April is Autism Acceptance Month. In honor of this month, UCP Oregon would like to share a piece written by Andrew Haynes.
Andrew is the Brokerage Administrative Assistant for UCP Connections, and is a person with Asperger’s. Andrew would like to thank Silas Bird (Operations Coordinator for UCP Connections) for assistance in creating this piece.
By Andrew Haynes, Brokerage Administrative Assistant, with assistance from Silas Bird, Operations Coordinator
Autism Acceptance Month is a time to celebrate and embrace the unique qualities of individuals on the autism spectrum. It's no longer enough to simply raise awareness about autism; we must shift our focus towards acceptance and inclusion.
We must advocate for policies that prioritize inclusion, education, employment opportunities, healthcare access, and social support for autistic individuals.
The article "Autism Speaks doesn’t speak for Autism" by Isabelle Ouyang provides a compelling argument against the popular organization Autism Speaks.
The author argues that Autism Speaks perpetuates harmful stereotypes and stigmatizes individuals with autism rather than helping them. Ouyang points out that Autism Speaks' advertising campaigns often portray autism as a tragedy, which can lead to negative attitudes towards those with the condition.
Additionally, the organization's focus on finding a cure for autism implies that people with autism need to be fixed or cured rather than accepted and supported.
The author also critiques the lack of representation of autistic individuals in leadership positions within the organization, which can lead to a disconnect between those making decisions and those directly affected by them.
Many individuals with autism have spoken out against Autism Speaks, stating that they do not accurately represent their experiences or perspectives.
The Puzzle Piece Symbol
The puzzle piece has been a symbol of autism awareness for decades, but it is time to retire this outdated symbol. The puzzle piece implies that individuals with autism are incomplete or missing something, which is not only inaccurate but also offensive. Autism is not a puzzle to be solved or fixed; it is a neurological difference that should be accepted and celebrated.
Furthermore, the puzzle piece does not accurately represent the diversity within the autistic community. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that individuals with autism have varying abilities and challenges. Using one symbol to represent such a diverse group of people oversimplifies their experiences and perpetuates stereotypes.
Instead of using the puzzle piece, we should listen to and amplify the voices of autistic individuals themselves. They can tell us what symbols or language they prefer and what truly represents them as unique individuals. It's time to move away from outdated symbols like the puzzle piece and towards more inclusive representations of autism.
It is crucial for organizations working with marginalized communities to prioritize listening to and uplifting their voices rather than speaking for them without their input or consent.
UCP Day at Camp
As you may know, UCP’s second brokerage, UCP Mentors, just celebrated its first birthday.
To celebrate, Sasha Vidales, the UCP Mentors Brokerage Director coordinated an event called “UCP Day at Camp.”
Employees from both brokerages attended. They explored the trails, practiced archery, navigated the aerial course, did some arts and crafts, and more!
PS: a giant shout out to Sasha for coordinating the event. It was so much fun!
Thoughts From Sarah
From the Desk of Sarah Noack, Brokerage Director, UCP Oregon
As I reflect on the past year, there were beautiful highlights and certainly many difficult lowlights.
In the spring of 2021, I could not have imagined how I would be catapulted out of my home office and into a massive undertaking—establishing a second brokerage (“UCP Mentors”) in order to take on the customers from another brokerage (“Mentor”) that was closing.
In some ways, taking on 600+ customers and starting a second brokerage was completely unfathomable to consider amidst a pandemic.
In other ways, it provided the perfect opportunity to shift focus onto something fresh and energizing.
I knew that I wanted to be a part of a safety net that could catch Mentor’s customers and employees. And I knew UCP had the organizational values and foundation to do right by folks.
What I didn’t know was how powerfully the community would come together to make that happen.
All of UCP’s existing (and new!) brokerage employees gave so much—their skills, gifts, and efforts—to make absolutely certain we were ready for our new customers.
Every single need was met with “here is what I can do.”
People stayed focused and positive even when we were overwhelmed. Problems were met with curiosity and tenacity.
And through those months, the team of former Mentor employees stepped bravely forward, responding with heart and grit and hope and determination.
When UCP Mentors opened on September 1, I felt like we had successfully landed the Millennium Falcon! I am so grateful for everyone, whether they served as Chewie, Yoda, Han, or members of the band that plays the funky music in the cantina.
Here we are four months later.
The dust is settling. And we see what lies ahead--more rebuilding, more growth, some healing, and lots more work.
But for now, I want to pause for a moment and say “three cheers” to everyone who was involved. Hooray for us all! Here is to collaboration, community, and customers! Happy New Year!
--Sarah Noack, Brokerage Director
As you may know, UCP Oregon has been offering brokerage services since 2010, under the name “UCP Connections.”
Effective September 1st, we added a second brokerage (“UCP Mentors”), in order to serve brokerage customers that had been previously served by The Mentor Network.
This is a big change; we’re now supporting 600 additional brokerage customers!
At the heart of this transition are the employees. We were able to bring over an amazing team from The Mentor Network. We also promoted several folks internally, and hired several talented, passionate new team members from outside UCP.
We also made changes at the management level. We created a new “Director of Brokerage Services” position, which will be held by UCP’s former Brokerage Director, Sarah Noack.
Tara Coen was promoted to serve as Brokerage Director for UCP Connections; Sasha Vidales (a former employee of The Mentor Network and founder of Creative Goal Solutions) was hired to serve as Brokerage Director for UCP Mentors!
A Big Announcement
We have big news!
At the beginning of June, we learned that one of our peer agencies (The Mentor Network) was closing their services in Oregon, including their brokerage services.
UCP Oregon—in partnership with Oregon’s Department of Human Services Office of IDD Services—made the decision to support 600 of Mentor Oregon’s former brokerage customers.
We’re keeping our existing brokerage ("UCP Connections"), and adding a second brokerage ("UCP Mentors") to serve the new customers.
We’re hiring additional brokerage staff, and also adding a “solid gold” team of former Mentor employees, who bring a wealth of experience, heart, and commitment to their customers. These new customers and staff joined us, effective September 1st.
UCP’s two brokerages will function as two united yet distinct entities.
We understand this change came as a surprise, and that everyone will have different feelings and thoughts. We are offering information sessions for customers affected by this change, ensuring they have the chance to ask questions and share their voices.
As time goes on, we’ll be sharing more information about this big change. But, in the meantime, we hope you’ll join us in welcoming our new customers and employees.
UCP Is Hiring: Personal Agents
As you may have recently heard, UCP is growing! We’re opening a second brokerage (more info coming soon).
We're hiring for several Personal Agents (Caseload Managers) for both our existing Brokerage (UCP Connections) and our new Brokerage (UCP Mentors).
As a Personal Agent, you'll support adults who experience various intellectual/developmental disabilities.
You’ll have the chance to make a big difference every day, and be a part of a collaborative, fun, and diverse team.
UCP Is Hiring: 2 Brokerage Directors
UCP is growing! We’re opening a second brokerage (more info coming soon), which means that we have several exciting openings.
First up: we're hiring for two "Brokerage" Directors. One will be the Director of our long-standing Brokerage (UCP Connections), and the other will be the Director our new Brokerage (UCP Mentors).
Brokerage Directors take the lead on strategic planning, community-building, contracts, and engagement with State and local partners.
They are responsible for the effective operation of an In-Home Support Services Brokerage, including case management services, daily operations, community partnerships, financial oversight, team cohesion, and organizational structure.
These positions close on July 21st, 2021 at 5pm.
SPECIAL NOTE: If a "Director" position doesn't feel right for you, you might be interested in a "Personal Agent" position instead.
Learn more about Personal Agent positions here.
Thanks, Volume 2
We’d like to share some more stories from the storm.
One of UCP Oregon’s Supported Living Team Leaders, Codi Parmelee, did fantastic work, driving staff to and from shifts. Thanks, Codi!
A Personal Agent from UCP’s Brokerage, Jeff Gilbert, braved the storm with our technology consultant, Jeff Couttouw, to get our servers up, with assistance from the Brokerage Director, Sarah Noack. Thanks, guys!
And so many other folks worked extra hours and dealt with treacherous driving conditions. We are so grateful for every one of you. Thank you!
What does it look like when people who experience disabilities come together to form a movement? It looks like this!
UCP Is Growing!
UCP is pleased to announce that we’re growing—quite a bit!
Currently, UCP Connections (our support services brokerage department) supports 251 customers, but over the next few months, Connections will grow by almost 30%, with the end goal of supporting 326 customers.