The Arc of Frederick County
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The Arc of Frederick County is an advocacy agency supporting adults and children with developmental disabilities to lead enviable lives in the community. The Arc was founded in Frederick, Maryland by parents in 1958 in response to the lack of community programs for children and adults with developmental disabilities. The Arc continues its advocacy efforts and the creation of new services for individuals and families today.
The mission of The Arc of Frederick County is to provide advocacy,access to resources, and assistance in increasing individual and family connections for people with developmental disabilities. The organization seeks creative solutions to help people attain the goals they choose, thereby creating better lives for people with disabilities and their families. The Arc works to accomplish this mission at both the individual and systems level. The agency is under the leadership of a volunteer group of Board of Directors made up of individuals with disabilities, their family members, and other community members who are vested in advocating for and creating innovative supports for people with developmental disabilities.
In 1984, The Arc of Frederick County created Funding Conduit Services to allow parents and individuals with disabilities to utilize state funding to locate and purchase the services they need in the community. This includes supporting individuals with disabilities and their families to employ their own direct support staff to provide skills education, respite care, and community integration. Supporting individuals and families to employ their own staff and decide who provides care proves to be a successful model. This approach supports the importance of person directed planning and individual preference and control over one’s own life.
In addition, The Arc of Frederick County provides Service Coordination for children with Autism through the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Waiver for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism Waiver) in Frederick County. Services can include: Intensive Individual Support Services, Respite Care, Therapeutic Integration, Family Training, and Environmental Accessibility Adaptations.
The Arc has an Endowment Fund with The Community Foundation of Frederick County to support The Arc’s Futures and Estate Planning Services to help families through the process of developing a Letter of Intent to plan for one’s future once their primary caregiver is no longer able to provide the needed support, choose an attorney and financial planner to develop a will and trust, and provide information on alternatives to guardianship.
A grant provided by Frederick County Government supports The Arc of Frederick County to provide an Independent Living Program for adults who live on their own and a Transitioning Youth Program to help students with developmental disabilities plan for their transition from Public School to the adult world and workforce. The Arc’s Transitioning Youth Program recently partnered with Frederick County Public Schools, Division of Rehabilitation Services, Service Coordination, and Maryland State Department of Education to create a Transitioning Youth Portfolio that is used as a tool to guide students throughout Maryland with the transition planning process. The Arc also partners with a local college to offer a Leadership Class for transitioning age students with disabilities. This class takes place on the college campus.
Following the mission of the founding parents, The Arc continues to respond to the needs of children with developmental disabilities, their families, and the Frederick community. Contributions from members, civic groups, grants and the United Way allow The Arc to offer additional needed supports to people in Frederick County. Information and Referral and Educational Advocacy services are available to anyone who contacts The Arc and has a developmental disability or is a family member of someone with a disability. Cooking, computer, creative movement, art, and Adult Basic Education classes are all offered in response to requests from the people served by The Arc. Working Together Self-Advocacy is a support group of adults with developmental disabilities. Parent and sibling support groups are available to support family members as is a free, monthly respite program called Parents Day Out. The Arc has a Hispanic Outreach position to reach the growing Spanish speaking population in Frederick, Maryland.
New initiatives include collaborating with area businesses to locate and create meaningful employment opportunities for students and adults based on their individual talents and preferences. The Arc has also created Real World Weekends for adults to experience independent living situations in efficiency apartments in preparation for moving out of their family home and on their own for the first time.
The first services started by the parents who founded The Arc were educational opportunities for children with developmental disabilities. The early years of The Arc’s existence were focused on educating families, community members, teachers, and lawmakers on the importance of keeping families together as opposed to sending children to live in institutional care facilities. In 1959, The Arc successfully advocated with the Frederick County Board of Education to open Harmony Grove School so children with disabilities could receive an education in the community. The doors of the school opened to twenty-four students with disabilities. Today, Harmony Grove is known as Rock Creek School and continues to operate under the Frederick County Public School district.
In addition to systems advocacy, The Arc formed support groups for parents to share experiences and developed literature to be distributed at the local hospital for families of children born with a disability. Professionals and parents quickly learned that they could depend on The Arc to provide a personal, helping hand. These parents’ early efforts are the cornerstone on which many current Frederick County services were formed.
In 1965 and 1966, The Arc advocated for and obtained both state and county government funding to create the Jeanne Bussard Workshop and the Scott Key Developmental Center. Both agencies continue to operate today and provide employment and day program services for adults with developmental disabilities. In 1975, The Arc established its first group home for adults with developmental disabilities to move from institutional care facilities to the community. In 1979, The Arc spun off its residential programs to create a new non-profit, Community Living.
Since 1979, The Arc of Frederick County has been under the leadership of Joanna Pierson, Ph.D. Under her guidance in 1982, The Arc created Service Coordination, a statewide division of the agency, to provide independent service coordination systems for people with developmental disabilities in Maryland. What began as a project initially serving 173 people across the state grew into one of the nation’s top models of providing person directed coordination services. In 2006, The Arc spun off Service Coordination to form its own non-profit agency, Service Coordination. At that time, The Arc of Frederick County was serving over 13,000 adults and children with developmental disabilities throughout Maryland.