Possibilities, Issue 01

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How the ‘Tech First’ Movement is Changing IDD Services


Contents & Contributors 03

How the ‘Tech First’ Movement is Changing IDD Services

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Investing In Inclusion: How One Couple Gives with Intention

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Good Help is Hard to Find: A Look Into the DSP Crisis

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Happy Holidays

Editor-in-Chief Marian Baldini, CEO & President Executive Editor Jeff Dubnow, Chief Development Officer Copy Editor Lauren Tilghman, Director of Strategic Communication & Marketing Contributing Writers Sierra Force, Digital Media Specialist Barbara Kochard, Director of Development Operations Dawn Warden, Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations KenCrest Centers Board of Directors Steven F. Bell • Merri Brown • Mona Burke • Kevin P. Dougher • Colin D. Dougherty • Rev. Alina Gayeuski • Charles W. Horn III • Scott McCloskey • Sean Outen • Eric Rahe • Stephen Van Osten KenCrest Services Board of Directors Sheila Bruce • Mona Burke • Patricia Bush • Hal Davidow • Ellen L. Kolodner • Mamta Maini • Sean Outen • Jim Van Horn • Stephen Van Osten Design Pixel Parlor Photography Karen L. Phillips • Rae Hearts Design & Photography Possibilities is published by KenCrest Services, 960A Harvest Drive Suite 100, Blue Bell, PA 19422 How to Reach Us 610.825.9360 kencrest.communications@kencrest.org KenCrest is a 501c3 non-profit and human services provider throughout Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Delaware. www.KenCrest.org Our Mission KenCrest’s mission is to support community development by exploring possibilities, mobilizing resources, and empowering dreams. Published: February 2022


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Letter from Our Editor Dear Friends,

PHOTO: KAREN L. PHILLIPS

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new year brings a new vision, and with that a new KenCrest Magazine! I am excited to welcome you to the first edition of our latest publication. Moving forward— twice a year—we’ll share thoughtful insights into our organization and industries, including “news you can use” about human services and early education advocacy initiatives; as well as more about KenCrest’s passion and dedication to our mission of exploring possibilities, mobilizing resources, and empowering dreams. The magazine coincides with KenCrest’s new strategic plan; one focused on high expectations and interconnectivity; and furthering the achievement, independence, and authentic inclusion of those in our programs. We enter 2022 at a pivotal time in the human services industry: historical funding models are changing; and the programs and services designed for the people and families we support are becoming more complex, as new technologies and a heightened focus on independence and self-advocacy re-shape our understanding of best practices and attainable outcomes. Oh, and then there’s the pandemic too! We hope the KenCrest Magazine brings you greater awareness of the challenges our industry faces, like the on-going Direct Support Professional

(DSP) crisis; but also inspiration, as you learn more about our devoted supporters, and how we’re embracing technology and transforming our residential supports programs. Ultimately, we hope you gain a greater appreciation for our “WHY” and a vision for the future of human services and early education—that the dreams of those we support—propel forward. Sincerely, Marian Baldini President & CEO, KenCrest

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How the ‘Tech First’ Movement is Changing IDD Services


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“ Providing access to both basic and cutting-edge technology is vital to the success of those supported by KenCrest.”

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magine what your life would be like without access to the many devices that help make getting through your day easier. Consider all of the technology you use to stay connected, informed, and on top of tasks around the house, at the office, at the gym, the grocery store, etc. As important as tech is to YOU, it is even more critical for people with disabilities who want to stay connected, interact with others, safely follow medicine regimens, perform successfully on the job, and more. Enabling Technology (ET), or assistive technology, helps people compensate for impairments and overcome barriers to greater independence. Enabling Technology is any device or service that supports individuals, and assists them in successfully navigating their Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s), thereby fostering independence and the dignity that accompanies self-sufficiency. Technologies can range from simple adaptations of existing products to highly sophisticated and specialized devices. Examples include text-tospeech software for reading accessibility; iPads pre-loaded with apps specifically designed to help people with disabilities; smart home speakers and assistants; personal emergency response systems; and bed sensors, among other things. Providing access to both basic and cuttingedge technology is vital to the success of those supported by KenCrest. One of the most progressive actions the Agency took in 2021 was becoming a Shift Technology First accredited organization; an initiative led by KenCrest’s Director of Enabling Technology, Julie Daly, and Assistive Technology Specialist, Joe McGuire. When it comes to exploring the latest innovations in ‘life-altering’ technology, and also advocacy; this dedicated duo have led KenCrest’s efforts to put tech-based supports in place for people with disabilities, regardless of their service provider or living arrangement. The ET team’s unwavering

‘TECH FIRST’ MOVEMENT

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commitment is best exemplified in their willingness to guide themselves and 60 support staff including Program Managers, IT specialists, and Direct Support Professionals through an intensive Technology First accreditation training course, all while navigating the pandemic. KenCrest is now one of only two organizations accredited in Pennsylvania. (Nationally, there are 15 accredited organizations, including providers in Illinois, Tennessee, Washington DC, and Missouri.) With 60+ credentialed Technology First team members, KenCrest is able to reach across the breadth of the organization with new technology-driven solutions and push the organization to remain in the vanguard of the ‘tech first’ movement. Ultimately the adoption of a Technology First approach helps lessen the impact of the nation-wide Direct Support Professional crisis within the human services industry, and enhances new opportunities for natural supports for the IDD community. Furthermore, ET creates opportunities for people to engage in their community with greater confidence and a sense of belonging. This is what true inclusion is all about. Considerations for creating a technology solution start with simple questions; what kind of support does this person need to have success in the community, and what are their goals? Once these questions are answered, additional steps for completing an assistive technology plan might include conducting an evaluation of the person’s technological needs; selecting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing or

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devices); pen readers (reading technologies); a range of home sensors (motion detectors, door sensors); video doorbells (Ring); medication dispensers; and a virtual job coach app called Life SherpaTM. Facilitating the greatest degree of independent living possible for every person KenCrest serves is the driving force behind the Agency’s work. The Lending Library provides a real-time opportunity (instead of having to wait for a special order) to borrow the items and/or to see what the capabilities are; rather than having to make a costly and perhaps unnecessary purchase. This is just the beginning of KenCrest’s Enabling Technology support integration. The Agency is in the midst of dedicating resources to the creation of a Smart Home that will serve as a community model for greater Technology First design and implementation throughout its 170+ residential homes. For those navigating natural age-related impairments such as limited mobility, eyesight, or hearing, the Smart Home will help them maintain greater independence longer with more confidence. While Enabling Technology cannot resolve every challenge faced by the KenCrest community, it offers great hope and so many new opportunities for those we support to live out their lives more fully, and their dreams as empowered as possible.

“ This is what true inclusion is all about.”

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PHOTOS: RAE HEARTS DESIGN & PHOTOGRAPHY

replacing the ET device; coordinating other therapies, interventions, or services alongside ET devices; and providing training or technical assistance to the user as well as to their family or other support team members on how to use the device. New assistive technologies are coming out every day; KenCrest is fortunate to have access to the latest innovations in part to the generous support of a grant through the Truist Foundation (formerly BB&T Bank Foundation), which funded the creation of the ET lending library. Currently, the inventory features a variety tablets, smart devices (Amazon Echo); adaptive switches (connected to ‘TECH FIRST’ MOVEMENT


05.10.22

Return to RiverCrest Golf, Cornhole, Fun and Frivolity

Join us as we journey back to one of KenCrest’s original homesteads. More than a century later, we’ll return to our former “place in the sun” to celebrate the 5th annual Masters event! For more information visit www.KenCrest.org/Masters


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How one couple gives with intention

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t’s been said—those who are happiest are those who do for others; Jim and Mary Jane Brenneman know that to be undeniably true. “We believe it is a responsibility to help people who haven’t experienced the blessings we have, and KenCrest is a wonderful organization to do that,” shares the couple. As long-time donors, the Brenneman’s have found true purpose in investing time and financial opportunities into organizations that support underserved populations. For over four decades, they have been committed donors to KenCrest after learning about its mission through their congregation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland, Pennsylvania. “When we are deciding which organizations to donate to, we want to understand their mission and see examples of how they serve and improve their constituents’ lives. We also seek out any connections we might have with those whose family has personally benefitted from the organization or works there —that was our case with KenCrest.” Upon learning about KenCrest, Jim and Mary Jane were invited to meet with staff

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members who directly cared for people with disabilities. “We observed their strong level of commitment and passion for their jobs. We admired the complexity of what they were asked to do,” says Jim. They personally desire to see diversity in their community that encompasses not only inclusion, but also productivity and fulfillment for people with diverse abilities. “More opportunities are so important,” Mary Jane says. “Everyone has something to contribute,” adds Jim. “It’s gratifying to observe that people with disabilities have skills we do not have.” After meeting some of the people KenCrest supports, the Brennemans were ready to lend a hand financially. Moreover, Jim began volunteering his fundraising expertise to the Development team and several board members regarding KenCrest’s fundraising procedures and planning for a comprehensive capital campaign. Transparency into an organization is key before any donation is made, and Jim and Mary Jane believe that lines of communication should remain open following a gift or pledge. “We always appreciate a ‘thank you,’” says Mary Jane. “I like to know where the


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Giving is a way to answer, ‘What can I do?’ and have a real impact.”

PHOTO: RAE HEARTS DESIGN & PHOTOGRAPHY

“The one thing I heard and saw regularly was the importance my parents placed on giving back. This behavior was something I also learned in Sunday school and church. It is essential we care for those in need.” The couple have found great satisfaction in seeing generations of their family involved in the passion of giving and community service; the hope is that their same happiness will continue for generations to come.

gifts will be utilized; that adds to our gratification and makes it appear as an investment, not just dollars,” Jim adds. Devoted church goers from child to adulthood, the couple considers the church to have enriched their connection to giving. They believe their lives would feel unfulfilled if they were not in service to others. “As we get older, we realize the skills we do not have,” says Jim. “Giving is a way to answer, ‘What can I do?’ and have a real impact. Being close to these organizations and serving them can help fit that need.” A family who attends their church has a daughter who was once cared for by KenCrest. “Whenever we were in her presence, she was joyous and recognized who we were. That always made our day. She loves her life and KenCrest was a major contributor in allowing that to happen,” shares Mary Jane. Selfless acts and philanthropy have become a family affair in the Brenneman household; their son and daughter-in-law are KenCrest donors and their granddaughter worked for KenCrest while pursuing a graduate degree in the human services field. For Jim, the act of giving traces back to his childhood. INVESTING IN INCLUSION

To learn more about supporting KenCrest and it's many planned giving opportunities, please contact Jeff Dubnow, Chief Development Officer at 610-825-9360 ext. 1023, or via email at jeff.dubnow@kencrest.org.

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PHOTOS: RAE HEARTS DESIGN & PHOTOGRAPHY

“ In 2021 alone—over 50% of DSPs nationwide left their jobs for new placements due to low wages, lack of support, and demanding schedules.”


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GOOD HELP IS HARD TO FIND A Look into the DSP Crisis

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Banita Clark flutters from room to room before darting out of the bathroom carrying a cold curling iron. She plugs it in under the large bay window in the living room before disappearing once again into one of three bedrooms. Banita is a Lead Direct Support Professional (DSP) at a Community Living group home in Willow Grove, PA and works every weekday from 3-11pm. Banita reappears pushing Aigner—one of the three ladies who reside there—in a large fluorescent pink wheel chair, towards the window. She quickly spins the chair around with Aigner now facing an elaborate photo collage of loved ones sitting above the fireplace mantle. At the center is a group portrait of Aigner, her housemates Shannon and Khadijah (DeeDee), and five additional staff members including Banita, all dressed in white blouses and blue jeans. The photos are a testament to the bond the housemates and their DSP’s built over nearly a decade together. It’s

not uncommon for DSP’s to become like surrogate parents, or siblings to the people they support. Banita remains the only DSP from the photo still employed as a result of a massive workforce crisis plaguing the human services industry. Banita leans Aigner’s chair back, locks it, and once again hastily disappears into the back bedrooms before returning with each of Aigner’s housemates; one at a time repeating the process of lining them up and leaning them back, making a semi-circle around her. She pulls out her cell phone and scrolls through a playlist of songs before landing on LL Cool J’s “Around the Way Girl,” that promptly blares through the Bluetooth speaker near the front door. Khadijah calls out with a shrilling voice “Banita, Banita! That’s LL Cool J, that’s my song!” “Yes, DeeDee it is,” Banita replies, as she picks up the heated curling iron off the floor. Encircled by the three wheel chairs, one by one, Banita 10


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“ The photos are a testament to the bond the housemates and their DSP’s built over nearly a decade together.” curls the ends of the women’s’ ponytails; each different than the last. Having supported the women for the past eight years—she knows what they like—but it’s only during her shifts that Aigner, Shannon, and DeeDee get glammed up the way they love. Over half the Direct Support Professionals (DSP) who care for them at their home work for temp agencies. None of the newer staff have gotten to know the three housemates’ preferences and personalities beyond their basic health care, daily routines, and dietary restrictions outlined in the ladies’ Individual Support Plans (ISPs). Like the thousands of Community Living homes throughout the United States, Aigner, Shannon, and DeeDee’s home is short-staffed due to the on-going DSP crisis experienced by human services providers everywhere. It is a crisis that’s been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021 alone—over 50% of DSPs nationwide left their jobs for new placements due to low wages, lack of support, and demanding schedules. Providers everywhere are scrambling to fill staff vacancies with temp agency placements, to ensure the safety of the 11

people in their programs. Human services providers are funded by Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), which dictates the hourly rates providers pay DSP’s. Under current HCBS regulations, the average hourly rate paid to a direct care worker is $12.09, with little prospects of a raise in sight. Provider agencies like KenCrest are left to compete with the retail, food service, and hospitality industries that hire employees at $15-23 per hour, with guaranteed regular pay increases. Conversely, the disparity in wages, supports, and opportunity—has forced people with disabilities and their families to suffer staffing shortages and settle for lessthan quality care. Currently there are over 707,000 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) throughout the United States waiting for support services in their respective communities. While the position lacks career mobility, for DSPs like Banita, it’s the people that keep them around. “I like seeing them happy, and knowing that I’m helping them make a change in their own lives.” Over the last 40 years the role

of a Direct Support Professional has become more demanding, yet less credentialed. In 1977, most human services providers required DSPs to have two to four years of college, followed by several weeks of orientation and training, to qualify for the position of caring for a person with I/DD. By 2021 the typical DSP receives a few days’ worth of agency orientation, compliance training, and hands-on instruction. DSPs are immediately expected to attain fluency in safety and abuse prevention protocols, and quickly master extensive documentation processes; all while learning the specifics of the ISP’s for the people they support. Unlike new hires in other industries, DSPs can expect little, or zero support as they acclimate to their suite of responsibilities. The lack of credentialing paired with demanding shift schedules, limited support, and low wages, has led to higher DSP burnout rates and position turnover across their programs; resulting in higher overtime costs, financial challenges for agencies, and fewer opportunities for those being supported to establish relationships with their caregivers. GOOD HELP IS HARD TO FIND


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In July 2020, more than 77% of 191 providers surveyed by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) reported that they had discontinued at least one service; with 16% anticipating the closures would be permanent. Despite the bleak odds faced by human services providers across the country, there are several—including KenCrest—who see the opportunity to reframe staffing challenges and improve the meaningful support provided by staff like Banita Clark, and foster the same memorable bonds that Aigner, Shannon, and DeeDee came to know and love. KenCrest and other human services providers across the country, continue to advocate regularly for increases in HCBS funding to credential and improve the hourly wage rate for DSPs; and lobby to increase funding for innovative support options like enabling technologies, and prioritizing resources for people with disabilities to live more independently or with their families. By making small shifts in service delivery and support—KenCrest and those like it—can build back a strong direct care workforce and the meaningful connections that matter.

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PHOTO: RAE HEARTS DESIGN & PHOTOGRAPHY

GOOD HELP IS HARD TO FIND

Empowering Neurodiversity in your Community The benefits of hiring people with autism, an intellectual, or developmental disability are endless! Decreased recruitment & training costs Support staff provided Higher employee retention rates & productivity Creates an inclusive work environment customer base. Learn more about becoming a neurodiverse workplace. Contact Allison Smale, Director of Employment Programs: asmale@kencrest.org


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Happy Holidays

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PHOTOS: RAE HEARTS DESIGN & PHOTOGRAPHY

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enCrest found lots of reasons to celebrate, innovate, and connect during the 2021 holiday season. From socially distanced scavenger hunts and festively decorated Christmas trees and gingerbread houses, to lighting the way with Hanukkah and Kwanza candles and visiting local outdoor attractions; these were just some of the ways the KenCrest family renewed its appreciation for all the “little things” during the most magical time of year. With the overwhelming love demonstrated through donations to the Rev. Harvey Davis Family Fund, the community pulled together to support over 140 families from KenCrest’s Early Learning Centers and Early Intervention program with holiday gifts, winter gear, and household essentials. Additionally, forty people in the Supported Independent Living program received grocery gift cards for their scrumptious Thanksgiving meals.


Learn How PA Tax Credit Programs Benefit KenCrest and YOU March 16th at 12:30pm

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id you know that you can reduce your corporate or personal PA tax liability while providing life-changing scholarships to children whose families are in financial need? As a designated Pre-K Scholarship Organization (PKSO), these contributions enable the business community and individuals to be directly involved in the education of youth, starting with our youngest learners. Learn how Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Central PA Scholarship Fund make it easy to redirect tax dollars to support KenCrest’s Pre-K tuition assistance efforts. For more information, please visit www.kencrest.org/EITC or contact Dawn Warden, Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations at 610-825-9360 ext. 1123, or via email at dawn.warden@kencrest.org.

www.kencrest.org/EITC

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