Developmental Disabilities Services

HeartShare Developmental Disabilities Services nurture and empower children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Person-centered service delivery means people with disabilities can live the lives they want to lead.

From early childhood to adulthood, HeartShare offers people with disabilities greater access to independence. HeartShare evaluates children with developmental delays, so early intervention services, like speech and physical therapy, will help them get off to the right start in life. HeartShare invests in the potential of children with disabilities in special needs classrooms that customize learning and therapies, while also facilitating inclusion with typically developing children attending Universal Pre-K. HeartShare develops homes and apartments that help people with disabilities become an integral part of their community. HeartShare develops learning opportunities that encourage self-exploration through recreational activities, facilitates life-skills training, and offers vocational and training experiences that prepare people for competitive jobs in corporate, retail and educational settings throughout New York City. Person-centered services mean independence, happiness and a higher quality of life.

Man smiling in front of framed art pieces.

HeartShare also supports families caring for children and adults with disabilities at home, including respite programs, grant opportunities and in-home community habilitation services that enhance quality of life. HeartShare’s transition services offer families resources and guidance to plan for the future. Whether it’s the leap from early childhood to school-age or young adulthood to adulthood, HeartShare guides families in planning their loved ones’ future. HeartShare coordinates health services for patients with complex health needs, including those with developmental disabilities, and provides needed therapies. Tying this all together, HeartShare’s Medicaid Service Coordination connects people with disabilities and their families to internal and partner agency resources. Most importantly, our program participants customize services to their unique strengths and needs. Self-direction means independence, happiness and a higher quality of life.

Services in Context

The Need for Developmental Disabilities Services

HeartShare and its Family of Services have always believed in the power of human potential. We believe in protecting and advancing basic human rights and freedoms. We empower with education, housing, training, employment, health care, counseling and personalized supports. In 1914, HeartShare, then Catholic Guardian Society, assisted teens transitioning from orphanages to life on their own. St. Vincent’s Services opened as a home for young working boys without families. Since that time, HeartShare has responded to the needs of the New York community. In 1972, The Willowbrook State School expose revealed horrific abuses inflicted upon people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Shortly thereafter, HeartShare rescued Willowbrook survivors from that institution and created its first group home in the community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In the years following, HeartShare continued innovating programs for people with disabilities, including opening more than 40 residences and 50 supportive apartments, establishing 4 early childhood centers and an evaluation center, offering employment and adult day programs, and offering family support programs. The HeartShare team, which only had 75 employees in 1977, was driven to develop each of these programs because of the belief that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Today, HeartShare continues this work because everyone deserves safety, security and opportunity. Everyone deserves a chance at the life they want. Everyone deserves their independence. That’s how we continue to change the world—one person at a time.

People with Disabilities Belong in the Community

HeartShare has expanded and honed its programs to best meet the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Following the Willowbrook expose, HeartShare proved its leadership in the transition from institutional settings called Developmental Centers to homes in the community. Children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities did not deserve to be isolated in restrictive settings, but to experience community life like any other person. In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Past and present, HeartShare’s Developmental Disabilities Services have honored and prioritized community inclusion for people with disabilities, constantly striving to dissolve barriers of stigma and discrimination for this group.

People with Disabilities Deserve Self-Direction

HeartShare actively works to further shift autonomy and independence into the hands of those we support. For years, young adults and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities have had their lives planned by other people. Sometimes, in meetings discussing their services, they were spoken about, but not directly addressed, as if being denied their very personhood. Self-determination or self-direction means that a person with disabilities has the right and ability to make life choices and decisions, including services received, participation in the community and self-advocacy. Taking this a step further, HeartShare also measures the impact of self-direction. According to the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Personal Outcome Measures or POM is a tool to measure quality of life from the perspective of the person with special needs. POM may include how services meet the person’s unique interests and needs. POM also ensures that people with disabilities live in the most integrated settings possible, as well as in a community of their choosing. Lastly, POM assess whether or not the services actually achieve individualized outcomes.

HeartShare Direct Support Professional Helps Man with Special Needs Through Major Surgery

Carlton Griffith, a HeartShare Direct Support Professional (DSP), works daily with Bryant, a man with special needs living at HeartShare’s 102nd Street Residence in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Carlton is there to help Bryant live the fullest, most independent life possible. Whether it’s rising at 6 a.m. for a job he loves or enjoying all New York has to offer, like Central Park rowing, Bryant’s positive energy and enthusiasm for life is contagious. One very hot summer day, Bryant experienced chest pains. Carlton rushed Bryant to the hospital, broke Bryant’s fall in the ER, answered all medical questions and was there when Bryant awoke. Carlton had to find words to explain why Bryant needed a Pacemaker. “I could tell Bryant was scared,” said Carlton, “but I comforted him and told him it was the only way to make his heart healthy.” Following the Pacemaker surgery and with Carlton’s support, Bryant resumed his normal life. Bryant is eating healthier, returned to his job and is back rowing at Central Park. “Carlton was nominated as a HeartShare Everyday Hero, an employee recognition program for outstanding frontline workers who uplift and enhance quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

These guys (people with disabilities in HeartShare’s care) are my family,” smiled Carlton.

Developmental Disabilities Services

“HeartShare has always focused on person-centered approaches that provide creative solutions to fulfill the needs, goals and dreams of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”