Our Clients’ Voice Matters

Monica Gonzalez, LIFE Program Coordinator

The year 2020 was a period of great change for everyone. Shelter-in-place, especially, brought a lot of change not only among the lives of our clients, families, and staff but also within both the Adult Day Program and L.I.F.E. (Learning, Integration, Friendship, Empowerment) day programs as well. 

We began shelter-in-place back in March of last year with really no idea how we could bring our normal, daily program to our clients at home. Everything about our programs had to change within a very short period of time. Our programs had to adapt to the new cycle that the shelter-in-place order thrust upon us with most of our staff having little to no experience in using applications such as Zoom or Google Drive. After much trial and error, we were finally able to provide Zoom classes to our clients on a daily basis. Although the beginnings of Zoom classes were more error than trial, eventually all of our staff and clients were able to get the hang of technology and the new changes to the program. 

One of the newest changes to hit the EBADP and L.I.F.E. Day Programs was implementation of HCBS on a more regular basis. For those that don’t know, HCBS stands for Home and Community Based Services, and one of the biggest goals of HCBS is for clients to have a voice and a choice not just on the material they learn in their day program, but also on how they learn it. HCBS has been a part of both EBADP and L.I.F.E. classes since before the shelter-in-place order, however, it has become a daily part of the online Zoom classes.

Since the beginning of last November, however, I began taking on the newest HCBS role as well. Part of my role in HCBS is to provide clients with opportunities to voice their opinions, concerns, or even their ideas on how their program should function. Back in July we started our very first Client Council where clients gathered together on a weekly basis to discuss concerns within their programs. Currently there are two Client Councils for the East Bay Day Programs and one Client Council for South Bay. Since July, clients have continued to meet weekly to discuss new class options and plan for upcoming holiday parties. The Client Council members play a very important role in deciding which classes they want to see implemented into their programs. 

As someone who works closely with HCBS goals, I find client choices are constantly at the forefront of my mind. Even though the year 2020 was quite devastating for most and forced difficult changes for many, it also provided FCSN as a whole with the ability to adapt and grow. Implementation of HCBS and Person-Centered Planning (PCP) on a more regular basis has allowed for our Day Programs to better adjust to individual clients’ needs.

All clients in our day programs receive the opportunity to have their voices heard. At the end of class, they can inform their instructors on what they liked or disliked about the class. If they choose to do so, clients can also send an email to Program Coordinators or instructors with specific concerns or ideas for classes and online activities. Clients can also vote on different topics during in-class or online surveys. Online surveys are sent to the guardian’s email address.

The 2020 pandemic’s widespread disruption allowed HCBS to become a natural part of running the day programs and training clients and staff in the meaning and activation of person-centered programming.

 It is my hope that we at FCSN can use this unprecedented time as an opportunity to eventually become a complete PCP program in the future, where clients choose not only which classes they wish to attend, but also which instructors they wish to have, and what specifically they would like to learn within each class. Some goals in life may seem a little hefty but if the year 2020 is an example, even through adversity, anything is possible.

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