Independent Futures’ 2019 Highlights

2019 was full of transitions for us at Independent Futures. From updated events to exciting new partnerships, it’s been a big year. Here are 5 highlights to keep you updated on where we have been and where we are planning to go in the future. 

Empowering Through Technology at 1871

Panelists pose for a photo on stage after a successful and engaging event!In April, Independent Futures hosted a panel at Merchandise Mart’s 1871 in downtown Chicago. One of our participants, Jake Joehl, introduced the panel by explaining how technology supports his independent, full life. 

Chrissy Dale spoke about My Full Life, our online life skills development software, explaining how the technology helps organizations track successes. Alongside panelists from SimplyHome, Northwestern University, Infinitec/UCP Seguin with moderating from Impact Engine, the panel and audience explored how to support individuals with disabilities through technology.

This successful panel helped Independent Futures introduce updates to My Full Life to the public and helped set up a year of exciting events.

Big Changes to Old Favorites

Since 2002, we have grown a lot as an organization, though some of our events seemed to stay the same. This year we wanted to shake things up! Starting with SPARK, we introduced new elements to the evening like the Golden Ticket raffle and a new theme: Igniting Dreams.

Jackie stands with Jane to accept the staff Awesome AwardFor Something’s Cooking, we changed the whole name! Inviting local breweries to participate in the first ever Independent Futures Best Brew Award, we introduced our community to Brews & Bites. Featuring our favorite local restaurants, the event became a fun & lively event featuring the best Evanston has to offer.

Young Professionals Boards Moves Forward

Formerly known as the Auxiliary Board, the Young Professionals Board is a group of young adults committed to serving community. Throughout 2019, the board hosted several new events. We have enjoyed getting to know the Young Professionals Board through these new events.

The Summer Social was a ton of fun at Southport Lanes & Billiards. More than 30 members of our community joined with the board for an afternoon of bowling at these old-fashioned lanes. Then in September, the Young Professionals Board hosted a tailgate before a Northwestern Wildcat game. 

New Faces at Independent Futures

This year we said goodbye to our finance coordinator, Constance, and welcomed in two new faces to our HR/Finance department. 

Erika Wade joins us from Union Leagues Boys & Girls Club as our new Director of Operations. Erika has been overseeing our new budget for 2020, executing behind-the-scenes changes to our processes, and brightening up our days with lots of laughter! 

Christina Gatechair is a local Evanstonian who has worked in HR for more than 15 years. She joins Independent Futures from the healthcare industry and has been busy supporting Erika through organization changes and accounting.

Distinguished Service Award Recipient

2019 marked the second time that Independent Futures has received The Arc of Illinois’ Distinguished Service Award. For the second time this decade, Illinois’ chapter of The Arc presented the award to our Executive Director. We were deeply honored to receive this award, and we are excited and ready to continue providing excellent service in 2020!

We want to thank our whole community from the bottom of our hearts for your support in 2019. If you would like to be part of our next big year, sign up for our newsletter or donate today!

Nothing we do would be possible without your help. In 2020, we are looking forward to new collaborations and exciting events!

 

Failure To Plan Is Planning To Fail: Oak Wealth Advisors

Oak Wealth Advisors logoThis blog was written by our community partner Michael Walther of Oak Wealth Advisors. As experts in special needs planning, the people at Oak Wealth Advisors can provide your family with the support you need to put your future in order.

Planning For The Future

Having a loved one in your family who has special needs can be a blessing, but it comes with the responsibility to complete additional planning. While the planning includes covering the financial needs of the individual with special needs, planning extends well beyond dollars and cents. Failure to address the individual’s various planning needs can have disastrous results.

Educators can teach self-advocacy skills to students in a variety of ways. This image shows an individual in a wheelchair with two others on a grassy lawn.When most young adults finish school, they will make decisions about where they want to live, with whom they want to live, and what career they want to pursue. When the individual has special needs, the decisions are more complicated and usually require significant input from parents and others. Typically, the development of life skills and the focus on a future lifestyle are also developed during high school years. Many times, individuals with special needs age out of the school system without their independent life skills fully developed and some of their lifestyle questions unanswered.

Families with loved ones who face significant challenges must focus their planning on their loved ones’ current and future needs. The issues of where they will live, with whom they will live, and what they will do cannot be ignored. While underemployment and living at home are the most common outcomes for individuals, they are usually not the ones desired by them or their families. Even for families who are satisfied with these arrangements, there needs to be planning for the day when both parents have passed away.  

How Planning For The Future Leads To Success

Almost every family wishes they had more resources with which to support their loved one with special needs. Fortunately, a lack of family financial resources does not mean a situation is doomed. It is important to become knowledgeable about government resources at the local, state, and federal levels. It is imperative to create a network of trusted advisors, both professional and social, who will assist your family during you loved one’s journey. You must also try to stay current with regards to new legislation and planning opportunities. New developments will impact your family’s planning. 

Young student working hard.There are two primary obstacles to successful special needs planning. Time and money. You have to accept that you cannot do everything or buy everything you would like for your loved one. However, successful planning will help you achieve more of your planning goals by making more effective use of your time and helping you stretch your dollars. In addition, the planning will supplement what the family can provide with as many government resources as possible. Effective special needs planning results in greater peace of mind for all family members.

Learn More About Special Needs Planning

If you would like more information about successful special needs financial planning, please visit our website at https://oakwealth.com, email us at info@oakwealth.com, or call us at 847-945-8888.

Discover How to Celebrate Giving Tuesday!

Two light-skinned hands holding a red heart against a dark grain wood backgroundLast year, Independent Futures hit our $20,000 #GivingTuesday donations goal for the first time! Thanks to your support, we are hoping to raise $25,000 on Tuesday, December 3 this year.

Thanksgiving week is packed with great opportunities to treat yourself these days. Starting with great meals and lots of family time, Thanksgiving kicks off a week of fun. Next, many of us enjoy Black Friday for the deals, and local shoppers celebrate Small Business Saturday. On Monday, we search the web for more deals, and then we can finally turn our attention to community on #GivingTuesday.

Wondering how to celebrate Giving Tuesday with all the holiday bustle happening? RSVP to our #GivingTuesday calendar event to receive a reminder to donate on December 3rd! 

How to Celebrate Giving Tuesday

On Tuesday, December 3rd, we are participating in #GivingTuesday through #ILGive. This is an initiative by Forefront to make Illinois one of the most generous states in the U.S. Donate to Center for Independent Futures on November 27th to show your support for Illinois nonprofits!

With your support, we know we can meet our goal of $25,000 on #GivingTuesday.

Bold word "Give" centered in photo near glasses and pencils. Plus, The Coleman Foundation will donate $175 for every gift of $175 or more! That means that if you donate $175, your gift is worth $350 for Center for Independent Futures. If you donate $500, your gift is worth $675! However, all gifts eligible for the matching dollars must be donated online.

Every dollar donated in honor of independent futures means we can continue to support individuals with disabilities and their full lives. Through #GivingTuesday, you help us create a future where individuals with disabilities have equitable access to the opportunities of a full life.

3 Reasons to Attend Brews & Bites

Did you get your tickets for our hot, new event? Early bird prices have flown by, but we still have room for you and all your friends at Brews & Bites! Read on for more reasons to attend Brews & Bites

Join us on a lovely Sunday afternoon for delicious bites and cool brews. On October 20 at the Evanston Art Center, learn how Center for Independent Futures and our participants help make Evanston an inclusive community for people with disabilities. 

Opportunities To Win For Independence

Thanks to generous donors and our wonderful community, there are many opportunities for guests at Brews & Bites to win while supporting people with disabilities in Evanston. These opportunities include 4 raffle baskets, 2 gift card trees, and a beer & wine pull. 

Seasonal, Unique Raffle Baskets

Instead of a silent auction, we are offering four fall & winter raffle baskets to keep you busy throughout the colder months coming. Tickets are $20 or 6 for $100, available for purchase at the event.

Want to have an exclusive dinner party with your closest friends or a few family members? One raffle basket includes a 3-course dinner for 8, prepared by local chefs Bonnie Dohogne and Chris Baer. The menu and date will be decided with the winner of this basket. An added bonus? You will also win a $50 gift card for some tasty desserts!

Picture may not reflect raffle item

You could also choose to throw your raffle tickets into the Kitchen Basket, featuring unique kitchen tools, cookbooks, and a brand new KitchenAid mixer. This $600 value could be all yours for holiday baking and more.

Your third raffle option is the Christmas Bar Basket. This $500+ value includes all the tools you need to make your favorite Christmas drinks, plus the alcohol and garnishes for the true classics of each great holiday party.

Finally, learn how to make your favorite brews at home! The last raffle basket option is the Home Brew Kit. You could win your very own “Best Brew Award” at home by wowing your friends and family with unique beer creations. 

Life Skills Gift Card Tree

Once you have entered your raffle tickets, what’s next? 

Check out our *two* gift card trees this year! For either $25 or $50, you will take home a gift card guaranteed to be at least equal to the amount you spent. The gift cards come from a wide range of local and chain businesses. They range from nights out for dinner to home stores to health and wellness activities.

This year, the gift card tree will represent our Full Life Model. The model guides our work as tutors support participants in learning the life skills necessary to live independently. The 8 circles represent areas of a full life, which the leaves of the gift card trees will also represent. 

Local Support From Evanston Community

Brews & Bites is being supported by many local favorites! The event will feature 14 restaurants, 6 bakeries, and 10 breweries. Whether you wake up on October 20th feeling like having sushi, pizza, lasagna, or taquitos, Brews & Bites has you covered. Check out our partners for Brews & Bites

This year there are two ticket levels: regular adult tickets & young adult tickets. The difference between these two are the number of drink tickets allotted and pricing. While adult ticket purchases come with 9 drink tickets, the young adult tickets receive 3. 

In addition to drink tickets, attendees will receive the chance to vote in our 1st ever Best Brew Award, unlimited access to all food vendors, and a commemorative tasting glass. 

Sound like fun? Purchase your tickets today! All of us at Independent Futures can’t wait to see you there.

Would You Run A Marathon?

Leading up to the 2019 Chicago Marathon, what do you think Team CIF’s first timers and seasoned runners have in common? 

It’s not the long training hours or researching tips for pre-race nutrition. It’s not avoiding injuries or even a passion for running. While these things are all important for marathon runners, the thing our team has in common is even bigger. 

The team is linked by a common desire to support individuals with disabilities living independently and building the lives they want.

Fundraising For Independent Futures

Every member of Team CIF is responsible for raising at least $1,250 as part of being on a Chicago Marathon charity team. Each member does this in their own way: some reach out to coworkers and family, some host events at supporting restaurants, and some host contests among their friends.

Why do these runners commit to raising so much money to support Independent Futures? Why run a marathon at all? Because of the impact our programs have on the lives of our participants.

Over the course of the 17 years that Independent Futures has supported individuals with disabilities, our tutors have taught hundreds of distinct life skills to help participants live independently. Our New Futures Initiative, a housing training workshop, has helped 200 individuals move into the community of their choice. Our Change Champions programs have built inclusion into the fabric of community places, like the library and YMCA.

The members of Team CIF are training hard and raising over a thousand dollars each because we are leaders in helping individuals with disabilities achieve their dreams. But the team and our community need your help.

What Can You Do To Help? 

Participants make signs in support of Chicago Marathon team runnersAfter reading about some of our amazing team members, you may find yourself thinking, “I want to get involved! But how?” Luckily, there are many ways you can support the team! 

First and foremost, the best way to help the team is to donate! Visit the team’s Crowdrise page to check out the team. Then you can donate to an individual runner, or you can donate to the team as a whole. Unable to donate right now? Try sharing the Crowdrise page on social media and asking your network to support independence for individuals with disabilities too.

Next, you can send words of encouragement to the team coordinator, Connor. She will pass along every bit of positivity you have for the team!

Finally, join us at the Charity Block Party on Sunday, October 13! From about 7:00 am – 1:00 pm, Independent Futures participants, staff, volunteers, and family of the team will be cheering on runners at mile 13. Look for us underneath our tent in case of rain! You can RSVP on Facebook.

Not ready to get involved this year but feeling inspired? You can also email Connor if you are interested in running for the 2020 Chicago Marathon. Looking for more reasons on why to run a marathon? Team members receive running support and help fundraising, plus free tickets to our fall fundraiser Brews & Bites and more. Start getting involved today! 

Buy Tickets To Brews & Bites Today

At Independent Futures, we are delighted to announce that Brews & Bites will be taking the place of our annual Something’s Cooking fundraiser. On October 20th, join us at Evanston Art Center from 3:00 – 6:00 for a great time! Read more to find out what’s new in 2019, the cost of tickets, and who you’ll find at Brews & Bites.

What’s New in 2019?

While we hope the community enjoyed attending Something’s Cooking for the past 15 years, we decided it was time for some exciting changes – starting with its name. This new, updated event is now Brews & Bites, a community gathering of Evanston’s favorite local restaurants with one more big addition.

Brews & Bites will also feature local Chicagoland breweries. Each participating brewery is donating tastings of their favorite fall beers! We will be joined by 9 local breweries including: Adams Street Brewery, Kings & Convicts, Ravinia Beer Company, Revolution Beer, Sketchbook Brewing, Smylie Bros., Temperance Beer Co., The Lagunitas Brewing Co, and Ten Ninety.

The tasting portion of Brews & Bites is possible largely thanks to Byline Bank. Thanks to Byline Bank, we are able to expand Something’s Cooking into an even more engaging community event celebrating Evanston’s vibrant food scene.

How To Get Your Tickets to Brews & Bites

We are offering an early bird price for limited duration of 3 weeks this year. From now until October 6th, the early bird adult tickets will be $60. Adult tickets will then be $75 until the day before Brews & Bites. Day-of tickets purchased at the door will be $85.

For students and young adults under 26, tickets will be $30. Children 10 and under may attend free of charge. 

Go to this link to purchase your tickets today.

Brews & Bites: Looking to the Future

As Independent Futures looks toward this organization’s own future, we are exploring ways to stay true to our mission while updating our work for the new decade. Brews & Bites is one of the first steps we are taking to move into the future, successfully supporting as many individuals as we can. 

Exploring Evanston: Travel the Town

In Illinois, students with disabilities can stay in school until age 22. From ages 18-22, this group of students typically participates in a transition program where they learn life skills. 

At Independent Futures, we partner with Evanston Township High School’s Transition House every summer. Our school team works with transition professionals to create a weeklong program that teaches critical skills for navigating the community. This program is called Travel the Town (formerly Life Tools Camp). 

This year, we hosted Travel the Town at Hub 930, a community space housed in one of our Community Living Options on Chicago Avenue. A group of 7 young men from the Transition House discovered all that Evanston has to offer them.

What Are Critical Life Skills? 

Let’s begin with an understanding of what Independent Futures considers ‘critical life skills.’ These are the skills that we need to live independently, like cooking, cleaning, and being safe. 

For example, as part of Travel the Town, students begin each day by discussing the day’s plan. They cover questions like: Where will we go? Is that north or south? How will we get there? What is the best behavior in context? 

Each of these questions help the students build safety habits, like not wandering and understanding public transportation. Building from these questions, the group voted on what they wanted to do and then left for their activities.

Where Did Travel the Town Explore? 

Two students prepare lunch at Hub 930.The Transition House travelers explored a lot of Evanston, including the Evanston Public Library  South Branch, parks, Andy’s Custard, Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop, Evanston Police Department, and more.

To visit all of these fun local favorites, the group took either the CTA bus or the ‘El’ trains. Led by Sharon Purdy and Cynthia Witherspoon, the students would determine which direction they needed to go and which train would take them there, plus which stop to get off. Each day, they navigated Evanston together, enjoying the freedom to go where they decided. 

Sharon’s favorite part of Travel the Town is the chance to spend “unstructured” time with the students. “The students don’t often get the chance to be out together outside the classroom,” Sharon says. “They enjoyed hanging out with their friends, having lunch in the backyard, and being together with nothing to do.” 

The Possibilities of an Independent Future

Travel the Town students exploring on the 'El' trainWhile exploring Evanston, the students were able to see what their own futures could hold. One of our community members, Lindsay, spoke with the group about what her life is like. Living independently in an apartment, Lindsay volunteers, has a job, goes out with close friends, and is engaged. Lindsay’s life is the type of full life that many of our community members have, and it’s a positive example of the life the Travel the Town students could have.

Like for people without disabilities, living independently has learning curves, and this program is a step toward futures where these students live independently. By focusing on life skills, our partnership with Evanston Township High School prepares students with disabilities for the future they choose.

5 Tips for School Success This Year

An apple on top of books with blackboard in background, indicating school successThe school year is almost here, and our Resource Partners at Oak Wealth Advisors, LLC, offers their advice for having school success. Take a look at our favorite tips below, and read the full list at this link.

  1. Seek knowledge. Children with well-informed families tend to have more success in school than those who don’t educate themselves about available resources. You can check out Center for Independent Futures’ resources page, ask the school’s guidance counselor, or check out tips from special education teachers’ blogs.
  2. Share praise frequently. School staff members who know their efforts are appreciated are going to be more receptive to new ideas and be more positively predisposed toward your child. Your whole family will benefit from a positive relationship with school administrators and educators.
  3. Request IEP drafts before meetings. Knowing in advance what the school has seen in your child’s development before your IEP meeting is beneficial in many ways. You will have time to absorb any bad news and to generate ideas for alternative approaches to challenges. (For more information on creating inclusive person-centered IEPs, check out our newest back-to-school blog.)
  4. Keep good records. Detailed records of your child’s past goals and achievements are very important. These documents can remind you of school success and act as a reference when issues arise. Your good records will have great value.
  5. Plan for transition before your school initiates the discussion. Thinking ahead about adult goals and life skills as early as middle school will allow for a more productive transition process and increased clarity in goals at the start of high school so that the final years of school can be as productive as possible.

Oak Wealth Advisors logoTo read the rest of the list and to see other resources from Oak Wealth Advisors, click here. Oak Wealth Advisors was founded to provide families with members with disabilities experienced financial advice and investment management services. To learn more about the services Oak Wealth Advisors provide, visit www.oakwealth.com.

How To Create Inclusive Person-Centered IEP Plans

At too many IEP meetings, educators focus on student deficits. They get stuck when it comes time to explore a student’s strengths. Educators and families alike wonder why these meetings are tense and difficult.

Families are constantly fighting to discover and create inclusive spaces for their loved ones. IEP meetings should already be inclusive and safe for students with disabilities but they’re traditionally difficult for teachers, families, and students. Hosting inclusive person-centered IEP meetings is crucial to a student’s long-term success. 

What Is a Person-Centered IEP?

Image of a blackboard with letters ABC on it with books and chalk in the foreground.IEPs, or Individualized Education Plans, are meant to be documents supporting the development of a student with disabilities. Required by law under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), an IEP should track students’ success in achieving learning goals. It also documents what services the student needs to succeed.

IDEA states that all children, with or without disabilities, have the right to an appropriate, free, and public education that meets the student’s needs. Because of the requirement of an appropriate education, parents and educators meet to discuss student performance and goals.

To make an IEP person-centered, it is important to include students. From there, educators can develop plans based on the students’ vision of their future. Read more for 3 ways families and teachers can put an inclusive person-centered IEP into practice.

  1. Support Each Other Through the Process

No IEP meeting is easy. Working together with understanding and compassion can make the process better though. 

New Skills Inventory client practices her kitchen skills.Teachers can start by interviewing the family about how past meetings went. What could have been better? What conversations went well? This interview is all about how you can help increase positivity throughout the process. 

For families, supporting your child’s school team is important too. Try to spend some time reflecting on your past experiences. What do you need to feel secure about your student’s education? Be clear and upfront with the education team and have goals of your own as your enter the room.

  1. Advocate for Students and Schools

Remember why you are all at this meeting: to support and advocate for the student. Family members’ main goal is to advocate for their loved one. But don’t forget, as a family member, you can advocate for educators too. Schools, especially special education programs, need to be fully funded; teachers need to be paid living wages; and resources have to be allocated to support these goals.

Teachers can advocate for their students in the classroom, but don’t forget to continue advocating outside the classroom. Have conversations with adults who live with disabilities – what is their daily life like? Teachers can also support the development of self-advocacy skills in their students. Read more about 3 ways you can teach self-advocacy skills to your students.

  1. Practice Self-Determined Transition Planning

Young man taking a book off of a shelf at the library with many books surrounding him and glass windows in the background.For this tip, teachers and family members can work together. Focus on the student. This may sound simple, but it is actually a much more involved process. Educators can focus on teaching students how to create their own measurable goals. Once the student understands the concept of self-determination, move on to helping them map out their dreams with action plans. 

Families can help at home with these important skills. Bring your child along to their IEP meetings, and allow them to articulate their own future. 

None of these solutions are easy to implement. However, both teachers and family members will find that these 3 ways to create an inclusive person-centered IEP will lead to better futures for students with disabilities. 

Not an educator or family member? Forward this blog to someone who needs it! 

How to Reduce Costs of Care Without Sacrificing Quality

Families of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities face many difficult decisions. From choosing how to manage care to determining how an individual can live in the community, none of these decisions are easy. But it is possible to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of care.

Determining What Supports Are Necessary

Man holds out microphone to young woman in front of small audience.Happiness is one factor in many families’ decisions. The costs associated with care are another concern. According to data from 2009, the average cost of a person with disabilities living in an institution was more than $180,000 a year. For someone living in a community-based setting with supports, the cost is closer to $42,000 per year. 

These home and community-based services costs are averages and don’t reflect how costs are distributed. When individuals need more support, it is possible that community-based care could cost more. But for many individuals, learning life skills reduces costs by decreasing the amount of support needed for everyday activities. 

For families who aren’t sure independent living is an option, a life skills assessment is a great place to start. An assessment can help you and your loved one understand where they need more support. This helps your family can decide what care costs your loved one truly needs.

How Learning Independent Living Skills Reduces Costs

Photo of two women smiling, one a direct service professional and one a participant.When direct service professionals focus on teaching life skills, such as cooking healthy meals and cleaning their home, an individual’s need for support in skill areas decreases. Learning life skills like these doesn’t only help individuals with disabilities maintain their spaces. It also helps them build community connections and employment skills.

Increased skill capacities have the potential to reduce staffing costs and limit the need for support. In fact, an Independent Futures direct service team member shares, “After learning life skills, the hope is that an individual is able to reduce tutoring hours. And most of our participants are able to do so, saving money and living independently as a result.”

While most individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities will always require support, their potential remains limitless. By using life skills tutoring and person-centered planning, new windows of opportunity are within reach.

Impact of Person-Centered Planning

Person-centered planning takes place when direct service professionals account for the individual’s existing skills, hopes, and dreams. This type of care results in individuals setting their own goals and learning the skills they need to achieve their dreams.

That is just one benefit of person-centered plans though. In addition to self-directed goals, individuals with disabilities seem to have fewer requests for specialized care. Part of the reason why could be related to what funds are used for when a person’s hopes and dreams are considered. 

Volunteer supports participant in volunteer activityHome and community-based services funds have the potential to be used for a number of non-medical needs. Supports like employment help, remote monitoring equipment, and peer services aren’t traditionally covered. But with home and community-based services, access grows. Each of these supports can help an individual with disabilities achieve their dream of living in a community.

Reduced Costs and Independent Futures

For most people, moving out of our family’s home is something we look forward to excitedly. Finding the perfect apartment or house, decorating it to fit our own style, and having new freedoms changes someone’s life. Many individuals with disabilities have this same dream. 

Knowing that loved ones are able to advocate for themselves will provide you with renewed peace of mind. Learning independent living skills and living in the community means families of adults with disabilities can reduce costs without sacrificing quality and rest easy. 

 

Success Stories

wed11dec6:00 pm8:00 pmAdvocacy Awareness Club

fri13dec6:00 pm8:00 pmLadies' Night

sat14dec3:00 pm5:30 pmHeARTwords Workshop

mon16dec5:00 pm6:00 pmBook Club

tue17dec1:30 pm2:30 pmWalking Club

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