In the continued effort to help individuals and families face life’s daily challenges, Jewish Family Services now offers a program to meet the needs of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). The goal of the new JFS Disability Services program is to support the quality of life and independence of people with I/DD.
Porsche Elkins is the developmental disability specialist overseeing this new pilot program for JFS.
“My goal as the developmental disability specialist is to support the quality of life and autonomy of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Elkins. “The approach we have developed to meet that goal utilizes case management, quality information and referral and increasing access to social inclusion.”
Through the program, Elkins will help clients increase access to a variety of inclusive social activities, interaction with peers, Jewish holiday activities, and outreach to Jewish congregations and other organizations to promote socially inclusive activities.
Elkins and JFS staff will assist families in developing goals and linking people to professional resources that are developmentally appropriate.
“In the program, we want to assist people of all ages in taking steps to be more independent, to feel more empowered, and to be active and involved in their communities,” Elkins said.
The program serves local Jewish clients and their families. Any person with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities or their family member or caregiver can reach out to Elkins for information and assistance. Developmental disabilities include severe and chronic disabilities that can limit a person both physically and/or cognitively. Examples of common I/DD are autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome, Rett syndrome, learning disabilities, and spina bifida.
“We’re extremely pleased to roll out this program in the Jewish community, the need for which was identified as part of our strategic planning,” said Richard Odiam, JFS chief program officer. “We look forward to this new opportunity to provide specialized support to people with intellectual disabilities and to their families, helping them access needed resources, information, and activities.”
The impetus for the program came from Jenny Isenberg, a JFS board member and parent of a child with developmental disabilities.
“I was in a unique position to help JFS kick-start this program, one the agency had already been considering for several years,” said Isenberg. “Families with a member with developmental disabilities often take on broad and sweeping challenges. There is no handbook, no single support system and the scenario continually changes as the person ages from birth to adulthood and beyond. It’s also something that never goes away,” Isenberg said.
Isenberg is excited about the potential this program has to make a difference in people’s lives.
“One of first steps is to let the community know that if you have someone in your family with developmental disabilities,” said Isenberg.
“Make contact with the JFS disabilities program and introduce yourself. Since each family situation is so completely different, if JFS can develop an understanding of the needs, then they can more accurately direct its future programming. The possibilities are only limited by our imaginations.”
Elkins comes to JFS with a strong background working with the I/DD population. Elkins has worked in various settings including personal care, education, residential services and case management. She spent time in the Kansas City Public Schools assisting classroom teachers in implementing developmentally appropriate curriculum and engaging students. She has also managed staff and day-to-day operations for group homes and supported living residences for individuals with I/DD living within those communities. Most recently, she worked as a support coordinator at Developmental Disability Services of Jackson County—Eitas.
Those interested in learning more about JFS Disability Services may contact Elkins at 913-730-1474 or email her at email@example.com.