Boone County Family Resources helps individuals with developmental disabilities lead more independent lives

For more than three decades, Boone County Family Resources has provided support and assistance to individuals and families with developmental disabilities. Today, serving the needs of 1,400 individuals, from infants to adults, it continues a tradition dedicated to helping people lead more independent lives.

BCFR’s long history began in 1976 when the Boone County Group Homes Board was created as the result of a special property tax levy. In 1977, it established its first group home for eight women with developmental disabilities; during the next 10 years, it opened three more apartment complexes. In 1989, as a result of an agreement to pilot a family and community living support program with the Department of Mental Health, it changed its name to Boone County Group Homes and Family Support. A year later, it created an early childhood advisory council to improve services for infants and toddlers at risk of disabilities. In 2005, to more accurately reflect its diversity of services and supports, it became Boone County Family Resources.

Services and qualifications
There are three programs under the BCFR umbrella: supported living, family support and life and work connections. Executive Director Robyn Kaufman says an essential role of BCFR is to help individuals and families navigate the developmental disability system. “Especially for a family or an individual who has a new diagnosis,” she says, “we help them learn about their disability and help them discover what assistance they may need to meet their goals. We also help them become more independent and help connect them to support.”

Along with the local property tax, BCFR receives funding from the State Department of Mental Health and Medicaid. As a result, services are free for children living with families who make less than $100,000 a year, and there’s a sliding scale for children in families making more than $100,000. There is a slightly different scale for adults.

To qualify for BCFR services, an individual must live in Boone County and have a developmental disability, either mental or physical impairment that happened before age 22. As a result of the disability, he or she must also have two major difficulties from the following list: walking, talking, self-care, self-direction, learning, living independently and getting and keeping a job. In addition, the disabilities must be life-long or extended duration and require individually planned and coordinated services and assistance.

Reaching the community
Although BCFR offers residential living, Kaufman says, a major goal of the agency is to assist people in their own homes. “Last year, of the children we supported, 95 percent lived with their families. Of the adults we supported, 41percent had their own place.” To accomplish this, BCFR partners and/or contracts with hundreds of service providers to make sure they provide the support and assistance necessary to meet the goals of every individual.

BCFR also provides special programs. For instance, it partners with Columbia College to offer College for Living. Under the supervision of BCFR staff, college students instruct young adults with developmental disabilities on independent-living topics such as budgeting and relationships. “It gives them a taste of the college experience, taught by their peers,” Kaufman says. BCFR also supports the local chapter of People First, a self-advocacy group for teenagers and adults. Group activities include attending conferences to learn to be self-advocates so they can speak with city officials or state legislators about issues important to them. The local People First chapter also presents a talk at the University of Missouri School of Journalism that encourages People First language. For example: the group encourages using “John, who uses a wheelchair,” rather than “wheelchair-bound John.”

Proud of BCFR, Kaufman wants the community to know their tax dollars are being spent wisely. Since its inception, BCFR has consistently received the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities’ highest certification. Kaufman says she looks forward to more partnerships with local business owners. “We are always looking for opportunities to connect the people we support with employers.”

Most importantly, Kaufman wants everyone to understand that disabilities do not define a person. “People sometimes make assumptions about the people we support,” she says. “But people with disabilities are just like everyone else. We are all more alike than we are different.”

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