Former Student Joins Her Preschool Teacher at Easterseals Child Development Services Center
Thursday, July 28, 2022, 1:09 AM
Family Support Assistant Jacklynn Pacheco-Anaya now enjoys having the same positive impact on childr…
It’s not every student who follows in their preschool teacher’s footsteps, but that was the case for Child Development Services (CDS) Family Support Assistant Jacklynn Pacheco-Anaya .
When she was three-years-old, Jacklynn attended an early education program where Elena Flores was her preschool teacher.
“I don’t have a clear recollection of her at that time, all the adults looked the same to me,” explains Jacklynn, “but my parents said I was very shy and Elena soon got me dancing with the other kids.”
Jacklynn and her family kept in contact with Elena over the years. When Elena joined the CDS staff at Easterseals 10 years ago, Elena continued to visit.
Jacklynn says, “We had foster children with our family, and I would visit the school when we would drop them off. I enjoyed seeing Elena and all the teachers interact with the kids, and how all the staff were excited when the kids showed up for school. It brought back memories of how that made me feel comfortable when I went to preschool and made school a place I wanted to be every day.”
When it came time to find a job, Jacklynn reached out to Elena for opportunities at Easterseals. “I saw the impact adults could have on the kids and wanted to have a chance to have that same impact.”
As a Family Support Assistant, Jacklynn now is one of the first adults the kids see at school. “In addition to seeing Elena every day, I get to greet the kids and make school a happy place where they feel welcome.”
Easterseals Southern California Completes Another Successful CARF Accreditation
Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 4:03 AM
Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) completed another successful CARF accreditation review, recei…
by Mark Whitley, President and CEO
I am honored to share that Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) completed another successful CARF accreditation review. This is the second survey in a row where we achieved the maximum accreditation possible of three years and received a perfect audit with no recommendations.
The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation is an important marker of quality, person-centered services. This critical third-party endorsement acknowledges ESSC’s commitment to ongoing learning, best practices and innovation.
The surveyors, who regularly assess organizations across the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, described ESSC as “conspicuous in excellence” and ESSC associates as “bright, focused and mission-driven people.”
Thank you to everyone who prepared for and participated in this year’s CARF review process. I’m proud that CARF recognizes what we have always known to be true: ESSC is an incredible organization with passionate associates who continue to make profound and positive differences in the lives of those we are proud to support every day.
What is CARF?
The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an international organization that ensures that organizations like ESSC commit to service excellence.
Facts about CARF and ESSC’s survey process:
CARF surveyors are working professionals from around the country in the disability services field.
We are held accountable to more than 1,200 CARF standards! In addition, the surveyors conduct extensive documentation reviews and interviews with our Board, associates, participants, families and funders.
CARF uses the ASPIRE to Excellence Quality Framework to guide their survey (see graphic). This continuous improvement model assures that we work to improve what we do through ongoing change driven by input from persons served.
CARF accredits ESSC’s Autism Services and Employment Services. However, all of ESSC’s primary organizational functions are held to CARF standards, such as our Vision and Impact Plan, safety, technology, finance, people practices, diversity, advancement, advocacy and communication with our stakeholders.
Although the CARF survey lasts three days, we must show that we have upheld the standards over the three years since our last survey and demonstrate our commitment to doing so moving forward.
Easterseals Living Options’ Coordinated Life Services Supports Mellisa’s Mental Health Journey
Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 2:31 PM
Phone sessions with her Community Support Specialist during the pandemic lead Mellisa to an improved…
The destruction of people’s physical and mental health from trauma, heartbreak and loss have been frequent story themes during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re happy that Mellisa’s story has a very different outcome.
In the years before the pandemic, Mellissa had managed to keep moving forward despite the hardships she had experienced in childhood including physical and emotional abuse. Her teen years included stays in foster homes, a misdiagnosis of her mental health issues and wrongly prescribed medication. These contributed to years of emotional and behavioral struggles. Eventually she temporarily lost custody of her children.
By 2020 she was married, had regained custody of her two children, and she and her husband had two more children together. Mellisa was trying to make sure her children’s childhood was better than hers had been, but she was still faced daily struggles with depression, fear, and anxiety. She depended on her husband to do everything from cooking to shopping to taking the kids to school. After her previous experience, she no longer trusted medical professionals or any prescribed medicine to help with her struggles.
Mellisa’s outlook began to change when her 8-year-old son received a diagnosis of autism from the local regional center. She had not been aware of autism before, but soon realized that the associated behaviors were ones she recognized in herself. She soon had her own referral to the regional center resulting in her own autism diagnosis, and additional resources.
The regional center brought in Easterseals Coordinated Life Services to support Mellisa with her journey to emotional stability and an improved quality of life for herself, her son and the rest of their family.
Her Easterseals Community Support Specialist, Gia, was a supporter and advocate whose encouragement, praise and cheerleading was invaluable in assisting Mellisa with getting her life back on track. Since Mellisa was uncomfortable with video calls, they had long phone appointments during the pandemic where they worked to lift Mellisa out of her depression, help her overcome her fears, and tackle her anxiety.
“Through our conversations together, I coached and mentored her to advocate for herself,” said Gia. “Rather than giving up on treatments because of a previous bad experience, Mellisa developed the courage to speak up for herself to ensure the care she was receiving had a positive impact.”
Gia also encouraged Mellisa to accept input, consider different options, and supported her with her decision-making. In the process, they reduced her difficulties with communication and developed a relationship based on trust, where Mellisa learned to accept praise and support.
“In many ways, Mellisa is no different from the women I have worked with in my previous role as a marriage family therapist,” added Gia. “She just needed the courage to focus on her own self-care, change things up in her life and advocate for her and her son’s needs.”
With Gia’s support, Mellisa secured her son an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school, and developed a new relationship with a therapist that has empowered her and helped her find her voice. Setting aside the mental health stigmas that can be part of her Hispanic culture; she made the decision to try taking a new medication, which added to the transformation of her life. She now goes to the gym, maintains her therapy and has a better relationship with everyone in her life.
Reflecting on her experience with Gia, and how their bond helped turn her life around, Mellisa commented that, “She helped me feel like I had an advocate” adding, “we need more people who give us warmth and treat us as actual human begins and not just as a ‘case’.”
Mellissa now focuses on paying it forward, looking to add her voice to the movement to end the stigma around mental illness and increase available resources to benefit and transform the lives of others.
Check out the video of Mellisa and Gia’s reunion at The Broad art museum in Downtown Los Angeles, a place they talked about visiting after the pandemic! When The Broad heard Mellisa’s story, they provided VIP tickets so she and Gia could see all the museum’s fabulous exhibits in style!
What is it like raising a child on the autism spectrum? Unexpectedly beautiful.
Life is a path of self discovery– at least that’s what mine has been so far. Having children opened my eyes and heart to a world I didn’t know existed, a world of endless opportunities for self growth. Motherhood isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
I have been told that all kids kick their parents’ ass in time and I guess I got mine kicked earlier than expected. Six months into being pregnant with my second child, I was told by a pediatrician that my firstborn, who was then 2-years-old, had autism and my second would likely as well. My whole world froze and my heart sank deeper than I ever knew it could. The isolation and depression was like nothing I had ever felt. I had no one to turn to. I didn’t know anyone who had autism, much less a parent who had advocated for their autistic child.
All ideas, visions, and expectations of what I thought Winston’s life would be were instantly shattered. Winston’s diagnosis and the uncovering of who he is as a person has been the most important learning experience of my life. Winston is now five and is one of the most earnest, beautiful, brilliant, subtle and direct people I know. I wouldn’t change him if I had the power to. Winston might not be like everyone else, but I have come to realize that’s the point of life.
Everyday he teaches me to be present to my life as it unfolds. Winston’s actions gently remind me that tomorrow doesn’t exist, yesterday is gone and to always act according to my heart. Despite his many differences, there are endless gifts. After all, humanity can’t push forward if we are all the same.
In addition to Winston, I am mother to Constantin (2) and Olympia (1). I am a singer and use song to communicate throughout the day and to wind down during bedtime. Music is my language and in our home, music knows no end. My children are all exposed to different genres: pop, jazz, classical, lullabies, hymns, chants, and more. I have seen incredible transformation in Winston through the music therapy we do at home and outside of the home with other musicians. Music stimulates him like nothing else. We sing lullabies every night before turning in, the one time of day where he feels complete peace. (In fairness, this is the one time of day where we all feel complete peace!)
Lullabies bring me back to a place of safety, protection, and love, where I can go each night with my children. That’s why I created a lullaby album titled Modern Lullaby for parents and children to enjoy music together. The album includes covers from my favorite musicians, and an original track entitled “There You Are,” which I wrote for Winston at birth. Winston also has a singing debut on the album, and his voice takes my breath away.
Modern Lullaby will be released on June 3. Proceeds will go to Easterseals, a nonprofit organization providing services for people on the autism spectrum and special needs at large.
Please contact the Governor and your elected officials this week by email, call or tweet at TheFutur…
It’s time to TAKE ACTION! Please contact the Governor and your elected officials this week by email, call or tweet at TheFutureIncludesUs.org urging them to end the disability workforce crisis by accelerating funding for regional center services and supports NOW!
The disability system is facing a serious workforce shortage and people with disabilities are either going without services, or not getting the full services they need. Last year, this Legislature passed a historic budget that included a “phased-in” five-year plan to close the $1.8 billion funding gap to the disability system that would ultimately stabilize the workforce for direct support professionals and regional center service coordinators. Unfortunately, the bulk of the investments are not scheduled to occur until 2024 and 2025
Rapidly changing circumstances like the pandemic and inflation now threaten the viability of that five-year plan. This funding could be “too little too late” if we don’t make those investments in the 2022-23 May Revise budget, which is being negotiated this week.
Let your elected officials know you support The Lanterman Coalition’s proposals to address the staffing crisis by accelerating the IDD five-year funding plan by one year, so those investments start NOW. It can’t wait.
Let’s build a future that will provide Californians with disabilities and the professionals who provide their supports and services a chance to live full and equitable lives.