Origin – The ARC (formerly Association for Retarded Children) had its beginnings in 1949 when a parent, Anna Greenberg, placed an ad in the New York Post describing her son’s diagnosis of intellectual disabilities and inviting other parents to meet at her apartment and explore alternatives to the limited services available at that time. The response to the ad was overwhelming and the ARC was founded.
The next year, 1950, saw a similar group of parents forming a Capital District ARC Chapter. The Rensselaer ARC grew out of that three county organization. One of the original founding members of the Capital District ARC, Henrietta Messier, remains an active member of the Rensselaer ARC board to this day.
ARC Today – The Rensselaer ARC has grown over the years and today provides services to over 715 children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their families. The agency employs 410 people full time and another 85 part time. The total annual budget is $24 million, with $20 million coming from Medicaid. Another $2 million comes from contracts from the Rensselaer ARC’s vocational training program, Riverside Enterprises. Despite this growth, the Rensselaer ARC maintains its family orientation, with 2/3’s of its Board of Directors being parents or relatives of persons with intellectual disabilities. In addition, each program area has an advisory committee comprised of parents or relatives of people supported by that program.
Today the Rensselaer ARC is one of 57 chapters of the State ARC, which serves over 40,000 people daily and has an annual budget in excess of $1 billion.
Services – The Rensselaer ARC places an emphasis on providing services in integrated, small settings. Individualized Service Plans and person-centered planning are used to insure that each participant is involved in activities which meet their unique interests and needs. The Rensselaer ARC is divided into four major program areas.
- Riverside Enterprises/Community Inclusion Project – This is the vocational training component of the ARC and includes the following:
- Supported employment for over 100 adults in various job settings throughout the Capital District.
- Sheltered Employment for 75 additional adults who perform work such as packaging products for sale to New York State and wire forming for the floral industry. These contracts generate $2 million in annual sales. In addition to sales to floral wholesalers throughout the United States, the wire products produced by Riverside Enterprises have the largest share of the market in Ireland.
- A Community Inclusion Project that provides individually designed opportunities for 50 adults at 200 sites in the community.
- A school-to-employment program which annually assists over 150 students from four school districts as they transition from the public school system into employment. Over 95% of the program participants have been placed into competitive jobs upon graduation during the last five years. In 2004 the Rensselaer ARC and the Troy City School District won the first school-to-work partnership award presented by the NYS Rehabilitation Association.
- Brunswick Center Services – The Rensselaer ARC operates Brunswick Center on Route 2 in the Town of Brunswick to provide day programming for adults whose needs do not fit the vocational training offered through Riverside Enterprises. Included among the services at Brunswick Center are the following:
- Day Habilitation for 105 adults involving a wide variety of opportunities within the community as well as physical, speech and occupational therapy, prevocational services, geriatric services and independent living.
- Supported employment for 8 adults working in community settings.
- Family Supports Services – The Rensselaer ARC provides supports to families with a child, adolescent, or adult who has intellectual disabilities and, in some instances, developmental delays. Among the services provided under family supports are:
- Service Coordination for over 235 individuals.
- Respite and habilitation services to 50 families.
- Recreation and summer camp activities for over 125 individuals.
- Assistance to parents wishing to have themselves designated as guardians of an adult son or daughter.
- A family reimbursement fund to meet needs that are not supported elsewhere.
- Residential Services – The Rensselear ARC provides residential services to 160 individuals, who live at 70 locations throughout the agency’s service area. The emphasis has been on smaller settings, such as supportive and supervised apartments. For the past 18 years the agency hasn’t developed any residences for more than three individuals. Among the innovations which the Rensselaer ARC Residential Services program has initiated are the following:
- Assisting a married couple with intellectual disabilities in purchasing their own home.
- Developing the first shared living site in New York State.
- Developing a system of paid neighbors and other innovative models to provide supports for individuals living in apartments.
- Adding an apartment onto the home of a family with two disabled adults, allowing the parents to remain closely involved with their sons, while certifying the apartment so it could be staffed by the ARC.
- Developing an “affiliate” program for a small group of residents that emphasizes person centered planning, self determination and family involvement in developing and operating new residential opportunities.
- Working with a senior living complex to provide supports for several older adults with disabilities.
Administration - The Rensselaer ARC supports these activities with a small central administration staff, which is funded using approximately 6.5% of the agency’s total budget, one of the lowest administrative ratios in the state.