Caring for Those with Special Needs

"We are making a commitment to people who are going to be depending on us for 30 - 40 years or more. Some of these individuals don't have families, so every celebration of their life - every birthday, every Christmas - will be our responsibility. This is the essence of our mission."

At 20, Charles, a person with intellectual disabilities, has been institutionalized in the Milwaukee area for most of his life. His latest residence, an intermediate care facility, could no longer meet his needs. Charles was one of almost 50 people with similar disabilities at the facility for whom the Family Care program works to find individual housing in the community. Now, Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin will be Charles’ new home.

“We have contracted with two different care management organizations to care for three individuals, all with very complex behavioral needs,” said Anne Foerster, director of operations and mission advancement for Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin. “We’ve been providing this kind of care for about four years and may be the only Volunteers of America organization nationally to have the responsibility to care for people with needs this complex. It’s always a worthwhile challenge.”

The care design requires two direct care workers (DCWs) to care for each resident at all times. Carla Nicolaus, area director of Wisconsin Services for Persons with Special Needs, is in the process of hiring and training at least 35 DCWs to meet the rigid 24/7 staffing requirements. Three separate residences are now in the process of being furnished and equipped.

“Care management organizations in the Milwaukee area respect our reputation for quality residential care,” Foerster said. “We were honored to be among the organizations to which these people were referred for support and care. We won’t let them down.”