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 DHS News March 2014     


Workgroup marks progress in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities 

Ongoing work throughout the Department of Human Services to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities get proper support as they parent shows the importance of integrating programming and fine-tuning it to meet the needs of niche populations. Recently, a DHS workgroup investigating improving supports for parents with intellectual disabilities reported that significant progress has been made in the past year to improve communication, service planning and development and referrals for such parents.

Although addressing their needs has always been a focus for DHS, and specifically for the Office of Intellectual Disability (OID), in the summer of 2012, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kathryn Hens-Greco told Pat Valentine, DHS Executive Deputy Director for Integrated Program Services that she had been seeing parents with intellectual disabilities in court who did not have adequate support in caring for their children. Representatives of DHS offices began meeting regularly to review case management and improve referrals, information sharing, and service planning and delivery.

The underlying concern is to ensure that parents with intellectual disabilities have every opportunity to be successful in raising their children, said Jean O’Connell Jenkins, DHS Quality Improvement Administrator, and a member of the workgroup.

Under the guidance of Brenda Bulkoski, Assistant Deputy at OID, representatives of program offices convened to identify who the parents are, how to assess their strengths and challenges and apply proper supports. Brenda said the continuing examination is not only of parents known to OID but also to see if others systemwide need to be identified and connected to services.

“One of the obstacles we face is that the system statewide is currently designed to work with the person with intellectual disability and does not consider that the person may be a parent or a spouse of someone who may not have an intellectual disability diagnosis,” Brenda said. “There is no ideal way to blend services or reflect the household needs on one plan. That is what we are working to correct.”

Three cases that crossed both OID and the Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF) were reviewed in depth to learn more about specific issues that need remediation. “It brought to the table a wonderful group of cross-systems colleagues, representing our program offices and providers who are working with families served by OID and CYF,” Jean said. Improving communication channels was a paramount concern. Linkages between offices and even knowledge of the needs of parents with intellectual disabilities needed development.

Among changes made to close the gap have been identifying point persons at OID and in the Office of Behavioral Health, Bureau of Children and Adolescents Mental Health Services (also known as “the Children’s Team”); having the Office of Data Analysis, Research and Evaluation (DARE) issue monthly reports on parents with ID who are active in CYF; developing an information sharing protocol between CYF call screening and authorized OID staff; and expanding staff access and training in DataVue. That confidential database contains basic information that can be used to discover what sorts of services a parent might already have.

Other changes include implementing internal checks at OID that prevent cases being closed if an individual is active with another DHS office; incorporating individuals in the new Adult Integrated Service Planning process; developing DARE reports about jail intakes that occur with people involved with OID and OBH; and developing educational materials for magisterial district judges about people with intellectual disabilities and supportive services.

DHS administrators have approved a concept by OID staff to develop an assessment and planning model for parents. That will be complementary to DHS’s common assessment, which is being rolled out system-wide. It also will complement Conferencing and Teaming.

“Everyone who has been part of the planning process has been really motivated,” said Ebony Robinson, DARE quality improvement specialist who is part of the workgroup. “It’s been wonderful to see people coming forth and streamlining ideas to move forward quickly.”

Please visit the Office of Intellectual Disability webpage for more information.

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