Jessie’s Ranch open forum for parents exceeds expectations
Family Support Council never expected to fill a room past capacity during their open forum about their newest program, Jessie’s Ranch, on Thursday.
The more than successful turnout of parents of adults with disabilities, was evidence of the excitement and momentum the program has already generated.
With hopes of helping their first adults as early as August, FSC was pleasantly surprised by the turn of events at the meeting.
“There was not a whole lot of, ‘we’d like to see this or we want this,’” FSC Executive Director Steve Decker said. “It was a lot more, ‘when can we start doing this,’ and ‘how do we get on the waiting list now.’”
The first major gust of wind in the Jessie’s Ranch program’s sails came in the form of a $101,000 donation from The Dean Seeman Foundation.
Named after a Valley rancher who dedicated his life to caring for his sister, Jessie, who had Down Syndrome, the foundation focuses on distributing funds to programs that assist families with disabled members.
“I am so thankful to the Family Support Council and to have met Steve Decker while I was trying to find someone to gift out to, as we have more money to gift,” Seeman Foundation Trustee Judy Keele said to the nearly 40 people at the meeting. “I am thankful to have found someone with a background of working with this population and then finding out that on the bucket list of Family Support Council is being able to serve you, you and your precious children.”
Jessie’s Ranch will provide a day-program and living support providers to disabled adults who no longer receive assistance from the Douglas County School District.
While there is a business that provides group program support, most adults who age out of the school district’s support are forced to move out of the county and even the state to receive the care and assistance they need.
“The words we used are individualized and person-centered planning,” Decker said. “Families don’t hear that very often. A lot of the time they are hearing that the only options for their children are group homes or group placement and a lot of time that forces them to be shipped out of the area. Jessie’s Ranch will help bring those kids home. Hearing that we want to know what each and every person needs, is something so different than what these parents are use to hearing.”
Since receiving the donation from the Seeman Foundation, Jessie’s Ranch was set on a much faster track than expected.
FSC has brought in a program manager, Dan Upton as of Jan. 11 to help keep the new program running smoothly.
“I want to make sure we are providing quality programming and expanding as much as possible,” Upton said. “There are no real options for families; either they leave the county or they stay here and the families struggle (without assistance).”
Parents at the meeting were brought up to speed on the progress the program is making towards being able to provide services.
Upton said a stack of paperwork is the current priority, preparing to submit the program to the state for approval.
“There is a lot of paperwork as well as developing all of the processes and training programs,” he said. “We will be submitting in March and hope to get our approval back by the end of June.”
Having state approval through Rural Regional Center will allow Jessie’s Ranch to provide services to those adults who have been given state authorization.
Once state approval is granted, FSC will begin training their direct care staff and potentially be helping their first adults by August.
“In our first year we are expecting to be able to serve three full-time individuals, that means those that need 24-hour support,” Decker said. “However, if we get people that only need eight hours of support then we will be able to serve nine people instead of three.”
Creating and supporting these adults to live as independently as possible is the primary goal of Jessie’s Ranch, Decker said.
Being a part of the community is key for these adults and the potential addition of a partnership with a Kiwanis-based organization will help with that goal.
“There is an organization within Kiwanis International that is actually difficult to get going called ‘Aktion Club,’” Kiwanis member Gary Dove shared at the meeting. “They are their own group with their own bylaws, their own officers, they do all of their own fundraising.”
Aktion Club is for adults 18 years and older.
South Lake Tahoe has a version of the club that helps that area’s Kiwanis Club at their annual events, something Dove hopes can become a reality in the Valley.
“That is one of the most satisfying groups to work with that I have ever been around,” he said. “It is a goal to have that here in this community. It is going to take time, but I am ready to put forth that effort and bring this to the community.”
“It was apparent very early on that they are very, very excited about this,” Decker said. “Parents were talking and asking if we could offer this, or that and we were answering, ‘yes’. Seeing literal tears in these parents’ eyes because they have hope for their children is what this is about. Let’s bring our children home who have been forced out of the county or even out of the state.”
For information on how to be placed on the list for Jessie’s Ranch visit family-support.org or call Upton at 782-8692.