State budget cuts have left a void in the lives of several families who used to receive in-home care and counseling from Community Support Services in Brookfield.
The private not-for-profit company has experienced a $450,000 reduction in state funding and has subsequently been forced to put large portions of their in-home respite program and their case management service on the chopping block.
Rick and Cathy Bedard from Berwyn have three children with developmental disabilities. Tiffy, 14, has Down syndrome, autism and is hearing impaired; Alex, 15, also has autism; and Ricky, 18, has Down syndrome and autism, as well.
The Bedard family has been involved with Community Support Services since 1993. For three years the Bedards were on a waiting list to receive in-home respite, although they were still eligible for such programs as Parents Night Out – in which parents can drop their children off at Community Support Services and essentially take a night off.
Since 1996 the family has been receiving in-home respite from the organization for all three of their children, a program Cathy Bedard now referred to as a “godsend,” but admitted being initially skeptical about.
“I was the over-protective mother,” Bedard said.
Finding the right type of person to care for their children isn’t easy, Rick Bedard said.
“You really got to know what you’re doing,” he said. “You’re not going to just grab somebody from down the street as a babysitter. You can’t.”
Slowly, though, the Bedards forged a strong relationship with the Community Support Services caretaker, built on trust and appreciation.
Due to the budget cuts, the Bedards stopped receiving both case management and in-home respite on July 1.
“It [respite] was just amazing,” Cathy Bedard said. “It was this huge relief, and now that they’ve gotten older, they expect it.”
When the services ended “it just hit us,” she said.
Community Support Services, a not-for-profit corporation, provides clinical and in-home care for persons with developmental disabilities in 53 different communities across west suburban Cook County.
Initially they were facing a $900,000 cut in grant funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Developmental Disabilities, but were recently informed to assess their 2010 budget – roughly $5.4 million – with half of the money restored.
This does not mean, however, that the restored $450,000 cannot be revoked yet again.
“It’s basically a temporary reprieve,” said Andrea Finnegan, Community Support Services vice president of finance operations.
The cuts amount to reductions of $320,000 for in-home respite care and $130,000 for case management.
The respite program entails the selection of an individual who comes to the client’s home and works with the family and/or individual(s) in need of care. Case management is a general counseling service, where clients are provided a wide range of information ranging from legal advice to assistance in blueprinting their children’s education.
Prior to the cuts, Community Support Services was providing in-home respite for roughly 300 respite cases at around $16,000 per case. Since the cuts, the organization has been forced to reduce that number to 120, limiting the service to recipients who live within townships that provide the organization with funding.
The state is attempting to reduce the amount of allocated general revenue fund dollars, which come in the form of grants, in an attempt to fund many social service organizations with federally matched dollars, which are provided through programs such as Medicaid.
“The problem is eligibility and flexibility,” said Tony Paulauski, executive director of Arc of Illinois, in reference to individual qualification for federal programs like Medicaid.
Community Support Services is a chapter of Arc of Illinois, which is a not-for-profit corporation that lobbies for or against legislative issues that affect companies and organizations like Community Support Services.
“The goal here is to make this a win-win for all – to prevent cuts,” said Gaye Preston, Community Support Services’ president and CEO.
Preston, however, believes the cuts will have an adverse effect on family income, as respite care will have to be replaced by the constant presence of a family member, and/or the inappropriate institutionalization of individuals with disabilities, which, in turn, could be less cost-effective for the state
“Eventually what you will see is families that will be unable to work because they will have to be at home, or people who will have to be in nursing homes,” Preston said.
Also feeling the effect of the budget cuts is the Baerentzen family.
Bill and Dareen Baerentzen of Berwyn have three adopted children – Tyana, 8; Shalonda, 7; and Amarie, 6.
“They’re like the light of my life,” Dareen said, “They’re my little sunshines.”
Tyana has cerebral palsy and, like the Bedard children, she used to receive in-home respite from Community Support Services, which also came to a halt on July 1.
The Baerentzens have developed an almost familial relationship with their caretaker, who began seeing Tyana in 2007.
“I never worried,” Dareen Baerentzen said, in reference to the confidence she had in Tyana’s caretaker. “It’s been the perfect pairing.
“It’s the only time in my life that I’ve felt good about leaving.”
Moving forward will be a difficult task for both families since Community Support Services has played such an important role in their lives, and there is an air of uncertainty as to whether or not these services will return.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Preston said.