Giving Our Clients a Voice and a Choice

Jul 8, 2020

What are your dreams? What are your goals? What makes you happy? You have probably spent your entire life hearing these questions and making decisions based on your answers.  But for individuals with disabilities, they may never be asked these questions. Their disabilities often define who they are and what they can do, and as a result their voices are rarely heard, and decisions are often made for them. But UCP is changing that.

We believe our clients thrive when given an opportunity to make their own choices. We’ve seen their self-esteem and confidence grow when clients play an active role in decision making. By implementing person-centered planning, we are giving them a chance to thrive by being involved in life decisions and having their desires heard.

UCP’s Person-Centered Coordinator, Jennie Nixon, knows firsthand how beneficial person-centered planning is for our clients. “It’s about the person living the life that they want to live. Our planning is driven by the person that is receiving the services and what they need. It’s so rewarding to see people start to blossom, especially folks that came from more institutionalized settings, like developmental centers. For many of these individuals, they would make decisions in the past and nobody listened to them. Now they are being heard and we see the difference it makes.” said Jennie.

What is Person-Centered Planning?

A person-centered plan allows people with disabilities to decide what is best for their future, rather than being told what to do.

An effective person-centered plan considers the individual’s relationships, skills, needs, values and vision for their future. Facilitators understand that the planning process is deeply personal and offer guidance without judgement of the individual. The process can take place wherever the person wishes, whether it be at home, an Adult Day program or somewhere else.

How Person-Centered Planning Works at UCP

The person-centered planning team at UCP includes a UCP team member, the individual, and those closest to them, usually family members or care givers. The team then collaborates to identify the individual’s goals and decide together on the best methods to achieve those goals. We start positive by helping the client identify the great things about themselves. We then create a relationship map that highlights the important people in their life. The group works with the individual to identify routines and rituals and figure out what a good day or bad day might look like. We conduct activities that help the person-centered group learn all about the individual and we create a one-page description of the client to have on file in case there is a change in caretakers or facilitators.

The process focuses on personal development to increase control over their own lives, and help them strengthen their independence, family relationships and community involvement.

In addition to the planning aspect, the team takes an active role in decision making.

“Many times, our clients don’t have somebody that they can toss around ideas with. Instead, someone dictates what they can or cannot do.  We try and show our families that it is important to involve clients in the decision-making process.  It’s important to available to guide them and keep them safe, but let the client weigh in so they feel in control of their own life decisions,” explains Jennie.

Understanding who and what is important to our clients can go a long way toward their success. By learning what motivates our clients, we can make learning easier and more enjoyable for them. Previously, institutions tried to make people fit into systems. With the person-centered approach, UCP delves deeper into our clients’ lives and relationships to understand who they are and learn what inspires them. The more involved they are in their decisions and development, the more confident they become.

Many trends in the service sphere have come and gone, but we believe the person-centered method is here to stay.

“UCP believes everyone deserves to be treated as an individual with hopes and dreams. By implementing person-centered planning into our programs, we have seen our clients grow and thrive. We’ve given them a voice and a choice and the difference we see is amazing,” says Jennie.

 

How You Can Help.

UCP Programs and Services rely on your support to best serve those in our communities. UCP serves 5,804 people a month in an eight-county area, empowering children and adults who – without support – would be isolated from community. You can learn more about these services here or make a donation here.

It is a great feeling to know your donation helps someone in need. Donations go directly towards UCP Programs and Services. As a result of our programs, children and adults learn valuable skills, overcome challenges, or simply experience the pride of being included.

 

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