You wouldn't think the Kenai Peninsula Borough's seventh-largest employer would have a hard time getting recognized, but according to Frontier Community Services Executive Director Ken Duff, many people still aren't quite sure what his organization does.
"People are always asking what we do," Duff said Wednesday at the weekly luncheon meeting of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce.
"We serve people in this community with disabilities," he said. "We serve people literally from birth to death."
With approximately 400 full- and part-time employees, FCS provides a wide variety of programs for people with special needs. Duff said the group's main goal is to keep people at home and in the community, where they can have the greatest chance of living a high-quality lifestyle.
"People do better in their homes and in their communities rather than institutional settings," he said.
Additionally, by providing services that keep people out of institutions, Duff said FCS reduces the cost to society as a whole.
"It's cheaper," he said.
Duff said some of the programs FCS provides include such things as early intervention programs for young children, in-home care for adults with disabilities, transportation for senior citizens and job training programs to help people get on their feet. He said the group even has a program to help people with disabilities start a business.
"Some of our folks have real talent and just need support and help in developing their own businesses," he said.
As an organization, Frontier serves more than 300 people on the peninsula. And that number is growing all the time, as new clients are brought into the program, Duff said.
One of the most basic ways Frontier gets involved in people's lives is through the group's early intervention program. Early intervention program coordinator Amanda Faulkner said this program is designed to recognize problems in children at an early age in order to provide the most comprehensive care possible.
"Our target population are the infants and toddlers," she said.
Frontier offers free developmental screenings for anyone who wants to have their child evaluated. Following an initial cognitive screening, Faulkner said children can then go though a comprehensive assessment process with a therapist. Following the assessment, FCS will then develop an individualized plan for the child.
This plan includes work that can be done for the individual child as well as the child's family. This way, she said, the people closest to the child become most involved with the development plan.
"We really want to support the whole family," she said. "The parents are the primary teachers of the children."
Once the plan is in place, Faulkner said Frontier will work with the child and its family until the age of 36 months, at which time the child can move into the group's preschool program.
During the early childhood and preschool programs, the most important thing is to keep children excited about learning, said Frontier educator Linda LeVeque. That's why a heavy emphasis is placed on games and play time that develop individual language and motor skills.
"Play really is a child's work and that is really how they learn," LeVeque said.
Faulkner stressed that the screenings for children are free and open to anyone who wishes to have their child evaluated.
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