Raising a child with developmental disabilities in its self is challenging and stressful. Facing the decision of residential placement can be heart wrenching. As a parent, you want what is best for your child. Having a child with extreme behavioral needs and finding an appropriate program that can support his needs is not an easy task. Having exhausted numerous facilities, we contacted Wood Services. Finally, we found a program that could support his needs and keep him safe while giving him a quality of life.
Staff has become family to not only our son, but to us as well. He is treated with love and respect. Never have we doubted the dedication of staff and administration. It pains me to read articles that try to paint a poor picture of Woods. Woods has been nothing short of being a safe, caring, welcoming, and transparent community for our family.
Mr. & Mrs. R. Finney
My name is Jagruti Patel. I & my husband have a 29 yr old son, who is non-verbal severely autistic with severe behavioural challenges & understanding of 2 yr old. He also has multiple other chronic medical issues & complex seizures activities.
He requires round the clock care, medical, behavioral & other interventions which Woods services provides, and has been providing since his admission there in July 2005. I or my husband visit him every week & are intimately involved in his care. From our experience he is professionally cared for & feel he is in the most optimal environment for his physical, mental & social well being.
He is our only child and has developed partial complex seizures when he was only six weeks old, since then his and our life has been on roller coaster. He is a happy child until he is in some medical distress when he has broken our glass windows, tv screen etc. When he reached puberty everything went haywire with multiple hospital and emergency room visits to the extent we had to call police at least once a month because of his behavioral challenges. We received no help from any place or anyone, therefore decided with very very heavy heart to place him in residential placement. We looked at few, finally after one and half years he was placed in Woods Services. This placement was then jeopardized with Return Home NJ which has totally wasted taxpayers money in gain for community group homes where none of the providers could take him.
Now at Woods he made his home and still needs very much of help with his daily routine and care and is doing much much better with his behavioral management, his numerous medical, dental care with anesthesia and hospitalizations with staff staying with him in the hospital. It is a tremendous favor for us as we are over 55 yrs old and aging and cannot get these kind of care in community group homes for sure. It’s not easy to deal with behaviorally challenged individuals as it seems to be as we have gone through, yet we have seen how caring and passionate those direct staff are.
Jagruti P. Patel
We were appalled and upset with the negative comments made by the Philadelphia Inquirer about Woods. Our son Michael has been at Woods for 25 years. He not only loves living at Woods, he has a very strong bond with many of the caregivers there. Michael is both medically and psychologically fragile. Among others, he has Lennox-Gastaut (a seizure disorder), seizure rages, esophageal paralysis and behavior problems where he can become violent and injure himself and those around him.
We find Woods to be the leader that far outshines any other facility that can care for our complex son. He is happy, thriving, growing and we as his parents can sleep at night knowing he has great care. We visit often and have never for a minute ever thought of moving him from Woods. Woods is a large facility with many clients and a high level of staff. No matter what place, organization, company, etc., things happen. Woods deals with any incident swiftly and follows through with appropriate action.
Families in desperate need of placement for a loved one will not find anything that comes close to what Woods has to offer. It is the BEST!
Kal & Shelly Hazer
Our brother lived the majority of his life at Woods Services. We could include many stories of the care and kindness he received during his 55 plus years at Woods, his home, during his lifetime but are moved to share a unique perspective since our brother passed away two years ago. He was severely mentally disabled from birth and our parents found Woods to be the best environment for him to live his most fulling life, safely and with the constant care that he required. Several years ago, after a lengthy stay at St. Mary’s hospital, he returned to Woods under hospice care. Due to the diligence of the staff, he was removed from hospice…unusual and a credit to the care and attention he received. A year later, he did become critically ill and was returned to the hospital. We received calls from his home staff and the nursing staff, at all hours of the day and night, keeping us updated. Thanks to Woods’ communication and, again, diligence, we were able to be at his hospital bedside when he passed (we live in Colorado and Virginia).
We challenge you to find equivalent professionalism and compassion in other facilities caring for our most vulnerable citizens. We will always hold Woods Services in our highest regard and continue to applaud and support their work.
-Peggy Supplee and Mary Ellen Yousefian
Our son has been placed at Woods Services for the past 17 years. He is now 35 years old, and was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 ½ years old. When he was a teenager, he became very difficult to manage. His behaviors were dangerous, and threatening, especially to his younger brother. We knew when he began attacking his brother, that we could no longer keep him at home with us. We ended up suing the school district to place him. We searched high and low looking for a facility that could handle his behaviors and also provide a loving environment. We also wanted a place that could enable him to reach his full potential in all aspects of his life. Woods was highly recommended by all the professionals that we dealt with when searching for an appropriate placement. A very thorough process was conducted to get into Woods Services. Interviews were conducted and his behaviors examined by Woods to ensure they could handle him.
For the past 17 years, he has been well cared for at Woods Services. He leads a full productive life that includes many supportive programs, such as a job with supervision and training, a home, full medical care, and various outings and recreation. We see him frequently and have never noticed anything that raised a red flag for us. We are able to call his immediate caregivers at the house that he shares with other autistic adults. Goals are discussed in regular team meetings.
His negative behaviors have decreased dramatically since he has been placed at Woods. The structured environment with very clear cut rules has helped him. He now lives a full life as any normal adult would with the support of Woods staff.
We have been impressed by the caring attitude of the Woods staff. We often drop in unannounced when in the area. It is always impressive to witness the patience that it takes to care for this population. While at Woods, he has been placed in various houses with different staff, and there have never been any issues with his care.
Thank you for listening,
-Sam & Cecilia Yip
My daughter Denise has been a very happy and healthy resident of Woods since 1978 (she will be 54 yrs old this June). My experience with Woods and the services they have provided Denise over the past 41 years have been nothing short of miraculous. When my late husband and I found Woods we had mixed emotions of sadness in letting her go but also being at our wits end in trying to cope with her at home and hoping that Woods would be able to help her.
Denise was born with hydrocephalus and had numerous shunt operations from the time she was 4 months old until she was 18. She was self abusive and had numerous behaviors or melt downs every day which were becoming more and more violent. She also had seizures due to the brain damage and had to be hospitalized for those and the shunt malfunctions that occurred over the years. When Denise first came to Woods she was having self-abusive behaviors such as biting her hand to the point of it being callused and banging her head and yelling and screaming. These episodes would last up to 45 minutes.
After being at Woods for a few years all the staff would have to do when they saw she was beginning to get upset was to tell her to count to ten which she did and it alleviated any further escalation of a “behavior”. This was done without any tranquilizers or other medications just using behavior modification and having every staff who dealt with her to be consistent with how they handled her. She began to thrive and works every day at The Woods Enterprise which is an on campus workshop where she does piece work. I am told she is a very hard worker and I know she loves the job. She likes telling us of the different packaging jobs she does. We visit her usually once every month and bring her home frequently but she always loves going back to her “other home” at Woods.The staff has been loving and supportive over the years. Some even taking her shopping or to get her nails and hair done on their own time, I might add. I couldn’t be more grateful that I managed to find Woods and that they have taken such good care of Denise over these 41 years.
-Pat Herold, Denise Herold’s Mom
My brain injured, non-verbal, I/DD daughter has been at Woods since our school district placed her in what they felt was the most appropriate setting for her when she was only 7 years old. At that time medical professionals, such as psychiatrists and some neurologists advised me to institutionalize her in a mental hospital as they considered her hopeless. Thank God that she was able to go to Woods!
- is now in her early 40’s and continues to make progress. She is still essentially non verbal, and is intellectually disabled, with significant behavioral issues which are exacerbated by her inability to be understood when she tries to talk.Throughout the years I have watched Woods develop treatment plans and programs as well as train and place caring, loving staff that made my daughter safe and comfortable. A. is part of a community that affords her the ability to have meaningful social interaction on campus and in the greater community. My daughter is absolutely thrilled to go to work every day at The Woods Enterprises facility on campus. This gives her a sense of accomplishment and self-worth that would be impossible for her to realize in a community job placement.
We were forced to look at community placement at a number of group homes during Return Home New Jersey. I can honestly say that there is no way that my child would have been safely cared for. They are not equipped to handle these types of clients due to staff training and ratio of staff to clients with no backup due to the isolation of these homes in the community. Community placement might be fine for some clients who have the capability to live there, but campus settings like Woods are essential to provide the best care for the clients they do serve. The public deserves the right to know the truth about Woods. Do you have the courage and conviction to do justice for those individuals like my daughter in your reporting.
I am the proud, involved parent of a client of Woods. My son has been receiving services; educational, medical, dental, emotional, recreational, physical therapy, occupational therapy, swimming, horseback riding , music art, community outings for over fifteen years at Woods. He is part of a community that involves everyone, from the most medically involved clients to the administration. The clients, staff , administration and parents are one. I salute them all! And so surely you can understand my dismay when I heard about the actions that may be taken and the subsequent reporting your paper may do. I am angered and saddened by the sensationalist culture of journalism and reporting in this world of ours. I feel it is reprehensible to report inaccuracies, try the organization as guilty, uproot the lives of clients and their phenomenal, caring and TRAINED staff. I would like to think that you will not fuel that flame with misguided and sensationalist pursuits. Do not publish anything that you deem may hurt the well being of all those that I applaud. Please hear my plea.
As I said, my son has been served by Woods for over fifteen years. I am local. I visit Woods weekly and bring my son home on weekends. My husband and I made the decision to have him attend Woods when he was fifteen years old. It was the hardest decision we ever made, but the best. He has accomplished things that I would never be able to teach him. He suffered from bacterial meningitis when he was just ten days old. He is a non verbal, non ambulatory, diapered, hydrocephalic man with an extreme seizure disorder. He is medically frail, but sweet, strong and a teacher!
At Woods, he received all the services that had become increasingly difficult for me. He is a big (six feet tall) young man. After doing extensive research and visiting schools that would meet his needs, I found Woods to be the 5 star of residential facilities. I was particularly impressed by the order, the compassion of staff, the cleanliness of the facilities and the lovely campus. The buildings are well cared for and the schools, day program facilities and medical and dental buildings put others in Philadelphia and the suburbs to shame. We pride ourselves on our medical facilities. Also, we are right down the road from St. Mary’s hospital. But if need be, an easy evacuation to Philadelphia’s finest hospitals.
On Sunday, I went to visit my son…unannounced (as is often the case). He was in his residence as he didn’t have his regular day-program being Sunday. I found all to be in exemplary order. I brought treats, said hi to staff and clients and spent a lovely spring afternoon outside with my son and his staff … getting fresh air, listening to the birds, singing, and listening for the the train that comes into Langhorne. It is the simple pleasures.
Just to be clear, Woods is a great place. And I will fight “tooth and nail” to preserve the reputation of Woods and its founder Mollie Woods and her mission.
My son Tyler cannot be managed in any type of group home setting due to his severe behaviors. When he was living in the group home system he was wrapped up in the 911 system every single day. The police, emergency room, staff and was even held in the county jail for 19 days as not one single group home provider would take him. His patient referral was put into the system and not one provider wanted to take on his behavior. Woods Services welcomed him with open arms and has made the biggest change I have ever seen in him.
Since he has been at Woods Services, my son is thriving. He is happy and healthy and does not have the behavioral issues that once plagued him daily. I can now take him out into the community by myself and his behavior remains great. With the amazing support services in place that Woods offers my son he has made a miraculous turnaround. His behavior is managed very nicely. He is on the correct medication and very small doses. I can’t say enough about what Woods has done for our family. We were in extreme distress prior to Woods and they have been absolutely wonderful with my son for years now. They have adequate staffing and employ people who know how to work with the developmentally disabled. They are caring and go the extra mile for the individuals they serve. Places like Woods set an example of what care should be. Community laws are not up to date with reference to the developmentally disabled. Much more needs to be done with reference to laws and updating the community system before putting people with significant disabilities in a community setting with very little supports.
Please feel free to reach out to me for an interview or any type of comment I would be happy to share my sons positive experience at woods with you. I would hope that you would tell two sides to the story as my son would not be able to live outside of jail if it were not for Woods.
To put a lifetime of chaos in the span of a few sentences, my son exhibited severe issues associated with autism, OCD, and epilepsy at a very early age and was diagnosed at 14 months. He is currently 23, and has been a resident at Woods for the past eight years. His autism came at a time when it was not a household word and he was thrown from program to program from his district’s public school, and to multiple private schools before being blessed with the opportunity to come to Woods. He was restrained in EVERY program for extensive periods of time due to his self-injurious and aggressive behaviors that are the result of a diagnosis that he did not ask for. A typical incident would have him engage in a difficult behavior and when it passed (from the onset of a seizure without convulsions, which many did not understand at first), my poor baby would look in his caretaker’s eyes and with great difficulty say “I’m sorry.” Is this the life you would want for your child?
He is kind, loving, and only wants to be welcomed in a world that doesn’t understand the complexity of his being, even those trained to be specialists. My husband and I recognized this early on, and both left our jobs so that we could work in this field and become “experts”. We started a non-profit and therefore are very active in programs all around our state. We researched what was out there, and time and time again we saw that Woods was going to be our son’s sanctuary in a world of chaos. To get there we had to claw our way through so many failed attempts for his happiness, and watch as others enjoy life with him pushed to the side. Then we received a glimpse of hope when he was accepted to Woods. Woods provided him with a chance to have everything that he needs on one campus, under one protected environment. This means everything to our son and our entire family that was crumbling from physical and emotional exhaustion.
Is Woods perfect, not by a long shot, but NO place that we have been involved in is. The main issue out there that seems to be pushed aside is that the people that we entrust our loved one care to cannot possibly understand EVERY person’s unique disability. Every person is culminated with a variety of issues and challenges that makes them who they are, and their caregivers simply do NOT get paid what they are worth.
Think about the challenges that you face in your day, now be handed someone that may not be able to communicate their needs and has cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs and you need to be able to speak for them, feed them, bathe them, and provide for them a chance to live a productive and rewarding life. They are minimally trained for the multitude of knowledge they need to know with every minute, and simply make a ridiculous salary. Do you have this type of responsibility for less than $12 an hour? Their supervisors are given tasks that take them away from training, development, and supervision, and things fall through the cracks. Is this acceptable, absolutely not, but when Denise DeCarlo states “it makes clear the heightened exposure of abuses at out-of-state facilities…” out-of-state is the least of your worries. This takes place, unfortunately, in EVERY program and not only for the disabled, but for the elderly and any at-risk individual wherever they may reside. They are only as safe as the staff that is with them at that given moment.
Again, this is something we understand because my husband and I gave up everything we had to support our son and others like him. It is quite difficult to make ends meet with such a minimal salary, yet we do it because we want the people we work with to foster independence, and feel they have something special to offer the world. Not everyone feels this way.
The focus of this article should not have been Woods Services. As a family that went to Trenton to fight again Return Home NJ we have shared our story many times. We have shared our plight to locate a program close to home to provide our son with the best chance to enjoy life. That journey continues to end with Woods Services. We are active on campus, and are picking our family up and moving closer to be even more instrumental in his development and that of those around him. This is the BEST scenario for our family and many others like ours as you may find out from researching our stories. Our wish is for the powers that be to continue to help provide the training, accountability, and opportunities for rewarding those that are making a difference in helping my son progress, rather than concentrating on ways to make the battle even harder for us.
My son is reading simple words, painting, going to the gym with peers, and is able to travel to his day program, café, or medical appointments. He is exposed to hundreds of staff members and clients that he knows by name and interacts with daily, enjoys dances, and so many experiences that he would NEVER be able to do if not exposed to this campus. He still has issues leaving the grounds, but because of Woods he never needs to. Everything for a rewarding life is right at his disposal. It is his and our home.
As we move into a time of Thanksgiving, we are so thankful for Woods, the staff members that we consider family, and the opportunity they have provided my family. It is not perfect, but it is our perfect and a watchful eye should be laid on ALL programs like this rather than concentrating on stories with just one. Thank you for your valuable time.
-Jani and Lenny Sblendorio
Our son has been a resident of Woods since 2001. We visit him at least two times a week and have never seen or been suspicious of abuse or neglect of him or any of the residents in his home. On the contrary our son and his housemates are happy, engaged in appropriate activities, and very well nurtured in a caring environment by highly qualified and trained staff.
There is no comparison of care between Woods and group homes. We should know because a few years ago during the Return Home NJ initiative, we were forced to visit multiple New Jersey group homes. The ratio of staff to residents was inadequate and the training of direct care staff, supervisors, and those authorized to administer medications was alarming. Fortunately, after a three year battle, my son remains at Woods but some families were not so lucky. They moved their loved ones from Woods to NJ group homes and now, after experiencing the reality, they are once again fighting the system to return their loved ones to Woods.
-Bob and Marcia Adams
For the first time since my grandson Justin was struck by an automobile back in ’93, I am comfortable and happy with the care he’s receiving. He has been shifted from different parts in the state of Pennsylvania every time my daughter moved. The last rehab he lived in he wasn’t watched, was able to roam around the grounds alone on a busy country road. I used to call daily complaining about the staff and how he was being treated but my complaints went nowhere. He was then transferred to another program, where he was taken advantage of by the staff who used his debit card for their own use, cigarettes, soda, anything they needed at Wawa.
In July of 2012, his mother died, she was in a nursing facility suffering from COPD, and I was the only family member who cared enough about him even though his sister and brother both lived nearby. I live in NJ, and couldn’t find anything suitable here for him. Then I learned about Beechwood, a program of Woods, and my prayers were answered. I packed him up and took him there and have been contented ever since. He’s happy with the care he’s receiving, loves his staff,and never complains about them. I attend the meetings, and take him out whenever I am up that way, for family functions, etc. I don’t know what I would do if he had to relocate again, and I worry about how he would handle it, too. Woods is his home now. I’m 79 years old and there’s no one else in the family who cares enough to take over when I’m gone.
Our son, 53, has resided at Woods since 1993. It has been a godsend for our family, especially our son, Nicky, who has experienced more of life because of his care at Woods than he probably would have if he lived with his parents.
Nicky was born blind and is profoundly retarded, but – according to him – he is a celebrity. We got that from him on his last visit with us on October 17. As far as we can tell, he has received superb care – physically, emotionally, and medically. We are getting up there in age and we’re not able to provide the attention we used to because it has become too physically demanding.
Our 21-year old daughter has severe developmental delays and extensive medical needs. She is non-verbal, fed with a feeding tube, on a strict ketogenic diet and needs help with everything she does. When we could no longer care for her at home, we spent a grueling year searching for a program to fit her complicated behavioral and medical needs with no success. When we found Woods, it was a miracle. She has 24-hour nursing care, an ABA school program, physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and recreational activities in the community. Most of all, she has loving and attentive staff who go above and beyond. She is safe, healthy, and happy. Respect, dignity and compassion are what we see as pervasive at Woods.
-Beth and Roger Angrick
I am Guardian for my 60+ year old male relative that I will refer to as “B” and he has been a resident in your care since 1976. B has received, and continues to receive the highest possible level of care I know of. His day-to-day life is filled with joy, consideration, and extraordinary privilege. In all the years he has been at Woods I have never had any issue with his caregivers. They are highly trained, dedicated, skilled, intuitive, sensitive, and patient beyond saints. I know them because they are career employees that are the family that B has spent his life with. Some of them have been with Woods almost as long as B and I have. They come in early and stay late and are more “in tune” with B’s needs than he is. B suffers from extensive brain damage from a car crash in 1973. This has left him with severe mood disorders, lack of comprehension, anxiety, confusion, agitation and often times a serious aggression issue. He is technically “incapacitated.” These caregivers respond to him with nothing but compassion and concern for his wellbeing. Even when I become frustrated with B, the caregivers say to me “he can’t help it”. B wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the vigilant care and monitoring by these devoted caregivers. They do a great job of keeping him from harming himself and others. The staff are masters of managing prickly personalities and conflicts on a minute to minute basis.
During hurricane Sandy, I knew of employees leaving their loved ones to get to work and be with B and the others at his house. This is their typical level of commitment. Employees sleep in chairs or on the floor to be available to do double shifts when there are bad weather forecasts. They also come in on their days off to bring B gifts (which they purchase with their own funds) on his birthday and holidays. These are very generous people. They comfort B when he’s confused, teach him games, do crafts with him, decorate his room, have sing-a-longs and dance parties, and in general, do whatever they can to keep him happy. The people that do the driving and the food prep and the building maintenance and security and therapists and nurses are also supremely dedicated to serving the clients, and suffer hardships to assure that B and his housemates are getting what they need. Often times, B will have to go to the hospital for a seizure disorder and a staff person is always in the ambulance to speak for him and in the hospital room with him, even if it means the staff have to unexpectedly adjust their schedules and work overtime. B would have died years ago from many different health occurrences if it weren’t for the skills and fast actions of these talented caregivers.
I’m at the stage in life where friends and family have loved ones in assisted living. I live three states away from Woods and people sometimes ask why I don’t move B closer to me. When I tell them the level of care that B receives they are amazed with it. Woods is his loving home and I would not want to disrupt his happiness, superior quality of life, and wellbeing. I don’t give warning as to when I’m visiting. I have never found B to be unattended, uncared for or in anyway or unhappy with his life at Woods. I have never seen any client that wasn’t being cared for. (I remember one time I was visiting and B’s suitemate had defecated in his bed and caregiver “E.D.” was managing a serious mess while breezily telling the client it was no problem.) They handle daily issues like this with a smile. B is always clean and groomed and has access to whatever he might need.
Sometimes I am able to drive B from his house for an outing. When I bring him back and he sees where we are going he shouts out “that’s my house, everyone there is MY friend!” He yells out “you’re my best friend” to each caregiver he sees. B has never indicated displeasure with any caregiver, or staff member. Woods Services is his home and we appreciate that you fine people can give him the extraordinary quality of life that you provide.. They give their clients every opportunity to live a fullfilled life.
Thank you for all that you wonderful people do everyday for my loved one. I look forward to many future years of your outstanding caregiving. I am forever grateful for the life you have given B. When he was first admitted he didn’t understand words and was uncoordinated. Today he has many life skills and can express himself, and often times he is expressing joy with being in your care. Please feel free to use/share this letter anyway you feel that it would be beneficial. It’s my intention that employees know that they are deeply appreciated.