Since its founding in 2007, The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation has awarded over 250 grants to organizations that promote innovation, service excellence and a commitment to finding innovative ways to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, individuals with brain and spinal cord injury and youth facing emotional, behavioral and other challenges and their families. This is a snapshot of the amazing work The Foundation has supported since its founding—and will continue to support in the coming years.
Technology to Fuel Innovation
Since the Foundation was launched in 2007, we have taken a special interest in boosting technologies that educate and enhance people’s lives. One of the first technology projects funded by The Foundation was the University of Minnesota’s multimedia site—disabilityhistorywiki.org—detailing the history of leadership in the field of developmental disabilities. In addition to featuring important historic milestones, the site—which is a living archive—allows people to contribute their own personal experiences, stories and other archive-worthy materials.
In rural Virginia, The Foundation discovered another innovative use of technology for people recovering from brain injuries. In the southwestern part of the state, The Foundation funded a highly interactive internet-based networking program called CLiC. CLiC offers social and rehabilitative services through a group facilitator. Survivors connect with one another, share stories and even pick up valuable vocational skills.
Connection—fostering it across ability, age and other circumstances—is the electric current that runs through many of the services and programs The Foundation has chosen to partner with. We’ve provided Community Partner grants to organizations that are connecting children with special needs to horses that provide therapeutic riding and physical therapy; Best Buddies programs from coast-to-coast connecting individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities with mentors; and organizations like Strong Women, Strong Girls, connecting girls who are at risk with role models who nurture them through the adolescent years.
We have also focused on initiatives that enhance the human services delivery system as a whole and strive to cultivate the next generation of leaders in the field of developmental disabilities. In 2009, The Foundation created the MENTOR Leadership Fellows Program through the University of Delaware’s National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities. In all, 32 rising stars from private, public and nonprofit organizations across the country attended a week-long intensive institute at the University. MENTOR Fellows connected with their colleagues and national experts to develop leadership and management skills and expand their network of professional contacts.
Enhancing Services through Data
Foster care professionals are always looking for new and better ways to run their programs and stretch scarce public dollars. The Foundation approached scholars at Boston University’s School of Social Work with an idea: create an online guide to foster care and therapeutic foster care programs in all fifty states similar to the landmark Braddock Report, a printed version that began in the 1970s for those serving people with developmental disabilities. This 50-State CHARTBOOK on Foster Care—the first research project funded by The Foundation—provides administrators and providers in every child welfare sector with access to a deep well of information about programs, best practices and innovations across state lines.