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Bridging the gap

When Steven Oill saw a job advertisement for a family support services coordinator at Community Human Services in Glenville, he was immediately intrigued. \One of the top requirements was you had to be the parent of a kid with a disability, Oill said. "So I thought 'I qualify for that, what else do they do?' and it was things that I'd already been doing at my son's old pre-school."

Before working at CHS, Oill worked at St. Catherine's Center for Children in Albany. He had run group homes, been a supervisor at the shelters and said he "really enjoyed it."

CHS works to "provide or facilitate services for families and individuals, including education, counseling, referral or other support, by bringing together professional staff, volunteers and broad community support," according to its mission statement.

"Support and advocacy are big," said Oill. He said advocates are typically thought of as the people who act as the "bulldog in the situation."

"At CHS, we believe (in doing) the opposite of that," he said.

Oill helps families get to know the law. Regulations, he said, are accessible to anyone.

CHS holds individual and group meetings every week, even if they have to be done over the phone.

"We help parents network with other parents who are having the same concerns," said Oill. "When you realize you're not alone, it's very comforting."

The hard part for parents is that having a child with a disability is an emotional issue, Oill said. Because of that, Oill works with the parents to "really get in tune with their emotions" before meetings with their child's school.

CHS is certified, through Saratoga County Family Support Services, to provide parents with emotional support through support groups. Right now, CHS has two support groups, but Oill said he helps parents find groups specific to their needs, if the ones offered don't suffice. If he can't find a group that exists, he will try to help the parents create a group, even if it's just two parents.

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