But with the Children’s Center Adult Program (CCAP), continued education and care is available in a stimulating and loving environment.

“It’s like one big family. They do not feel like clients, but family. When they are out, we miss them,” said Marty Littleton, one of a handful of employees dedicated to the adult program at Children’s Center of Montgomery – a River Region United Way affiliate agency.  An educator for 29 years, Littleton was embraced into this family upon beginning her job at CCAP.

From the time the program opens its doors at 7:30 am until the day is over at 5:30 pm, every moment is designed to give participants maximum stimulation and independence. CCAP is a structured leisure program, the only one of its kind in this area. The goal is not to provide trade or job training, but a recreational atmosphere complete with the comforts of home.

“They haven’t gotten to do a lot of things their peers are able to do, and I feel we’re responsible for providing them with those opportunities,” said Cynthia McCaghren, executive director of Children’s Center.

Stimulation and relaxation

Stimulation is an important component of CCAP. It is McCaghren’s goal to keep the young adults stimulated with age-appropriate activities, such as exercise, cooking, music appreciation and arts and crafts. McCaghren said that keeping disabled adults stimulated can help to lengthen their expected lifespan and significantly improve their quality of life.

On an average day, the first 2.5 hours at CCAP is relaxation time. Participants may come in and make their own breakfast or relax while watching the “Today” show. Integrating technology and media into the activities is well received by participants. A computer, iPad and Kindle are available for program participants. All participate in media entertainment, which includes Wii and XBOX games and computer training. Using assisted technology, nonverbal adults can make decisions on activities in which they would like to partake.

Although the program enrollment age is 21, there is no cap on the age. Most of the participants are in their mid-twenties. The young adults work on a variety of art projects during the day, which the center proudly displays.

“They need a place to call their own, and they need a place to have their own friends, and a place where they feel like part of a community,” McCaghren said.

Creating changes

Kat Garner is affectionately called the “social director” of CCAP.  The outgoing young woman is a friend to all of CCAP’s clients and staff, and never wants to miss a day.

“She’s such a people person,” said Pam Garner, Kat’s mother. “She just loves being around people.”

CCAP was a blessing to the Garners when Kat aged out of the public school system three years ago at age 21. Prior to working at CCAP, Littleton was one of Kat’s teachers at Lee High School, and stayed close to the family over the years. Pam recalls talking to Littleton about what would be next for Kat once she left school.

“We would say, ‘What are we going to do with Katherine? There’s nowhere for her to go.’ ” Pam said. “Once we figured out CCAP was available and talked to Marty, we were like, that’s where she’s going.”

The program’s variety of activities were what sold the Garners on CCAP.

“She likes the fact that they give her responsibilities, because she’s able to help with a lot of different things,” Pam said. “They allow her to help and allow her to do what she can.”

Helping families

CCAP also keeps parents, families and community partners engaged in its activities. Every month the adult program has social events for parents and families. The parent and family programs give parents the ability to network with each other and an opportunity to know they are not alone in the challenges they face, as well as providing unique outings for the young adults at CCAP.

The program was started to give parents of CCAP participants an option for daytime care that didn’t necessitate them having to quit their jobs and place a financial burden on the family. For many parents of young adults such as these, that is their only option.

“If I did not have this option, I feel like I would probably not have a life outside of her,” said Pam Garner. “I think I would be home, I would not be working.”

McCaghren and her staff are dedicated to finding new ways to improve the lives of the CCAP participants, such as trips to Montgomery Area Nontraditional Equestrians (MANE), another River Region United Way affiliate agency.

“Without our United Way funding, we wouldn’t even be able to have CCAP,” McCaghren said. “Our United Way funding is everything to us. It helps us meet that need.”

Photos: (Top) Kat Garner is one of 26 clients currently enrolled in the Children's Center Adult Program, a River Region United Way affiliate agency. Center: Clark, left, Kent, center, and Kat are in CCAP's art room. Art is one of many activities the CCAP clients enjoy throughout their day. (Bottom) Kat with her parents, Pam and John Garner.

 

 

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