For more than 60 years, The Arc Middlesex County has granted support and services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as their families. The organization started as a grassroots movement by parents of children with special needs. Today, The Arc is one of the largest national organizations of its kind.
Every county in the state of New Jersey has its own chapter of The Arc. Each chapter offers a particular menu of services, meaning programs and supports vary from county to county. In Middlesex County, services can mostly be categorized into three departments: family support, vocational and residential. All departments work together to accomplish the organization’s mission, which is to give people with all types of disabilities and their families support and services that encourage personal growth and a good quality of life through empowerment and choice.
Currently, The Arc Middlesex County serves more than 400 individuals and families throughout the county. As we know, individuals and families have different situations. Therefore, The Arc offers a broad network of services to accommodate the various needs expressed by those served.
The Family Support Department is the only program that caters to both children and adults. It provides a spectrum of services focusing on respite. By definition, respite means a short-term break. Family support is designed to give families a break through the Self-Directed Saturday and Monday through Friday Respite Programs. Self-Directed Respite offers families the flexibility to have reprieve provided by relatives, friends or other people in a support network during the times most necessary to the family. Saturday Respite is a supervised drop-off program for children and adults. This is a structured program that combines both educational and leisure activities within the community. It emphasizes individual growth and socialization. Monday through Friday Respite is an expansion of the Saturday Program and is specifically geared toward individuals between the ages of 12 and 21. This program works in conjunction with several school districts and encourages individual growth through each participant’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) and the Individual Service Plan (ISP) as well as age-appropriate educational and community activities.
The vocational department serves individuals older than age 21 through two programs: Career Centers and Supported Employment. The objective of both programs is to encourage independence through employment opportunities. Career Centers focus on the development of skills for social, physical, emotional and vocational growth. Individuals have the opportunity to interact through task training, education, volunteering and community involvement. Job exploration can also be an option. Supported employment allows individuals with disabilities to gain vocational skills and greater independence by working at area businesses. A job coach assists the participants with special needs with every aspect of the employment process and offers necessary support each step of the way.
The residential department consists of group homes, supervised apartments and supportive living. There is staff presence and involvement in all residential services, but the frequency depends on the program. In the group home, 24-hour supervision is provided by fully trained employees. Staff assists the four to six individuals residing in a home with their varying needs and goals. Faculty members also work hard to ensure that every individual is aware that it is not just a house, it is a home. Supervised apartments provide individuals with an independent living environment. Staff supervision and guidance are granted as needed for daily living as defined by the individual’s needs and future goals. The Supportive Living Program helps residents learn to be responsible for maintaining employment, organizing a household, managing finances and using community resources, including public transportation. All individuals supported through community residential services are encouraged to take an active role in the community and learn skills that promote independence.
For more information about The Arc Middlesex County, visit www.arc-middlesex.org or call (732)821-1199.
Advocacy plays a major role throughout the entire agency. Parents and individuals can always contact the agency for advice and recommendations regarding appropriate resources that may be available. Participating families remain informed about action alerts and news regarding the community through social media, e-mails and newsletters. Families are also provided with opportunities to attend free educational and informational workshops on an array of topics, such as guardianship, estate planning, Medicaid and education advocacy. The Arc will always find ways to advocate for and empower families and individuals seeking support.