Choosing the Right Resource

In the process of choosing a resource, regardless of what type you are looking for, there are a number of criteria you will want to look at to determine if this resource meets your needs and is the right match. Following are suggestions for information that you will want to gather from the prospective resource and evaluate before you make a decision about whether this is the right fit for you or your family member. If possible, try to evaluate and visit several similar resources before you make a final decision.

General Information

  • Types of services/programs offered
  • Eligibility criteria for services/programs
  • Location and proximity to where you live and to public transportation
  • Accessibility of resource's facilities
  • Operating hours (early morning, evening and weekend options)
  • Age range served by resource
  • Language capabilities of resource's staff
  • Types of funding/payment accepted
  • After hours accessibility in case of emergency (phone, pager, answering service etc.)
  • Whether or not resource is inclusive

Quality of Resource/Program/Service Information

  • Ask for references to other people who have used the resource
  • Talk to other parents and friends
  • Find out if the resource is licensed or accredited, and if not, if and when they will be
  • Inquire if staff members are licensed, certified or credentialed
  • Determine if staff are involved in professional development on an ongoing basis
  • Ask if the director has a strong background that is related to what they do
  • Ask if staff turnover is low
  • Find out the staff to participant ratio, and whether it meets appropriate guidelines.
    For example: there should be at least one adult for every four infants, five younger toddlers (12 to 24 months), six older toddlers (2 to 3 years), and nine or 10 preschoolers.
  • Inquire if the people receiving services/programs, or their family members/caregivers have an opportunity to participate in the current and future direction of the organization

Additional Resource/Program/Service Information

  • Experience working with children and/or adults with developmental disabilities and their family/caregiver.
  • Services/programs you and/or your family member are specifically eligible for
  • Benefit of the services/programs to you and/or your family member
  • Timeframe to begin receiving services or to enroll in a program
  • Duration of the service/program provided
  • Customization of service/program schedules
  • Individualization of services/programs offered based on individual's needs
  • How are participants of different ages, needs and abilities grouped together (if applicable)
  • Size of a group (if applicable)
  • Ability to make reasonable accommodations to enable participation
  • Reward system versus "punished"
  • Role of the person or family member(s)/caregiver in the service/program
  • Process for grievances/complaints
  • Privacy protection protocol

In-Person Site Visit

In addition to knowing the answers to the above considerations when evaluating a resource, you should always visit in person. Your impressions about the resource/program/service, facility, etc. can have just as much of an impact on your final decision about the appropriateness of a resource. If possible, you should also take another family member or trusted friend along on the site visit for a second opinion. And try to schedule a visit to last at least two hours to be able to get a real sense of the resource. Here are some things to consider on your site visit:

  • You are greeted personally and welcomed
  • Each person receives warm individual attention
  • Participants look happy and interact with each other and with staff
  • Staff appear to be happy and enjoy working there
  • Staff appear to listen and talk with participants rather than at them
  • Staff appear to be appropriately matched with age and interests of program participants
  • Staff communicate with family/caregivers regularly
  • There is continuity of care and participants have the ability to build a relationship with staff
  • Participants are treated with dignity and respect, and cultural differences are accepted
  • The facility looks to be maintained, clean, safe and overall, well-cared for
  • The facility is accessible
  • Access to facility is secure, protocol and procedures exist for guests/visitors
  • There are clear health and safety procedures, as well as policies for handling emergencies, and staff are informed of them
  • If any type of food is offered as part of the service/program it appears to be fresh and nutritious
  • The situation is constantly under supervision
  • Participants are being observed for changing needs and interests and these signs are responded to appropriately by staff
  • Participants are always offered the opportunity to make choices throughout the day
  • Activities vary widely, and preferably do not include watching television or videos, but if so, only educational programming
  • Parking availability

The most important thing to keep in mind is to "Picture Your Child Here." If you can't picture your child at a resource, even if it meets all of your criteria, keep looking.