Editor’s note: This month the Herald is featuring a series of stories on the Holiday Wish Lists of Mid-Columbia nonprofits and how you can help. Nominate nonprofits by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with attention to Holiday Wish List. Please include the name and mission of the nonprofit, contact information and a few specific needs.
More than half of the families whose children receive services from the Children’s Developmental Center in Richland live below the federal poverty line.
That means Medicaid and other forms of assistance often pay for their physical or speech therapists to visit their home or for the special education teachers they work with, said Diane Turney, the center’s development director.
But that money has its limits and sometimes students need more sessions or more intensive help. And that’s where donations to the center comes in to play.
“If the child is still in need, we’re still going to work with that child,” Turney said.
The center is near the intersection of Highway 240 and Columbia Center Boulevard. Its staff works with about 700 children, from newborns to 3-year-olds, in Benton and Franklin counties who have developmental delays and challenges. Care providers also take classes and the center has expanded to other areas, such as autism evaluations and incontinence services for children, all for children older than 3.
Initially built to be the place where most children would receive treatment, federal law now requires the center and its staff work with 90 percent of its clients in their “natural environment,” typically their home or day care. No money is provided to cover the expense of home visits, which costs tens of thousands of dollars in gas.
“That’s a huge business model change,” Turney said.
The center has an annual budget of about $1.4 million, much of it coming from school districts, insurance companies and the United Way. About a quarter of the center’s funding comes from donations and fundraisers and pays for everything from office supplies to items used in treatment and therapy.
Donations of gas cards and office supplies help the center to dedicate more money to treating kids, Turney said. However, interactive toys for children 3 years old and younger, hand puppets with movable mouths and scholarships to help cover treatment costs also go far in helping hundreds of kids.
“We don’t want to turn children away just because their insurance was used up,” Turney said.