Over the past four decades, the Developmental Services Center has held down an essential corner in C-U’s social services scene by providing services for thousands of Champaign County residents with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I personally became acquainted with the essential work that DSC carries out when my wife began working there in 2004. Since then, I’ve seen how important this relatively large agency is to those who are dependant upon its services — so last July, when I learned that the state was planning significant cuts to their funding, I got pretty fired up. In the intervening months, the public fervor has died down a bit (despite the situation in Springfield remaining shaky at best) although recently I’ve caught myself wondering about DSC’s current outlook, financial and otherwise. Thankfully I didn’t have to wonder for long. Earlier this week Janice McAteer, Director of Development at DSC, took some time out of her busy schedule to exchange a few emails with me on the topic.
Smile Politely: So for those who don’t know, what kind of services does DSC provide?
Janice McAteer: DSC provides services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Smile Politely: Who generally receives these services?
Janice McAteer: Last fiscal year, DSC served over 1,400 children and adults with developmental disabilities such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation, Down syndrome, or other disabling conditions.
Adult services and supports include training in areas such as independent living skills, vocational development, residential options, social skills, recreational opportunities, transportation and community access, all of which are administered through one of four program areas, Developmental Training, Employment Services, Residential Services and Case Management and Family Support Services. Services and support for children include speech therapy, physical therapy, daycare consultations, weekly play groups, and a Family Resource Center; many of which are provided in the family home or daycare setting and are provided through the Family Development Center. In addition, DSC currently offers (but is in danger of being cut due to the state of Illinois funding problems) a respite program which provides intermittent, temporary relief to the primary caregiver offering short-term care for their loved one, with services typically provided in the family home.
While we are not the only service provider in the four county region, we do provide approximately 90% of all services to children and adults with developmental disabilities in this region.
Sydney, Chris and Dylan Oates are members of last year’s Tree of Hope Family
Smile Politely: That’s a very wide scope of services for one agency to provide. How is it that DSC came to take on so much of the community’s need?
Janice McAteer: DSC was formed in 1972 through the merger of four community organizations and created programs and services around the needs that existed. While the needs continue to rise in our community, our efforts are still focused around the mission of DSC, which states: “To enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing services and supports which enable them to live, work, learn and participate in their communities.”
Smile Politely: Last summer when the state budget crisis was big news, DSC was a fairly vocal advocate for stabilizing state funding of social services. Since then, how has the state budget crisis affected your mission and how has DSC reacted to this crisis?
Janice McAteer: During the summer months, DSC was faced with catastrophic potential cuts that would have totaled $1.7 million. Through our advocacy efforts and working closely with our state government, we have been successful in protecting many of the services that were being considered for cuts. At this time, it is our best estimate that our reduction in funding will total approximately $200,000. Because of the loss in funding, DSC was forced to reduce staff, cut our respite program in half as well as cut back on some related services.
As of today, one of the biggest crises facing DSC at this time is that of cash flow. The state of Illinois is behind on payments to DSC totaling $1.7 million. DSC continues its advocacy efforts, working to have a voice at the state level for the individuals receiving our services.
Smile Politely: So with the state lagging in its payments, how have you been able to pay your bills?
Janice McAteer: The state’s delayed payments have required DSC to significantly increase our line of credit to enable us to pay bills and meet payroll. Although we have had to draw on the line a number of times, we have been able to pay it back down as soon as we receive a payment from the state. Additionally, we have decreased our staff by 14 full-time positions and nine part-time positions and have delayed filling other positions when they have become vacant.
Smile Politely: I’m sure this economic uncertainty must make it hard to think about the future, but does DSC currently have a long-term plan to grow with the community?
Janice McAteer: DSC has been in our community since 1972, and although these are unprecedented times DSC will weather this storm and will remain a solid part of the community that serves children and adults with disabilities. Our Board of Directors and management staff work diligently to lead the organization in a conservatively fiscal manner and this approach will continue into the future.
Smile Politely: So how can those of us who are interested in lending a hand help DSC weather the storm?
Janice McAteer: For those interested in lending a helping hand, it can be done in one of a couple of ways….the biggest help is through that of donations….whether it be financial or in-kind, every dollar and every donation is very helpful. Additionally, for individuals that are willing to volunteer, we ask them to contact us for the current opportunities. Lastly, when the opportunity exists to participate in our fundraisers (annual golf outing, cash raffle, Tree of Hope campaign, etc.) we ask for your participation. As the community comes together in support of our agency, we in turn, are able to help more people in our community.
If you are interested in lending a hand or making a donation, please contact Janice at:
Developmental Services Center
1304 W. Bradley Ave.
Champaign, IL 61821