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Recognizing over 30 years of Home-Based Services at Little City!

The History of Little City’s Home-Based Services:

The Home-Based program started in 1989 and was then called Families One. In the earlier days, the program was both state- and grant-funded, allowing us to provide robust programming to children and adults. The program provided case management, in-home personal support, and respite workers to families while also hosting summer camps. As grant funding expanded, the Families One program also began offering weekly therapeutic art sessions. These sessions provided a space for individuals with disabilities (mostly pre-teens and teenagers) to create art, conduct plays, learn and play music, have open mic nights/poetry slams, and more. The art pieces created in this space remain on display in the Chicago office, and the memory of a client writing and sharing a poem about what her caregiver meant to her and the positive impact he has had on her life brought the whole room to tears. The impact of these programs was palpable. 

The Families One program was formerly based in Chicago and primarily served children in the case management and personal support/respite capacities. The team was comprised of about five individuals managing this work and originally serving 75 families. Services were provided in clients’ homes and communities to also include schools, recreation centers, day programs, and the like. 

Seven years ago, Little City merged with Countryside, expanding services to include Palatine/Cook and DuPage County and surrounding areas, as well as Waukegan/Lake and McHenry counties.  This helped Little City expand its impact on the number of individuals and their families served, nearly doubling the census to 275+ and requisite staff. Programming moved from Chicago to the Palatine campus at Lakeside (at the time), now Grayslake. Services shifted from primarily serving children to serving mostly adults. Little City also assumed an in-home respite grant that funded respite work within families’ homes for their loved ones. Families engaged in HBS services were actively engaged in other Little City offerings including day and vocational programs.

Luke learning using a visual aid

As DHS funding evolved and grants diminished, services eventually lived under the “Home-Based Services” umbrella and primarily provided self-directed assistance (SDA) support to families. Self-Directed Assistants engage in case management and family support activities that include: helping families attain adaptive equipment for their homes or vehicles to support their loved ones in the least restrictive environment; connecting individuals with services in their communities; aiding in attaining legal adult guardianship appointments; managing crises; helping families navigate the DHS system to maximize supports; and helping families manage their funding to support desired community-based services. See the graphic above for details about the impacts made by this program and this team, but a few highlights include:  

  • Approximately $100,000 annually awarded in adaptive equipment home/car modifications. 
  • Customer satisfaction of 98% on annual surveys. 
  • More than 95% of clients remained in the least restrictive environment of their own homes and communities with the program’s supports. 

Celebrating the Staff who made this program special!

An exceptional and truly remarkable achievement of Little City’s HBS program is the stability of our staff, resulting in the building of essential relationships with families – and serving as a safe place to call home and attain support. These relationships – and the reliable, stable provision of support – have helped our families beyond measure. Little City’s HBS families have frequently remarked on their relationship with their SDAs over the years as being the most helpful aspect of ensuring they have care, support, and a safety net. 

One of these exceptional and remarkable staff is Home-Based Manager, Pete Kaestner. Pete has worked under the Families One/Home Based umbrella for more than 15 years. Pete is extremely knowledgeable about DHS and how to navigate the disability systems to best support those served. He has served as a stable force for his families and has always been a staunch advocate and compassionate caregiver. For the past year, Pete has demonstrated himself as a superior leader. His leadership skills have been especially exemplified as both staff and families have had to manage the emotional process of transitioning to other providers. Pete has always conducted himself ethically, professionally, and compassionately. His caring comes through in his communication to staff and families about the ways we can support and advocate for them. 

Another remarkable HBS team member is Abel Cabreros. Little City was fortunate to have Abel join our team following the Countryside acquisition. He came to us with more than 15 years of experience and has now been providing services to individuals and their families with disabilities for 22 years. Abel is one of the most caring and helpful individuals the HBS team has ever encountered. He has positively improved and impacted hundreds of clients’ lives over the years, making caring for an individual with disabilities a little bit easier with his support. Most of Abel’s colleagues and clients consider him family. Abel is transitioning to Clearbrook. 

Temi Kolajo has been a dedicated LCF employee for 6 ½ years within the HBS program. She is knowledgeable, supportive, empathic, and a strong advocate. She has prepared manuals and resource binders for clients, the team, and families. Temi always has a smile on her face, and her positivity is infectious. 

Megan Kowalski joined Little City through the Countryside acquisition. During her seven-year tenure with the organization, she completed her master’s degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis. Megan is very outspoken and used that skill to advocate for the best interests of those served.

Rochelle Spesard also joined Little City through the Countryside acquisition. In her eight years with Little City, she created a budgeting tool for the team that operationalized this arduous monthly task. Like her colleagues, Rochelle was caring, positive, and helpful to her families.

Dan Wells joined the Little City team three years ago. He quickly became known as an enthusiastic and fast learner and applied that to also attaining his Master’s in Applied Behavioral Analysis through Little City. When not traveling to attend Dave Matthews Band concerts, Dan was tirelessly working with his clients to promote their well-being. Dan has transitioned to a clinical position within Children’s Group Home (CGH). 

Abebiaba Espinoza joined the team six months ago. While new to the work, she was a quick learner and plunged right in to support our families. Abebaiba was stable, strong, and supportive, and brought this to her work every day.  She continues her work in serving vulnerable individuals at DCFS. 

Nicole Augustine joined approximately seven months ago and brought a wealth of experience that she quickly applied to her work with her clients. Nicole is also incredibly positive and helpful, as reflected in remarks by her families.  She is transitioning to a role as case manager within Adult Residential Services. 

Aimee Schofield was the most recent member to join the team, approximately four months ago.  Prior to that, she worked within CGH as a DSP. She quickly applied her training and experience as a DSP to the role of SDA. She did an excellent job establishing a rapport with her families and providing them with the support and services they needed. Amy is transitioning to a case management role within CGH. 

The Home-Based Team was managed by long-time leader, Virginia Lisy, who suddenly and sadly passed in 2022. She knew the ins and outs of all aspects of the HBS program, including all families and individuals served. Her caring extended beyond the 9-5 and she became a friend to many. Her passing was a significant loss for all who knew and loved her, and those impacted by her compassion. 

Kat Kedryna formerly served as the Program Director for five years. With her BCBA background, Kat instituted procedures and processes into the work, and helped the program successfully pass annual BQM Audits and CARF accreditation. She was a meticulous tracker of data and used that to promote the program through marketing and outreach efforts. She developed and expanded community-based behavioral services (ABA therapy) to individuals served under the home-based waiver in the HBS program in addition to community clients and those served within foster care. Kat was an excellent leader who provided her team with the guidance they needed in a caring and compassionate way. Kat is now serving as the Director of Behavioral Services at Clearbrook. 

Alice Somers also served as a long-time member of the team, joining Little City following the Countryside merger and staying with Little City for five years. Alice cared deeply for her clients and advocated strongly for them.