2014 Annual Report Highlights
The 5% Campaign – a coalition of 130 Minnesota disability and older adult service organizations, including Lutheran Social Service – advocated for and received a 5 percent rate increase for home and community-based services during the 2014 legislative session. That increase means that an estimated $84 million can be put to use across Minnesota to reduce employee turnover, improve quality care and help people remain independent in their homes and active in their communities. For LSS, that meant that nearly all of the $1.7 million received by LSS could be put toward pay increases for employees in Disability Services and Older Adult Services.
A celebration was held at the Capitol in June, bringing together all those who’d helped achieve the rate increase. At the event, grassroots champions – including our own Judy Andersen, Joyce Hagen and Marti Kinnunen – were recognized with awards for their tireless advocacy on behalf of older adults and people with disabilities. Upon receiving her reward, Marti Kinnunen said, “The recognition is nice, but what’s important is that we are able to continue providing people with disabilities and older adults the high-quality, individualized supports they need to be vibrant members of their communities.” Well said!
Our commitment to “My Life, My Choices” has taken a significant step forward with the creation of the Altair ACO (Accountable Care Organization). Headed up by George Klauser, with LSS serving as the fiscal agent, six of the leading providers of services are joining forces with a physician group specializing in care for people with disabilities to create a new collaborative model aimed at changing service delivery. In addition to LSS, the collaborative includes Hammer Residences, LifeWorks Services, Living Well Disability Services, Mount Olivet Rolling Acres, Opportunity Partners and Bluestone Physician Services. Together, they already provide support to more than 5,300 individuals living with developmental disabilities in our communities.
We have forged a commitment to learn from and listen to the people we support and to share the best practices of what each partner is known for. This continuum of services ensures that all aspects of a ‘person-centered plan,’ including their residential setting, real employment in the community and health and wellness services are discussed with the individual and their trusted partners. Our commitment to the state of Minnesota is to ensure that our continuum of services stays directly pointed at achieving an individual’s person-centered plan.
Our expectation is that, going forward, we would receive a share of the savings that result from savings in service delivery. We are not aware of another model like it in the United States, and our efforts to innovate and collaborate are being recognized with funding support from various sources. Our first actions, each led by the partner with the recognized leadership in the area, are focused on the full implementation of person-centered planning and the integration of health and wellness practices in our support of the people we serve.
Claiming Your Place at the Fire
We set out to bring our Abundant Aging design to life, and we’ve started by engaging our congregations. With the help of religious education specialist, Marilyn Sharpe, we’ve created a packet that includes a book study called Claiming Your Place at the Fire. The study is based on the book of the same name by Richard Leider and David Shapiro and integrates our Abundant Aging principles. Marilyn has also created a litany that can serve as an initiation into elderhood for those who complete the study and choose to claim their places as elders in our congregations. An implementation guide and the Abundant Aging design complete the set. View and download the Abundant Aging guide.
One congregation has chosen to bring together congregational elders and confirmation youth to go through the study guide together, and the pastor wrote that he “cannot say enough about how beneficial this material has been to both the adults and teenagers.” They’ve been working through the six-week guide this fall, and are already asking questions about how this will continue and grow. This pastor is “contemplating what we can do to build on the relationships that have been established and continue empowering the older and younger members of our congregation as they face important choices in the years to come.” We love these stories and can’t wait to hear more of them!
Center for Changing Lives Duluth
Our commitment to build the Center of Changing Lives in Duluth remains strong, as does our campaign activity. We continue to focus on private philanthropy as we explore our options for public funding as part of the total $10.5 million project. In the meantime, our services remain focused on their crucial work in the community.
A new design for youth in Minnesota, which we are calling “Not Even One Night”, is coming together through collaboration with Catholic Charities, the Wilder Foundation, the State of Minnesota, the Pohlad Foundation, and the Greater Twin Cities United Way. As we add the new ideas we are developing to the ideas for the Center in Duluth, we can begin to see the possibility of ending homelessness for youth in Duluth. To help raise awareness amongst congregations about youth homelessness, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has partnered with Luther Seminary professors to create a five-week "Not Even One Night" Bible study.
Children’s Home Affiliation
LSS' affiliation with the Children’s Home Society went deeper as we have now consolidated our financial results as well as our adoption operations. We celebrated the 125th Anniversary of Children’s Home and kicked off the 150th Anniversary of LSS by hosting the “State’s Largest Family Reunion” in September – 1,600 people joined us to celebrate the 46,000 children who have found families through the work of our two organizations over the past 275 years of combined service.
Touchstone Award for LSS Disaster Services
LSS Disaster Services was recognized with a Touchstone Award for Generosity by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation on October 28, 2014. Chosen from among the more than 150 grants provided to the community by the Foundation in 2012, LSS Disaster Services received the award for helping hundreds of area residents rebuild their homes and recover emotionally from the Northland’s 2012 flash flood that covered seven counties. Our disaster response and Camp Noah team provided case management for 800 people, helped rebuild eight homes, and organized several Camp Noah programs to help affected children heal emotionally. Read the full story on WDIO News website.
A Conversation on Open Adoption Records
The adoption records of parents who placed children for adoption before 1977 have remained closed for decades in Minnesota. Every year for the past decade or so, legislation has been introduced to repeal the closure. Each has either failed to get a hearing, or been met with fierce opposition. To date, there hasn’t been a bill we felt we could support. Now, with the combined years of service, expertise and perspective held by LSS Adoption and Children’s Home, we believed we had the opportunity to take a leadership role in moving this conversation forward in a way that would respect how deeply complex and personal this issue is for adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, and the families that love and surround them.
We have engaged the Citizens League to convene a diverse set of stakeholders to examine all sides of the issue, and to determine if a consensus position can be reached. That work is currently underway, and we hope that a positive outcome will result in both good public policy, and a humane, compassionate approach to enacting it.
LSS Employee Engagement
The main reason employees say they work here is the deeply meaningful work that we’re blessed to do and the relationships they have with the people we support and serve. We’ve had rich conversations among employees, talking about why we work here and what we can do to make LSS a more “Alive Workplace.”
We’ve made creating an “Alive Workplace” at LSS part of our One-Year Plan. We will work toward that goal through meaningful work, great managers, skill development, health, financial fitness, margin, balance and fun, while sharing as many financial resources as possible with our employees. Some initiatives already underway:
- Automatic enrollment in our defined contribution plan, or 403b, with an opt-out option.
- Budget for a 2 percent average merit increase for all employees.
- Short-term emergency cash loan program offered through Sunrise Banks.
- Continued advocacy for rate increases from the state aimed at improving wages.
- Dozens of wellness programs for employees.
- Healthier food at meetings.
- Walking groups and “mindfulness” groups have formed.
- A new manager training program to be initiated early in 2015.