United for Change is a commitment of two organizations, Hills & Dales and Riverview Center. Hills & Dales is an organization that serves people with disabilities in 17 counties throughout Eastern Iowa. Riverview Center is the only agency in a 14 county Northeast Region of Iowa that provides sexual assault services and is the only organization that provides sexual assault or domestic violence services in Jo Daviess and Carroll Counties in Illinois. Together, this collaboration works to create systems change to improve services and supports for survivors with disabilities.
Our Unique Contributions
One of the unique challenges faced by this collaboration is the number of individuals with disabilities served by Hills & Dales who have guardians in place to help with decision making. Many of the individuals served are unable to verbally communicate and most rely on alternate communication methods including eye contact, picture cards or technology. Communication barriers present challenges to self-advocacy, and guardians are called upon to help fill that role. Advocacy and involvement come in many shapes and forms and engaging guardians is vital in supporting people with disabilities.
United for Change has focused its efforts on including guardians in the conversation and enhancing staff safety. Many service providers who support individuals who are unable to verbally communicate may encounter aggressive and/or injurious behavior by someone who has been traumatized and is struggling to communicate. Minimizing the possibility of traumatizing or re-traumatizing staff and individuals is key to a successful outcome for all involved. A staff safety survey was developed, and a training curriculum was designed to develop an awareness of trauma-informed practices for service providers and agency staff.