Individuals with serious intellectual and developmental disabilities often require support from adult service programs when they turn 22. This process can be challenging and filled with anxiety for their loved ones. Every parent wants the best for their child as they become adults, but they may not know where to start.
To help folks prepare for this journey, we spoke to several parents with adult children at The Guild about their experience. This conversation is with Susan Tarr. Her daughter Kaitlyn has been at The Guild for over eight years.
The following are excerpts from our interview.
Q. Thinking back to the time leading up to Kaitlyn turning 22, what was your planning process like and what were the key factors you were considering?
Susan: We prayed that Kaitlyn and our family could have as much consistency as possible. Kaitlyn is the youngest of four children. Although everyone told us she would eventually need to be in a residential program, we never imagined that would happen. I, like a lot of parents, worried that no one would care for Kaitlyn like we did. No one would be as patient as we were. But by the time Kaitlyn turned 15 her older siblings had moved out of the house. It soon became clear we could no longer provide Kaitlyn with the level of support she needed.
We visited several residential schools that were not a fit for her, and then, finally, we found The Guild School. I remember crying after our first visit. I could see how much the staff truly cared for the students and how happy the kids seemed. The transition for our family was really challenging, but The Guild team were amazing partners.
As Kaitlyn’s 22nd birthday got closer, we focused on ensuring that we found a placement that was a good fit for her needs. We prayed again this time that she could stay with The Guild. It had already proven to be a great fit for Kaitlyn for the past 7 years and we were worried about another big transition in her life.
Q. What was it like as you began to navigate the transition process?
Susan: To be honest, it was terrifying. Kaitlyn was really happy at The Guild and we were so confident with the organization. The Guild has built a reputation of excellence by expecting the most of every team member. Over the years, we witnessed those high expectations firsthand. Kaitlyn needs significant support, as do many of her peers. This can make caring for her challenging for the people who love her, not to mention other folks providing her support. This type of work is not for everyone. The people who stay working at The Guild are the best of the best. For those that aren’t ready for this high level of expectations, they are not at The Guild for very long.
Thankfully, a space opened up in an adult home at The Guild and the Department of Developmental Services was able to work with us to make it Kaitlyn’s home. I don’t have words to express the pure joy we felt when we got that news.
Q. What are some of the things The Guild did well?
Susan: The Guild does many things well but how they treat and support the direct care staff stands out. I am a public school teacher and know how important direct care staff are to ensuring a positive experience. To hire and retain great staff, you must have a good hiring process but, more importantly, you have to have a plan to support staff, validate them, appreciate them, and train them. The Guild does all of that well. The Guild staff are incredibly caring, loving, and supportive to all the youth and adults.
They also think a lot about each individual student’s needs and desires. For instance, The Guild learned that Kaitlyn loved to ride horses and ensured that riding would continue.
Q. Why do you believe The Guild is the best place for your child?
Susan: For 8 years, we have seen Guild staff care for the residents like they are family. I honestly believe that they really love Kaitlyn and treat her like they would their own family. This was never clearer than what they did for her during the COVID pandemic.
She has also made such tremendous growth. She was not able to feed, dress or toilet herself for the longest time but she is now doing all those things. She enjoys being around her housemates. She’s just so happy.
To learn more about The Guild’s Adult Services, visit https://www.guildhumanservices.org/adult-services