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Sharing inspirational messages of hope and resilience

Public health emergencies, like COVID-19 (Coronavirus), can be stressful and challenging for families and communities. At Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, we believe it is important to promote positivity and a sense of calm as we navigate these unprecedented times together. One way we are doing this is by finding inspiration amid the uncertainty. 

We invite you to look below for videos, and excerpts from letters and emails, offering messages of hope, kindness and resilience from Devereux’s families, caregivers, employees and supporters as we strive to emerge safer, stronger and healthier than ever before. Please note we are withholding last names for privacy purposes.

Letters and testimonials

Look below to see what we are hearing from Devereux family members, caregivers and employees. 

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Recently, a parent whose son receives services through Devereux Florida’s Viera campus wrote a note to Child/Adolescent Therapist Petra Elliott, thanking her for the support she has provided. Look below to read the parent’s message of gratitude.

“She taught us how to cope, deal and understand our son’s needs. She is quite a blessing to our entire family.”

- Devereux Florida parent

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Devereux provides employees opportunities to learn and grow. Recently, Devereux Pocono Assistant Manager Andrea Lindsay shared how trainings, as well as support from colleagues, have helped her thrive. Look below to read her testimonial.

“I was hired in 2012 as a direct support professional (DSP), working hands-on for about three years with our individuals and staff. This was a rewarding experience that led me to becoming assistant manager, now going on seven years. The help of my very supportive manager, trainings, and, most importantly, simply loving what I do, made the transition very easy for me. Devereux Pocono supports staff and encourages growth - you just have to want it!”

- Andrea Lindsay, Devereux Pocono assistant manager

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Congratulations to students who recently graduated from the Devereux Center for Autism Research and Education Services (CARES).

CARES team members commended the five graduates and shared some of their many accomplishments.

  • Jake Carr: “Jake enjoys taking walks, with skipping or jumping always included,” the CARES team said. “We will miss his bright smile, gentle demeanor and the curious looks he gives others. After graduation, Jake’s family hopes to fill his daily schedule with a program that keeps him engaged and happy. It has been an honor to have him learning with us, and we wish him all the best in the future.” 
  • Graham Cox: “Graham’s favorite pastimes include engaging in sensory play, eating bananas and watching music videos performed by The Wiggles on repeat,” the CARES team shared. “We will remember Graham for his big smile, affectionate interactions with others and for always being himself. His family’s vision for him is that he remains happy and healthy, and lives as independently as possible. Graham will be missed by all of us at CARES.” 
  • Christopher D’Addario: “Christopher loves listening to music, drinking milkshakes, spending time outdoors and reviewing his calendars,” the CARES team noted. “Christopher is a skilled communicator, both verbally and while using his speech-generating device. He also is incredibly proficient at completing employment training tasks at school and in the community. Christopher has made exceptional progress, and we cannot wait to see what his future holds.” 
  • David Andrew Truitt: “Andrew is very social and has developed unique greetings and interactions with staff over the years,” the CARES team said. “Andrew loves participating in our talent shows, swimming, drawing and writing. He is always excited to participate in employment training and other types of outings in the community. We wish him well in this next stage in life.” 
  • Alexander Wickersham: “Alex is a happy, energetic and hard-working student who loves interacting with staff, as well as his classmates,” the CARES team shared. “Alex can often be seen competing daily living tasks at school, engaging in employment training opportunities in the community or watching his favorite videos on an iPad. He fills the room with his contagious laughter, and can be heard greeting everyone in the halls. We will miss Alex dearly, but know great things lie ahead.”

Look below to view photos of the 2022 CARES graduates.

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Graduation season is upon us - and we want to wish all of our 2022 graduates the very best. 

At Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services (CIDDS) Learning Center, 16 students will be graduating this month. Education Director Susan Nice, MSW, praised the students and discussed their achievements. Here is what she had to say about just a few of them. 

  • Michael: “Michael is always happy, and can be counted on to cheer you up and put a big smile on your face,” Nice said. “He enjoys coloring the most beautiful pictures always staying inside the lines. During his time at Devereux, Michael made many friends who will miss his smile and jokes.” 
  • Kevin: “Kevin comes to school every day with a big smile on his face, and he greets his friends and staff with an enthusiastic wave,” Nice shared. “He is a very friendly and outgoing young man. Kevin also is a hard worker who enjoys completing all of his tasks throughout the day. We are going to miss him, but are excited for his next chapter in life.” 
  • Kayla: “Kayla loves interacting with classmates and adults alike, and regularly provides compliments on others’ hair styles, clothing and accessories,” Nice noted. “Her caring nature is apparent by how quickly she praises everyone on their accomplishments, offers assistance and comforts them when they are upset. We are so honored to have been a part of her journey.” 
  • Andrew: “Andrew loves everything related to firefighters, construction vehicles, trucks and motorcycles,” Nice said. “He has a contagious laugh that makes everyone want to join in when they hear it. Andrew has a wealth of knowledge about a variety of topics, and readily shares that knowledge with his peers. We wish him all the best in the future.” 
  • Benjamin: “Benjamin has made tremendous progress while attending Devereux Pennsylvania’s CIDDS Learning Center,” Nice explained. “Initially, he only made requests using single words, but now, he is able to request items using complete sentences. Benjamin is a hard worker who loves participating in employment training activities - his favorite being the campus zoo. We will miss his big smile and enthusiasm.” 
  • Taree: “Taree is mindful to look presentable at all times. He enjoys participating in employment training activities, such as cafeteria work, cleaning and trash removal,” Nice shared. “Taree also likes spending time at the campus zoo, sitting and watching the animals. He knows his daily schedule by heart and will indicate when it is time for the next activity. He will be greatly missed.” 

Look below to view photos of some of the Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS Learning Center’s 2022 graduates.

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Congratulations to the class of 2022! 

Devereux centers across the country recently held graduation ceremonies to celebrate the achievements of their students. 

At Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Behavioral Health Services (CBHS) center, five students graduated from Brandywine and Mapleton schools, and shared their hopes and dreams for the future. 

Brandywine graduates: 

  • Luis Rivera: Luis prides himself in being known as a “car guy.” He will pursue employment at an auto shop. 
  • Ben Tashoff: Ben plans to attend SUNY Westchester Community College in the fall. 

Mapleton graduates: 

  • Michael “Tre” Earland III: Michael plans to enlist in the armed forces. 
  • “Lex” Maris: Lex hopes to join the workforce in the coming year, and then attend a four-year college. 
  • Dorothy Ryan: Dorothy is passionate about the culinary world, and wants to pursue a certificate in culinary arts. 

“We want to congratulate these students, and wish them well as they embark on the next chapter,” said Devereux Pennsylvania CBHS Executive Director Patricia Hillis-Clark, Psy.D. “Throughout their time at Devereux, they challenged themselves to do and be their very best. We are incredibly proud of their hard work and accomplishments, and cannot wait to see what the future holds.” 

Look below to view photos of Devereux Pennsylvania CBHS’ 2022 graduates.

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To pay tribute to a student, Zach, who passed away in November 2021 after a courageous battle with cancer, Devereux Connecticut -The Glenholme School recently launched the “The Kindness Project."

Each month, the school sets a theme - based on Zach’s “12 Rules for Life” - and recognizes a student who embodies that theme. Here are Zach’s rules.

Rule #12: When you get angry, put it behind you and get back to life. It should take about 20 minutes. Apologize if needed.
Rule #11: Smile, a lot. Tell jokes - good ones, bad ones. Laugh a lot.
Rule #10: Love and surround yourself with animals.
Rule #9: Stay busy doing lots of things. Find your passions and go deep. Learn everything you can, and then learn more.
Rule #8: Give back to others as much as you can. Help. Share. Volunteer.
Rule #7: When someone has cancer. Run toward them. Check on them. Don’t stop. Stay with them.
Rule #6: Sing if you want to sing.
Rule #5: Be like Zach. Keep moving forward.
Rule #4: Be compassionate and have empathy.
Rule #3: Move with urgency.
Rule #2: Grief gives you choices. Don’t let grief suffocate you. You can still be sad, but turn that grief into action.
Rule #1: Tell those you love that you love them. Hug them.

“Zach was kind, brave and resilient - an inspiration to many of our students and staff,” said Glenholme School Executive Director Noah Noyes. “We wanted to find a way to honor him. In addition to ‘The Kindness Project,’ we are naming our horse barn after Zach. The barn was his favorite place on campus - he loved riding and taking care of our hoses. We have even invited our students to help design a sign for the barn. Zach was a truly special student, and we want his memory to live on at Glenholme.”

Look below to view a photo of Glenholme students and staff wearing a T-shirt that says, “Be Like Zach.”

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The eighth annual “Face-Off for Autism” hockey tournament, recently held at Ice Line in West Chester, Pa., scored big, raising $14,000 for Devereux Pennsylvania’s Bridge Fund.

The Bridge Fund helps adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other disabilities - served by Devereux Pennsylvania’s Community Adult Autism Partnership Program (CAAPP) - bridge the gap between high school graduation and adult programming to ensure there is no lapse in service.

A total of 24 teams took to the ice for the tournament, which was hosted by Shinny USA. During the event, there also was an opportunity for those in attendance to listen to presentations by two adults - John Pagnoni and Scott Compton - who are enrolled in Devereux Pennsylvania’s CAAPP program. John and Scott discussed their accomplishments and how the CAAPP program has helped them thrive.

“This was our first ‘Face-Off for Autism’ hockey tournament since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are extremely grateful to our players, sponsors and volunteers for making it a tremendous success,” said Devereux Executive Director of Autism Services and event co-organizer Todd Harris, Ph.D. “All of the proceeds from this event benefit our Bridge Fund, which helps provide individualized services and supports for adults like John and Scott in Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties.”

Look below to view photos of the event, including photos of John (center) and Scott (right).

  
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A child welfare agency representative who works with Devereux Florida recently wrote a note to Therapist Merlaine Sivels, thanking her for helping to improve the lives of those she serves. Look below to read the agency representative’s inspirational message.

“I want you to know how amazing you are! All of our youth that have had the pleasure of working with you have come out for the better. You have an amazing relationship with each of the girls you work with - you are kind and compassionate, but more importantly, you are honest with them. You challenge them to be better and to see that they can improve in spite of their circumstances. You truly are one of my favorite therapists, and I do not say that lightly. Thank you for everything that you do. The world will be a better place because of you!”

 - Florida child welfare lead agency representative

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Devereux is committed to helping team members enhance their knowledge and abilities. Devereux Pocono Residential Manager Cassandra Jones recently shared how she has grown within the organization. Look below to read her professional development journey.

"I joined Devereux Pocono in 2007, starting out as a direct support professional in one of the personal care homes. At that time, I held another full-time job, and used all of my vacation time from that job to pick up extra shifts at Devereux Pocono. The managers of those homes gave me the opportunity to take on different responsibilities in their homes, from grocery shopping to completing the schedules to going to the Special Olympics. In 2008, I became team leader, and in 2009, I was promoted to residential manager. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to oversee and manage many homes. I enjoy what I do and the individuals in my care. At times, it can challenging. However, it also is rewarding and meaningful. Taking care of our individuals gives you a sense of worth. I have received the Supervisor Excellence Award twice. Working with a good team and leadership ensure that I want to continue my employment here at Devereux.”

 - Cassandra Jones, Devereux Pocono residential manager

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At Devereux, we remain committed to helping children, adolescents and adults of all abilities lead meaningful lives.

Recently, team members at Devereux New Jersey asked the individuals they serve what they want others to know about them and their disability. Look below to read just a few of their powerful responses.

“Our disabilities don’t keep us from getting or doing anything we want in life. I can communicate, work and get what I need.”
- Heather, Devereux New Jersey individual

“It’s a struggle, but we learn to live with it. We are still people trying to have a good life.”
- Ajanai, Devereux New Jersey individual

“We can have jobs, make our own money, have our own apartment.”
- Jimmy, Devereux New Jersey individual

“It is hard to live with a disability, but you can do it.”
- Asha, Devereux New Jersey individual

“I am very caring, polite and very friendly.”
- John, Devereux New Jersey individual

“We can do things like everybody else.”
- Jason, Devereux New Jersey individual

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At Devereux, we are grateful for our community partners who help us provide the best possible care and support for the individuals and families we serve.

Recently, one of Devereux Florida’s community partners shared feedback about working with the organization. Look below to read the motivational message.

“The impact that Devereux has on the life of others is wonderful. The energy of everyone I have spoken to from the organization is always so positive and empowering. A real inspiration!”
- Devereux Florida community partner

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Recently, Devereux TexasDiversity, Equity and Inclusion committee gathered testimonials from team members, as well as the individuals they serve, about what Black History Month means to them. Throughout the month, the DEI committee shared the testimonials with staff at the center’s Victoria campus.

Look below to read just a few of the messages.

“For me, Black history is to remember the way that it was, and to never forget. Also, to remember and respect those who came before - it’s better now because of them.”
- Della Brown, Devereux Texas team member

“It means our freedom - free speech, the ability to move freely and receive a better education. It exists to set standards for our children.”
- Lanell Garza, Devereux Texas team member

“It’s a celebration of what came before. It’s an opportunity for people of color to not dwell on their problems, but focus on what we have and how far we’ve come.”
- Arthur Peoples, Devereux Texas team member

“Black history means that when a strong people were given the worst, we overcame. We have achieved a lot of things. Our history has shown us that we can be anything we want to be.”
- Vanessa Edwards, Devereux Texas team member

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Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s Servant Leadership Champions and members of the center’s leadership team recently distributed more than 400 goodie bags containing snacks, candy, lip balm with a message that says, “You’re the balm,” a personalized thank you note created by art students, and other items to family and friends of employees.

“Our team members go above and beyond every day to help those in their care overcome challenges, learn new skills and thrive. We want to not only thank our remarkable and dedicated staff, but also those special people who support them at home and give them the strength and encouragement they need to give their all,” said Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island Executive Director Kerry Ann Goldsmith, M.A. “Our employees strive to make a difference in the lives of those they serve. We understand the commitment this takes from them, as well as their loved ones behind the scenes, empowering them to succeed.”

Look below to view photos of the goodie bags and thank you gifts.

  
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At Devereux, we place significant importance on professional development. Recently, Devereux Pocono People Operations Generalist Jessica Henkels shared how learning new skills has helped her further her career. Look below to read her testimonial.

“I was hired in 2015 as a part-time direct support professional for the day program. I consistently met with my supervisor to work on an individualized development plan, which included weekly check-ins to report on progress. I accepted additional duties; shadowed my supervisor periodically to learn new skills; and attended various meetings and trainings. I was promoted to People Operations assistant in 2016 and continued working on my development. I was again promoted in July 2020 to People Operations specialist and, most recently, to People Operations generalist in 2021.”

 - Jessica Henkels, Devereux Pocono People Operations generalist

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Recently, Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services (CIDDS) Philadelphia Foster Care Program Director Elizabeth Smith and Program Supervisor Devan Isabell shared a story of a resource parent support worker who plays a critical role in the success of foster youth and families every day. Look below to read their inspiring story.

“Resource Parent Support Worker Darnell Day has worked for Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS for more than 20 years and is always quick to respond to any foster care program need. Darnell develops strong relationships with his colleagues, the individuals he serves and his foster parents. He is always available for his foster parents. He even conducts extra safety checks and visits for those not on his caseload. And on at least two occasions, Darnell helped transport youth who were not on his caseload, to and from school.

In his previous role, Darnell was a foster parent trainer and managed several pre-service orientation classes. He continues to inspire foster parents every day to never give up and offers reminders that the youth are in care for a reason. Foster parents frequently say, ‘Mr. Day taught me that,’ referencing a specific skill for how to work with foster children/youth. Darnell has many, many stories to tell about our youth and families, and he plays a critical role in their success.”

 - Elizabeth Smith, Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS program director,
   and Devan Isabell, Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS program supervisor

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Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island Coordinator of Diagnostic Services and Clinical Training Rachel Schein recently shared a story of team members who went above and beyond to meet the needs of a transgender youth. Look below to read her story of hope.

“A 16-year-old transgender youth came to us from an out-of-state program, where ze struggled significantly. This individual was diagnosed with several challenges at zir previous placement, and zir parents were highly invested in treatment.

The youth was with us for just over a year and, during that time, participated in gender therapy, intensive family work and elements of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Ze also participated in comprehensive testing, yielding an appropriate diagnosis. During zir time at Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island, our team worked with the family to identify new providers in the Boston area to best meet the needs of the youth and family. Several transition sessions were conducted to ensure a smooth return to the community. Our clinical director was even able to identify a community provider who specializes in providing gender-affirming care and DBT!”
- Rachel Schein, Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island coordinator of diagnostic services and clinical training

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Devereux Pennsylvania’s Children’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services (CIDDS) Philadelphia Foster Care Program Supervisor Ursula Yau recently shared a story of a case coordinator who provided ongoing support and guidance to a foster parent who later adopted three teenage girls. Look below to read her story of resilience.

“Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS Case Coordinator Destinee Howell was assigned to work with a young foster parent, T., who wanted to foster teenage girls. However, teenage girls come with challenges, especially when many of them live in the same home.

Destinee did a wonderful job building a good rapport with T., who trusted Destinee and turned to her whenever she needed assistance. No matter the time of day or day of the week, Destinee answered calls from T., helping her through a crisis. T. said that without Destinee’s support and guidance, she would have given up, but Destinee helped her see she could overcome any challenge.

When T. decided to adopt three teenage girls, Destinee supported her throughout the adoption process. While the girls had occasional challenging behaviors, Destinee reminded T. not only of her own strengths, but of the girls’ strengths, and how to work together to solve issues. The adoption process was a success, and T. attributed a large part of that success to the support provided by Destinee to this new forever family.”
- Ursula Yau, Devereux Pennsylvania CIDDS program supervisor

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Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island Executive Director Kerry Ann Goldsmith, M.A., recently shared a story of team members who helped successfully place a 15-year-old boy in a foster home that was welcoming and affirming of his identity. Look below to read her story of resilience.

“A 15-year-old boy was admitted to Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s residential program for a diagnostic assessment following disruptions in more than one foster home. The reason: The youth had been placed with various foster parents, some of whom were religious and not affirming of his identity. He struggled to articulate his feelings and, as a result, engaged in challenging behaviors.

When the youth came to Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island, he had few permanent connections. But through work with his clinician and case manager, he reconnected with his biological sister and visits her regularly.

During his assessment and clinical sessions, he was able to pinpoint characteristics that were most important to him in a foster home; and he learned how to talk with potential families about what he needed. The youth was successfully discharged to an affirming foster home, and is currently doing very well, attending public school and maintaining ongoing contact with his sister.”
- Kerry Ann Goldsmith, Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island executive director

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Devereux Colorado recently unveiled a mural, located inside a residential building on campus, to inspire the girls who live there that the future is theirs to create.

The mural - titled “I was, I am, I will be” - was painted by Colorado artist Julio Mendoza and emphasizes the values of adventure, community, empowerment, health and hope. The mural features the images of a girl heading out on an adventure, a nurse, a grandmother and a girl graduating from school.

“We are thrilled with the mural - it is absolutely beautiful,” said Devereux Colorado Executive Administrator Bonnie Wright, MBA. “The artist began painting it in September, and it was completed two months later. The mural ties the whole building together. All of the colors used also are featured prominently in the bedrooms. We hope the mural is something the youth in our care will be able to relate to and embrace.”

Devereux Colorado Program Director Carolina Cambra also noted, “When our team members saw the mural for the first time, they were completely blown away. Art is a universal language that everyone can appreciate. The mural represents all of us. For the girls who live here, we are just a stop on their journey through life, and the artist captured that movement and change.”

Look below to view a photo of the mural.


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