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Building Bridges

Clearbrook West fosters autonomy through collaboration and understanding individuals at their current state

in•de•pen•dent: not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood). While it is human nature to desire connection, it is also an inherent inclination to seek self-sufficiency.  The concept of independence is subject to each person’s individual interpretation.

Emily Fencl, Vice President of Program Services and Erin Schjerven, Marketing Manager, of Clearbrook West, know all too well the importance of meeting an individual where they are along the continuum to autonomy.  They believe everyone deserves the opportunity to live in the least restrictive environment that meets their needs and abilities.  

In fact, that is the mission of Clearbrook West (a division of Clearbrook), a non-profit organization dedicated to "enriching lives and embracing the potential of every human."  Their goal is to empower adults and children with intellectual or developmental disabilities to live their fullest lives possible.  Clearbrook West serves individuals of an array of ages and disabilities - from children diagnosed with development delays at birth to the unique needs of seniors with disabilities and all ages in between.  

Whether in group homes, day programs or receiving services in their own home, individuals receive personalized care and guidance to attain their goals.  One person may want to obtain a job and earn money to have some financial freedom, while another may want to be able to stay home alone and prepare meals or take their own medicine without assistance.  The objective is to identify the need and desired outcome. Then, offer choices and collaborate with other agencies in McHenry County to identify the best fit for each person.  

Take, for example, the young man who works as a dish washer at Cooper’s Hawk.  When he first suggested this to his mom, she resisted, feeling he should set his sights higher.  But what this young man wanted was to earn money of his own, feel he was participating, and contribute to society.  With the help of Clearbrook West staff and counselors, his mother was able to see the benefits of him learning to advocate for himself.  Today, he is proud of his occupation and has connected with the chef who has taken him under his wing and is teaching him new skills in the kitchen.

When an elderly man living in a small group home faced the possibility of relocation to a state facility because he could no longer climb the stairs to his second-floor bedroom and his bathroom was not safe for his evolving needs, staff worked to obtain grants and support to remodel; an effort to nurture his self-reliance for as long as possible.  

The collaboration with other organizations such as Miss Amazing, a program that focuses on self esteem and equal opportunities, exemplifies how Clearbrook West truly invests in the community.  A local, young woman earned the opportunity to showcase her gymnastics and choreography skills in the national talent competition in Nashville.  She has since encouraged friends to join in and share their uniqueness with the world.

Regardless of ability or stage of development, we each deserve to live our authentic lives.  While some individuals may uncover their true selves independently, others may need additional support along their journey.  For many, Clearbrook West is the bridge to independence.

"Everyone deserves the opportunity to live in the least restrictive environment that meets their needs and abilities."