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Tolulope “Tolu” is a 20-year-old woman who is very friendly, smiles frequently, loves going to Six Flags amusement park, and listening to music. She resides in Prince George’s County with her mother, father, and three sisters. Unfortunately, when Tolu was two years old, she fell 25 feet off a balcony into concrete, and she was on life support for nine days with little chance of survival. According to her mother, who is her representative in the Community First Choice program (CFO), Tolu was an incredibly happy child before her accident with no developmental delays. However, later, Tolu became physically aggressive toward family members, significantly decreasing her development. She could not cook, clean, or bathe without assistance and could not be left alone. Tolu also required support with verbal communication. 

Tolu’s family was struggling financially. The cost of private nurses and continuous care was daunting. Due to Tolu’s frequent doctor’s appointments, her mother struggled to maintain consistent employment. When Shalaya was assigned Tolu’s case, her mother expressed her current state of being; she was in dire need of support and extremely overwhelmed. Shalaya assured her she would do everything she could to help her secure support for Tolu – and she did!   “One of the greatest aspects about working with Tolu is learning about her as a person and what brings her happiness,” said SCI Supports Planner Shalaya. “I learned that Tolu loves being outside and interacting with others; however, during the summer, she becomes depressed due to not having the social interactions she is accustomed to while in school.” To address this, Shalaya located several summer camps for individuals with disabilities so that Tolu could continue her social engagement and focus on her mental health. She also provided emotional support to Tolu and her family when Tolu was about to lose her informal support while her Plan of Service was pending. “I advocated for an urgent review of her plan to ensure she received help. I maintained open lines of communication so that Tolu and her family knew of eligible services. I aided with creating task schedules and locating personal care agencies. I constantly followed up with Tolu’s representative to request needed documents for her Plan of Service submission. I ensured that Tolu was included in all aspects of the process.” Shalaya was determined to show Tolu and her family that she cared about Tolu as a person. “My goal was to focus on her strengths so that she would always feel safe, heard, and empowered to ask for what she needed to the best of her ability,” said Shalaya.   

Since obtaining personal care services, Tolu has been less aggressive with her family. She has support with bathing, meal preparation, and healthy meal choices, which has already resulted in Tolu living a healthier, more independent lifestyle. Tolu’s mother is incredibly pleased with Tolu’s progress. “The hours were life-changing! I literally fell on the floor crying, thinking about how Tolu could finally receive the help she needed! The help we all need! This program has given us so much hope. I would recommend it to anyone who needs it! I wish I had found this program sooner,” she exclaimed. When asked about her hopes and goals for Tolu, her mother stated, “I want Tolu to live a normal life. I want her to get married, have kids, and be independent. I believe that she will eventually obtain those things with the help of her family, her caregiver, and the Community First Choice Program.”   

Shalaya reflects on her time with Tolu by saying, “Tolu is an amazing example of how the Community First Choice (CFC) program and SCI’s help to positively impact not only the people we serve but their loved ones as well. One of the best things about being a Supports Planner is equipping participants with the tools they need to not only survive but thrive; Tolu is certainly thriving.”