How the House Next Door Became a Mission

Having a child with Down Syndrome, I realized early on that her opportunities would be much more limited than my other typical children. But even I was unprepared for the lack of opportunity she would have as an adult. When she graduated from school there was, literally, nothing of any quality for her to do.  No higher education, no trade schools, no jobs, no extensions of higher learning of any kind to build on the foundation we had worked hard to establish. We tried a few things; having a garage sale for her to work at regularly, she also volunteered washing dishes at a senior center nearby but it was a lot of work for no pay.

So, we decided to start our own program in 2010. We were sure we couldn’t be the only people in this situation. And as it turned out, we were correct.

We had a house that we had built for her right next door to us so we decided to start the program there. She named it “Dutton Farm” and it took off!  We now serve close to 100 “farmers” (the title we give to all the participants).

There is now inclusion in school and better medical care for our children and now it’s time to improve the quality of life for adults with disabilities. We have created a great model that does just that.

At Dutton Farm, we firmly believe that every person has the right to equal opportunities, meaningful work, and a right to make their own decisions.  We are committed to advocating and assisting individuals with unique abilities to live full and satisfying lives and to reach their ultimate potential in achieving their dreams.  We work with school districts, private employers, and state agencies and other community resources to offer the highest quality and most individualistic plan to meet the individual where they are at and assisting them to get where they want to go.  There are 5 steps that we offer to individuals enrolled in our program.  Each person enrolls initially in our skill building program, and after a certain time frame and thorough assessments are able to make the decision to move through skill building assistance, job training, Dutton Farm employment, job coaching/supported employment, and independent employment with natural supports, if they choose.

For more information visit our website at www.duttonfarm.org.

Michele Smither

Dutton Farm is a non-profit organization in Oakland County that serves individuals with mental, physical, and emotional impairments. Staff are friends (no really) and work is meaningful. Our purpose is to positively impact the lives of our participants through partnership, dignity, and contentment. We provide an array of activities that foster self-belief and satisfaction. Our Community Integration Program and our Dutton Farm Market offer employment opportunities to people of all abilities. Here on the farm, we believe in the endless potential and worth of every human being and their ability to lead productive and fulfilling lives.

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