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Finding the Right Fit
Although accessing services for a loved one with autism can be a challenge, the process is made easier thanks to the knowledgeable and compassionate admissions team at Bancroft.

by Matt Cosentino

Local families seeking care options for a loved one with autism often don’t know where to turn or how to begin the process.  A groundbreaking organization with more than 140 years of service and a stellar reputation in South Jersey is an excellent place to start.

Established in Haddonfield in the late 1800s and now headquartered in Cherry Hill, Bancroft offers a continuum of care for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities and neurological impairments. Its various programs include everything from special education and pediatric residential services to adult day programs and adult residential services, along with outpatient programs such as neurological rehabilitation, diagnostic assessments and severe behavior treatment. Bancroft is located throughout Camden, Burlington, Ocean, Union and Middlesex counties. There are adult programs located in Delaware and Pennsylvania, too.

No matter where a family may be on the journey, determining the right path can be challenging. But with a call to Bancroft’s admissions team, not only do they get a chance to speak to a knowledgeable expert right away, but they will also be met with compassion and patience to ease their concerns.

“Many loved ones are looking for a program that their child or adult can be safe in,” says Joy Furgiuele, director of admissions at Bancroft. “They’re looking for an opportunity for the individual to have a fulfilling life and to be cared for, free from abuse and free from neglect. Often a family is concerned because they may have explored other options that their child or adult hasn’t been accepted to because the behavior has been too intense, and they’ve been unsuccessful in locating the right fit for them. Hopefully we can be that right fit for them.”

That opening call typically lasts anywhere from five to 45 minutes. Each case is unique, and it’s important for Bancroft’s admissions team to fully understand the circumstances to suggest the appropriate option for the individual. After asking a series of questions and acquiring the necessary paperwork, the process usually moves to an assessment phase featuring members of Bancroft’s clinical, residential, day program and school staff. Families are encouraged to tour facilities or homes before making a decision.

“Parents reach out to us at any stage in their journey,” Furgiuele says. “We hear from families who have a 2-year-old at home who just went to the pediatrician and found out they’re not hitting their milestones appropriately, and we may talk to them about testing and diagnostic services that we can offer. We hear from families whose children are enrolled in school and the local school district is just not meeting that individual’s needs, and they’ve been told to find out-of-district placement.

“We may hear from families who are looking for residential services for their children; they’re just at the point where maybe the aggressive behavior or the non-compliance they’re seeing at home is too disruptive and they’re not able to continue in the place they are. We’ve even heard from families who were pregnant and they knew something was wrong and they wanted to know what they should do next, before the child was even born. I think the community definitely sees Bancroft as a resource.”

For school-aged individuals with autism, Bancroft often encourages the family to get its local school district involved, in order to see if any in-district services are available or if the district may want to make a referral for school services. Down the line, when individuals age out of the school services at 21 years old, it can be a scary time for parents. Often parents are worried about who may care for their child after they can no longer care for them or start to think about how their child is going to be cared for after they pass.

“There are things you’re naturally entitled to by nature of being a child. When you move into the adult world, you’re no longer entitled to some of the same things,” Furgiuele says. “Some people will call that stage ‘the 21-year-old cliff.’ The services look different when someone is an adult. We still try to work with the family and determine specifically what they may need, whether it’s a day program, a residential group home or a supported apartment setting. We’re going to work with that individual family and try to identify the best possible option for them.”

After 13 years at Bancroft and 30 in the field, providing that direction for families never grows old for Furgiuele, along with the eight staff members on her team.

“It’s a really rewarding job,” she says. “The family feels very relieved once they hear from someone and they feel like they have a place for their loved one, where the loved one can fit in. They often feel like a burden has been lifted off them. This can be a complicated and stressful process, and we understand that. We try very hard to support not only the individual, but also the family that is going through it.”


Mount Laurel
(800) 774-5516

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Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 20, Issue 12 (March 2023)

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