Since our humble beginnings in a Sunday school room at a local church with four participants, Forward Journey has expanded into two locations that support over 40 adults and their families.
A growing need for young adults with disabilities
Before opening our doors in 2006, there were no programs in Delaware to support young adults with multiple, severe disabilities as they transitioned from school to adult life. After turning 21, they became ineligible for services through the public school system, and existing adult day centers weren’t equipped or staffed to manage their specialized care.
The quality of life for these young adults suffered without the positive stimulation of an engaging environment. Mobility and daily living skills began to deteriorate. Equally troubling, aging parents struggled to manage the significant demands of full-time caregiving, particularly as people with severe disabilities were living longer due to improved healthcare.
Committed parents led the way forward
Parents in Delaware wanted more for their adult children. They were driven by the belief that every life has equal value, and that every person should have access to resources and support to reach their full potential. With the advancement of assistive technology and breakthroughs in special education methodologies, there was no reason adults with complex disabilities should be without an enriching day program.
In 1997, a group of parents and disability professionals began to network with legislators, educators, and members of the community to imagine what a solution might look like. This kickstarted a nine-year process of pooling resources, researching best practices, and building a viable nonprofit to fill this critical gap in services.
To emphasize our goal of creating a smooth passage to adulthood for participants, the new organization was called Collaborative Effort to Reinforce Transition Success (C.E.R.T.S.).
The journey continues
Since opening, C.E.R.T.S. has moved its New Castle County location three times to accommodate increasing admissions and opened a second location in Kent County, which will also relocate soon. Our long-term goal is to have a location in Sussex County, so all adults in Delaware with multiple, severe disabilities can access our services.
In 2022, our organization replaced its original name with Forward Journey to better reflect who we serve and our purpose for supporting these individuals. The clarity from our rebranding process will help us to clearly communicate what we offer and reach more potential participants. With continued support from our local community, we are confident that our vision to reach all Delawareans will be realized!
Forward Journey Timeline
The first multi-agency meeting was held to discuss areas of need and potential programming. Attendees included Easter Seals, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Mary Campbell Center, The Arc of Delaware, United Cerebral Palsy, Colonial School District, legislators, parents, and educators.
The newly formed committee adopted a Vision Statement to outline the smooth transition of students with multiple, severe disabilities from school to a post-age 21 program.
1999 – 2002|Research
Committee members performed a nationwide search on post-age 21 programs and collected data on their operations and staffing. They also began considering possible locations, investigated the process to acquire non-profit status, and developed foundation relationships.
2003 – 2005|Staff and Board
With its formal non-profit status in place, the committee selected its Board of Directors and hired the first Executive Director.
2006|First Location Opened in New Castle County
C.E.R.T.S. opened its first location at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd as a certified provider of day habilitation services for the Delaware Division of Developmental Disabilities Services. We had four participants upon opening, and grew to eight within one year.
2007|New Castle County Location Moved to Larger Space
Due to the immediate growth, we moved the program to a larger space at 13 Independence Way in Newark.
C.E.R.T.S. became the first MOVE® for Adults Model Site in Delaware (and only the third worldwide).
2011|New Castle County Location Moved to Larger Space
Continued growth necessitated another move, this time to 1501 Casho Mill Road, Newark. C.E.R.T.S. had grown to 26 participants.
The Board of Directors voted to expand the mission of C.E.R.T.S. to include adults of all ages who are able to participate in an active, movement-oriented day program.
2013|Second Location Opened in Kent County
To reach more eligible participants in Delaware, we opened our second site at 699 South Carter Road in Smyrna.
2020|New Castle County Location Moved to Larger Space
Once again, we needed more space to accommodate growing admissions in New Castle. We moved to 52 Reads Way in New Castle.
2022|New Name and Logo
To better reflect our organization’s mission, programming, and participants, we changed our organization’s name from C.E.R.T.S. to Forward Journey and developed a logo that represents a positive path forward.