Frequently Asked Questions
Wendell Foster’s Campus for Developmental Disabilities is a local, non-profit, multi-service agency that works with people of all ages who have disabilities. It has historically specialized in serving people who have severe cerebral palsy and related disorders, but it now serves children and adults with other disabilities ranging from autism to traumatic brain injury and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Wendell Foster and his wife, Edith, founded the organization in 1947 to help their daughter, Louise, and other children in the community who experienced cerebral palsy. They operated the agency until the mid-1970’s when they retired.
Yes. The earliest name of the organization was actually The Davets Home for Spastic Paralysis, named for the veterans organization that helped to pay for its first building, a large old house near the corner of 9th and Triplett Streets. Spastic paralysis is term for what is now more commonly called cerebral palsy. The name of the agency changed to The Spastics Home and School in the late 1940’s, a name it kept until the mid-70’s when it was renamed The Wendell Foster Center in honor of its retiring founder. A few years ago the name was updated to Wendell Foster’s Campus for Developmental Disabilities to emphasize the multi-faceted nature of the agency.
When most people think of Wendell Foster’s Campus, they think of the 81 people who have chosen to make the Campus their residence, which is actually a small proportion of the over 1300 people we touch annually. Residentially, we serve people through three different programs: Intermediate Care Facility for persons with Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (ICF/MR), Supports for Community Living (SCL) and Independent Living. WFC has the current capacity to serve 63 people in our licensed ICF/MR (in four 16 bed cottages). The ICF facility also has 1 respite care bed. The ICF environment provides 24 hour nursing care and intensive therapies and supports to individuals needing this type of care, supervision and support. A total of 14 people live in the six licensed “Supports for Community Living” (SCL) homes where individuals with lesser medical and behavioral support needs reside as a small family unit with 24 hour staff support. 2-3 individuals reside in each SCL home. Finally, the Campus offers four 1 bedroom “independent living” homes, which are small wheelchair accessible homes designed for individuals with disabilities who are capable of independent living, perhaps with only occasional supports from a home health or other social service agency.
We also offer a large outpatient services program, as well as the Western KY Assistive Technology Center on Campus. Outpatient services, offered on Campus and at area public schools, include speech/ communication therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and assistive technology evaluations. WFC’s licensed Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility (CORF) serves about 500 people, mostly infants and children, on an annual basis with speech, occupational and physical therapies as well as through its certified developmental interventionist. In addition, the Western KY Assistive Technology Center’s lending library, demonstration laboratory and professional training programs touch an additional 5000 or more people annually in 34 Kentucky counties and Southern Indiana. WFC has five Assistive Technology Specialists certified to provide assistive technology assessments for individuals with a wide array of disabling conditions. WFC is a provider of a variety of in-home and community-based supports for individuals still residing in their own homes. WFC also provides after-school programming, summer camp, and pre-employment training for youth who have autism spectrum disorder.
Cerebral palsy (CP) describes a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. Its effects may range from mild to severe and (depending on other brain damage that might be present) the condition may or may not be associated with other disabilities, most commonly intellectual disability and/or seizure, vision, hearing, and communication disorders. CP is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development; before, during or after birth; or during infancy. The faulty development or damage to motor areas of the brain disrupts the brain’s normal ability to adequately control movement and posture. CP is not a disease and it is not curable, but its impact can be managed in positive ways.
Cerebral palsy is one of a group of disabilities that impact children during their developmental period (usually considered to be pre-natal through young adulthood ages of 21-23), all of them known as “developmental disabilities.” The term “developmental disability” also includes intellectual disability (formerly known as mental retardation), epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders and certain learning disabilities. They may occur independently in a child, or in combination with each other. Like CP, these disabilities are not curable, but through early diagnosis and intervention, their impact on the person’s life may be managed and their lifelong needs for care significantly reduced.
There are over 100 known causes of developmental disabilities. These include various problems that exist prior to pregnancy, occur during pregnancy, problems at birth, and problems or accidents occurring after birth. There are also pervasive cultural and poverty related risk factors that can cause a child to experience barriers or delays to normal mental and physical development. They all serve to emphasize the importance of good prenatal care, the avoidance of environmental hazards and knowledge of family history. Even with the knowledge of conditions that we know can cause developmental disabilities, the diagnosis of approximately one-half of occurrences remains unclear.
The 2010-11 budget for WFC is almost $14 million. About 88% of that goes to serve individuals who require intense 24 hour supports and nursing care in our ICF/MR residential program. About 8.5% goes for the less structured SCL and independent living operations. And the remainder goes for outpatient and assistive technology services.
While WFC began as a totally charitably funded effort, relying on the community and family members for 100% of its budget, it now pursues multiple funding sources. Most of its residential and in-home support service recipients qualify for Medicaid coverage of the most basic care and services needed. Other sources include support from state ESPDT (birth through age 21), First Steps (birth through age 3) funds, the KY Assistive Technology Services (KATS) Network, grants from sources such as the WHAS Crusade from Children and the William and Marilyn Young Foundation, and charitable gifts from private donors and organizations that conduct fund raisers on our behalf. All of these sources are needed to adequately meet the needs of those we serve.
We directly employee about 270 people in a variety of positions ranging from housekeeping, dietary and direct support positions to professional therapists. We also have another approximately 10 contracted employees, ranging from physicians and other professional consultants to behavior technicians and security.
We begin serving children as young as a few weeks of age through various outpatient therapy programs, and serve people throughout adulthood. Our oldest service recipients are in their 70’s.
Our CORF (Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility) is recognized for its specialization in pediatric speech, physical, occupational and developmental intervention therapies, but the program also serves many adults. Many of the residents of WFC’s ICF/MR and SCL residential programs receive therapy services through CORF. In addition, the CORF offers therapies to adults who reside in the community. Regrettably, the state Medicaid program does not pay for adult speech, physical or occupational therapy services outside of a hospital setting. However, adults can receive therapy services by using payer sources other than Medicaid, such as private insurance. Many adults who experience disabilities are also taking advantage of the assistive technology assessments that our qualified assistive technology practitioners (PT’s, OT’s and Speech Therapists with specialized training) are able to offer, as well as the assistive technology lab and lending library offered through the Western KY Assistive Technology Center, a part of our CORF operations.
Volunteers have always been an important part of WFC. Volunteers play an important part in not only getting the work of the Campus done, but in also assuring that our residents have regular contact with non-paid people who are concerned with their welfare. When the Campus first started, almost all of the work and service was provided by volunteers. As a non-profit, charitable organization, the Campus is governed by a 19 member volunteer board of directors. The board also has several committees that include outside volunteers as well as regular board members. Most of the special events at WFC, such as its annual benefit auction, require lots of volunteer hours and support. Volunteer ministers and church youth groups are responsible for assuring the Campus has a weekly worship service. Entertainers of all types are always welcome. We also have the need for volunteers who can sew clothing protectors, read to residents, send individuals cards and letters, stuff envelopes for special mailings and similar projects.
Just call the main Campus switchboard at 683-4517 during normal business hours, and the receptionist can refer you to the appropriate person to answer any questions. Many questions are answered on our web site at www.wfcampus.org. You can also email email@example.com and the appropriate person will respond to your questions.
People come to our services many different ways. People can start the process of getting services by simply calling the Campus and asking to talk to someone about the help the person needs. We also accept referrals from school systems, doctors, other therapists, and private or governmental agencies.
We will not refuse service to anyone based on inability to pay. Most adults who need residential services will qualify for Medicaid based on their disability. Many children may qualify for various government programs. A family’s health insurance may also pay for many of the therapies a child might need. Families should call and discuss their individual situations with us. Charitable dollars help support services to people who have no other funding source.
Part of Wendell Foster’s Campus is made up of four 16 bed cottages that, as a group, are licensed as an ICF/MR (or Intermediate Care Facility for people with Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.) This is a different licensure than a nursing home. Kentucky’s building code regulations relating to ICF’s/MR are the same as those for nursing homes, so there may be similarity in appearance. And an ICF/MR must have nursing staff available at all times. Nursing homes are typically for older people and for people whose condition is deteriorating, or who need rehabilitation to regain skills that they once had. An ICF/MR has a more educational and social focus that is aimed at helping people develop new skills they’ve never had. What is unique about an ICF/MR is the requirement for “active treatment” which moves the person towards greater independence.
Those individuals who reside at WFC and who are still school age (about a dozen youth) attend special education classes through the Owensboro Public Schools. Adults residing on Campus have a choice of a number of daily activities. For instance, 23 of them now work full or part time for Hugh Sandefur Industries, a Henderson company that employees people with disabilities to perform various assembly and packaging jobs. Some attend various training modules on various topics, ranging from music and crafts to self-administration of medication, while others attend off-Campus day programs of their choice, have jobs and/or perform outside volunteer work. All have responsibilities for helping to clean, straighten and maintain their own living space. Evening and weekend recreation activities, on-site and in the community, are popular with residents. Many attend worship on Sundays. Each individual has a “person centered plan” that is developed by the individual and his/her family in cooperation with an interdisciplinary professional team, designed to help the person achieve meaningful goals and dreams. The idea is to give people as “normal” of a life as possible.
19. Isn’t it just a waste of taxpayers’ and contributors’ money to try to train “those people” to do things? Aren’t some too handicapped to learn?
This is very old and unproductive thinking. Everyone uses a small part of their brain. Everyone can learn. For example, most people’s receptive language is much better than their expressive language; meaning that we hear and frequently understand more than we can actually talk about intelligently. The same is true for people who have disabilities. Even the person with very severe physical disabilities can be taught to do some things for themselves, perhaps with the support of assistive devices or technology. Each thing they learn gives them not only the pride of accomplishment but also reduces the long term care cost for that individual (because we no longer have to pay someone to, for example, assist that person in eating.) Philosophically, it is generally accepted that the measure of a society and culture is how it treats its citizens who are elderly and disabled. We at WFC also believe that people with disabilities can teach us as much as we can teach them, if we stop, listen and relax enough to hear them. So, we obviously disagree that it’s a waste of money.
Wendell Foster’s Campus is a qualified non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenues Services code. As such, charitable contributions to WFC are welcome, appreciated and tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. This certainly includes monetary donations for general or designated purposes. It can also include donations of stock, property or other things of value that the Campus can use or sell, although the Campus does not have any type of recycling or thrift store operation that would allow us to dispose of personal items or equipment that cannot be immediately used by WFC. When contributing property or personal items, contributors should understand that the Campus is not able to offer appraisals of the value of those items for tax purposes. The contributor is responsible for obtaining or providing estimates or appraisals of value.
21. What about wheelchairs? Do you accept wheelchair donations? Do you fix or sell wheelchairs to the public?
WFC does accept donations of wheelchairs that can be used for parts or rebuilt for service recipients. (It should be noted that the value of a new wheelchair depreciates rapidly once it has been put into use, much like a new car. Donors are sometimes disappointed to learn that they cannot sell near-new wheelchairs for anywhere near their original cost. That depreciated value, of course, is what can be used for tax deduction purposes for a charitable gift.) While the Campus does have maintenance personnel who are skilled at maintaining and repairing wheelchairs, we do not offer this service to the public, nor do we sell wheelchairs or wheelchair parts.
Daniel is one of the newer additions to Campus. Trained as a “facility handicap-assistance dog” by Canine Companion for Independence, Daniel’s duties are mostly individualized to different residents. He plays with some. He encourages exercise and outdoor activities when people take him for walks. Daniel is also good at getting withdrawn residents to become alert and interact with him. He visits those who may not be doing or feeling well, sometimes just sitting with them or putting his head or body in their laps so they can cuddle, pet or scratch him. Besides the 42 commands that Daniel knows, he is also very good at just being a dog.
One of our goals is to help people “get a life,” which means experiencing as many of the things in ordinary daily life that each of us experience. Home visits are encouraged, assuming the families are able to meet the individual’s needs. Because many of the people served at WFC are non-ambulatory and classified “medically fragile,” in need of rather constant medical support and monitoring, it can be a challenge to get them outside and into the community on a frequent basis. However, every effort is made to get everyone out as often as possible. Many residents go out and shop for their own clothing and personal items, and many enjoy going to community events and shows. Some are quite stable medically and are able to enjoy everyday activities like all of us.
The ICF/MR program at Wendell Foster’s Campus has 24 hour nursing staff that has special skills in dealing with the medical needs of this particular population. All staff are trained in First Aid and CPR, as well as in recognizing the signs of illness or distress in the individuals we serve. In addition, the Campus has an on-call physician/medical director if needed. The local hospital and its emergency room are adjacent to the Campus, should more intense care be needed.
In their simplest form, we all use assistive devices or technology. If we wear glasses or use a remote control for our TV we are using such devices and technology. Assistive devices and assistive technology are pieces of equipment or materials that allow a person to do things he/she might not ordinarily be able to do due to a disability that the person experiences. A modified spoon or a special brace might help a person with physical disabilities to eat or perform a certain task that he/she couldn’t do without the special equipment. Modern electronics and computerization are allowing people to communicate when they cannot otherwise speak or control things in their environment in ways that were not possible only a few years ago. WFC, through its Western KY Assistive Technology Center, has access to the most current inventions and ideas that help can people with a variety of disabilities perform functional skills resulting in greater independence.
Yes. WFC works with local colleges (Brescia University, Kentucky College, Kentucky Community & Technical College), in nursing, special education, psychology, sociology and educational technology programs to provide short term internships and study experiences for college students. In addition to this work, WFC has relationships with other universities in the state and region to provide professional internships to individuals studying physical, occupational and speech therapy. We find that these relationships provide not only a valuable service to the community and to students, but also provide WFC with current “state of the art” information and practices being generated through university research and training.
The WFC Kelly Autism Program was begun in 2009 as a collaborative effort of WFC and the Western Kentucky University (WKU) Clinical Education Complex. The goal of the alliance was to create a satellite of and replicate the Kelly Autism Program developed by WKU in Bowling Green. In 2011, the local program operations were taken completely over by WFC, with an ongoing relationship existing with WKU for training, quality assurance, and research purposes. The program serves youth who experience autism spectrum disorders through after-school programs and activities, a summer camp, and pre-vocational training. Plans are in development for offering other socialization training programs and needed supports for families who have a child with autism. The program is funded by grants and tuition fees and lacks secure long-range funding. Charitable gifts are sought for student scholarships and to meet needs for equipment and supplies.
The greatest ongoing need, without a doubt, is for community awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities as meaningful participants in the fabric of everyday community life. This, of course, suggests multiple educational and environmental initiatives that need to be taken by individuals and social institutions to build such a culture. On a less philosophical level, there is an ongoing need for individuals who would volunteer to show a special interest in residents who have no active families. From a financial need perspective, WFC has several projects under development that will need financial support. Additional wheelchair accessible passenger vans are needed to allow our residents greater access to the community. And funding for recreation and leisure activities is an ongoing challenge. There are over 10,500 disabled Kentuckians who are currently living with aging parents. The Campus is planning additional housing to help meet this need. We are working on the development of a Campus-based “sensory park and garden” as a gathering place for people with severe disabilities to enjoy recreation and relaxation. We are trying to increase our assistive technology offerings and expand programs in response to the dramatic increase in Autism in our community. These are just a few of the projects that need attention.