WHY WE STARTED.
In 1975 the individuals with disabilities education act (IDEA) mandated a free and appropriate education for children with disabilities ages 3 to 21. Millions of dollars became available to provide these children with the skills necessary to lead meaning and productive lives. However, at age 21, the mandate for services ceases. Most adults with autism are not fully capable of working and taking care of themselves. Nearly all require service coordination, specialized on the job training, continued education and some level of supervision.
After 21, adults with autism can typically sit at home for years waiting for an adult program and or funding while their parents navigate through a complex service system. In New Jersey alone, there are thousands of adults with developmental disabilities waiting for services and or funding.
The scarce number of agencies who have highly specialized programs for adults with autism is limited. Inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates and resulting low salaries for job coaches cause high staff turnover rates. Providing quality services is a daily struggle. Agencies report a constant stream of calls from parents literally crying out for help for their child.
When a family can no longer care for their adult child at home due to a death of a parent or caretaker, illness or old age, the developmentally disabled adult can regress both physically and psychologically. As negative behaviors escalate, the use of drugs increases and not uncommonly physical restraints are used.
The Quest Autism Foundation’s goal is to not only create a model for establishing and managing adult day programs, but to contribute to the state and national dialogue addressing the severe shortage of adult services.
We cannot allow our substantial national investment in the IDEA to be wasted by allowing the generation of adults with developmental disabilities to go without the vital services that any humane society knows is necessary for a “life of dignity”.
Quest Autism Foundation Established November 2000
Quest Autism Programs was founded in 2000 by a group of parents who were on a mission to ensure lifelong quality services for their teenage children with autism. The program began with after-school and weekend recreation activities. During this period, the founding families worked with professionals to develop a long term plan to create a full service day program for their children when they entered adulthood at age 21.
After 5 years of intensive planning, fundraising, the establishment of a 501 (c) (3) Foundation and a unique partnership with the Wyckoff Family YMCA, the Quest Autism Adult Day Program opened its doors to serve its first participants in July of 2005.
In the early years, Quest Directors focused on developing a service delivery framework based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. This model would focus on community-based employment, life skills, social/recreational opportunities with a long term goal of providing in-home and residential support services.
By 2012, Quest expanded to two sites, one at the Wyckoff Family YMCA and a rental space in Ridgewood to accommodate the growth of the program. At this point, the board of directors began planning to find a permanent home. That dream came true in 2016 when Quest purchased its own building in Midland Park and launched a capital campaign to fully purchase the building and cover renovation costs. This latest chapter in the history of Quest provided new and innovative opportunities for learning and development for all of our participants. This new building opened its doors in November, 2016, which allowed the program to expand to provide services to 16 participants with a plan to grow to 24.
In 2018, we were ready to begin looking at even longer term care – expanding into residential service provision. Partnering with the United Way, four Quest families were able to open a group home in October 2019 with plans to begin transitioning participants into this new home early 2020. Unfortunately those plans were put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has proven to be a challenging time for all involved, as Quest, like so many other organizations, has been required by the State of New Jersey to either suspend or severely limit its services. Undaunted, our staff has continued to provide vital services to our participants via remote learning and virtual engagement.
Dream. Believe. Succeed.
— Jennifer Hoppe