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The Egan Center in Milford is a day program that serves The Kennedy Collective’s most behaviorally challenged, sometimes aggressive individuals. This includes one two-to-one*, fifteen one-to-one*, and two one-to-three* adult individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. At the Egan Center, no two days are alike. The team of passionate and dedicated staff wakes up every morning, not knowing what the day will bring but prepared to handle every challenge and pivot that comes their way. Individually, they are focused, nimble, and impressive. Together, they form a supportive and well-oiled team that brings meaning, joy, and compassion to the lives of those they serve.

Man talking on a classroom to two people

Wakeup Call

The shift starts at 8:00 am, but the day truly begins between 6 – 7:00 am, during the call-out period, when staff are required to call out if they cannot be at work.

(Kim) “One call out on any given day can significantly impact the trajectory of the day. Two or more call outs and the team is on its heels, scrambling to adjust to ensure that everybody - staff, and individuals - are supported and safe.”

(Mary) “If we don’t have the number of staff needed to cover our ratios, we have to call the family and let them know that their loved one can’t come in that day. It’s hard because they have to adjust their schedule and often take the day off work to care for their child whose behaviors can be severely impacted by the scheduling shift.

Extra Curriculars

Throughout the day, the team plans excursions into the community. (Kim & Mary) “Tyrese plays a lead role in setting up in-house and community activities for the guys. He’s always looking for new creative ways to get them involved in things that we wouldn't otherwise think that they would be able to do – swimming, movies, visits to the mall, outdoor outings, and so much more.” (Tyrese) “They deserve to get out and enjoy themselves and experience the world as best as they can.”

(Tyrese) “We also face problems with the community and how they react to our guys. People don’t understand the nature and behavior of the individuals we work with and sometimes they just react negatively without thinking. Once, the police were called on me when I was restraining an individual who had become agitated. Luckily, I had my badge and was able to explain the situation.”

After Hours

Work doesn't stop when the day ends for the team at Egan. (Kim) “No. Mary and I are texting each other at 8 o'clock at night, talking about the day and strategizing for the next.

(Tyrese) “It comes with you. You have stories. You tell your spouse, you tell your friends, oh, this amazing thing happened today, or this crazy thing happened today. It helps us decompress.” 

Tyrese talking to Kim

Why Stay?

When asked why they stay; why they do what they do, each staff offered their own personal take, but all shared a common thread… they want to make a difference and they love what they do!

(Kim) “I love what I do. I have a different perspective because I come from the ABA background. When I was in school, everything was focused on kids and early intervention, funding, and programming. But our guys, who are a lot older, didn't have that when they were young. We are dealing with adults with significant behavioral needs who had no support, no services. They are a lost population, you know? Teaching somebody to communicate the words, “I need help”, can decrease horrible behaviors and really change their life, change their family's life. That’s why I do it.”

(Mary) “It’s tough but I have so much fun throughout the day. I laugh so much. You do. You get to see the true essence of everybody, staff, and individuals alike. You can't be in this field and you definitely can’t work in this building - In our clinical program - if you don't love what you do and you don't truly want to help make change.”

(Tyrese) “Why am I here? It’s a little more personal for me because I have a few family members who have intellectual disabilities. It’s sad to say, for so many, the family members they were living with weren't treating them as well as they deserved. I advocate for the guys to go to different places and try different things. It's because I feel like if I was them, that's what I would want to do. I feel like they deserve that. I want to be a part of the change. I want to make a difference. I want to change their lives for the better. I want to help them become more independent. That's why I'm here.” 

 

Mary talking to Kim

Biggest Hurdle?

When asked “Beside the day-to-day challenges of your job, what is the biggest hurdle you face?”, the team responded, “Recruiting”!

(Kim) “It's a tall order to get the type of person who's going to stay year after year, especially when our state (DSS) funding is significantly below that of State DSP employees. It’s also a challenge because fast food places and retailers are hiring for $20+/hr. At the Egan Center, we need passionate and dedicated staff who can physically and emotionally handle the challenges of the job and show up day-in and day-out, ready to go. To bring this “passionate” person on board for the long haul, we need to pay a competitive wage.”

About The Kennedy Collective

The Kennedy Collective, a 501-C3 Non-Profit agency, provides critical services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The agency relies on funding from DDS to support its staff of Direct Support Professionals. DDS funding for non-profits is significantly lower than funding for state-run services, resulting in high turnover, understaffing, reduced services, low morale, and significant strain on The Kennedy Collective and other non-profit’s staff in the State of Connecticut. This must change! 

* Ratio of staff to individuals

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