The Origin of GROW
In the winter of 1981, a few Westchester County families who had children with developmental disabilities living in community residences, talked about the need to get together with other families with children in the same situation. The reason for this need was the fact that these parents often had difficulty as individuals in dealing with the agencies that operated their children's residences.
At the first meeting, which consisted of about ten families, they decided that an organization of parents and guardians not under the aegis of any provider agency was needed. Provider agencies had their own agenda: funding, staffing, meeting government regulations and a cooperative relationship with state officials. This new organization would have but one thing on its agenda: the best possible life for people with developmental disabilities in Westchester. Firm believers in the community concept, these families had learned that their children fare best living with their peers with the help of a supportive staff in a group home in Westchester County.
GROW originally stood for Group Residences Of Westchester. However its members quickly discovered that there were concerns beyond residential issues and changed its mission to Advocates of Persons With Developmental Disabilities. We've kept the name GROW because we want the quality as well as the quantity of services for person with developmental disabilities to continue to GROW.
Now, over thirty years later, GROW has more than 4000 people on its rolls.
Some of GROW’s accomplishments include:
- Helped to create a Registry for services for persons with developmental disabilities that became a tool for statewide planning.
- Developed information packets for parents and sponsored a transition guide.
- Lobbied the State Legislators for appropriate adult day services.
- Lobbied to put the burden of proof back on local school districts when there is disagreement with the CSE.
- Provided workshops on education, transition, adult services, benefits and guardianship.
GROW members continue to advocate by visiting key persons in Albany on a regular basis as well as hosting meetings with our local legislators. Just recently GROW lobbied State legislators in Albany in an effort to break the near moratorium of new residential opportunities.
The many notable improvements in services for people with developmental disabilities took over a period of thirty years to accomplish. These improvements were the results of strong, determined efforts by voluntary provider agencies, dedicated government officials and, especially, parents and other family members, many of whom were founding members of GROW.
GROW keeps aware of any conditions that affect services and makes others aware of the situations. The annual trip to Albany, for example, communicates to political officials what issues are important in the lives of persons with developmental disabilities.
The GROW Newsletter, the HelpLine and Membership Meetings give voice to concerns of families as well as help families learn how to deal with conditions that need improvement.
Services for people with developmental disabilities rely on funding sources as well as state laws and regulations that can change according to economic, political, and social conditions. Changes in any of these areas can affect services and therefore the lives of persons with developmental disabilities. It is essential that new members continue to join GROW so that gains of past years are not lost.
GROW has played a key role in many successes including the NYS CARES program through which many persons with developmental disabilities obtain appropriate residential settings.
Advocacy does work, but it must be an ongoing endeavor!