Frequently Asked Questions

Who can participate in your programs?

AbilityFirst offers programs for adults and children with disabilities and special needs services to participants. Our children’s programs are geared toward boys and girls of school age, from 5-22 years old. Our adult programs are intended for women and men of at least 18 years of age, with no upper age limit.

What types of programs and special needs services do you offer?

AbilityFirst provides a broad range of recreational, socialization and employment programs for children and adults with disabilities for children and adults. We also operate 12 accessible residential housing complexes.

How do I apply?

To apply for an AbilityFirst special needs program, call or e-mail the community center or work center that offers the program that interests you. Click on locations for a complete list of our facilities and contact information. The center will schedule an initial meeting with you, and help you through the application and enrollment process.

What is the enrollment process?

Enrollment is easy! It begins with what we call an “intake interview” meeting that allows us to get to know you, and help identify the programs for adults and children with disabilities we offer that might be suitable for you or your family member. You will be asked to fill out an application, and our staff will follow-up with you to clarify information on the application.

What happens if there is no space for me in your program?

Some AbilityFirst programs are so popular that we do not have the capacity to enroll everyone who is interested. If this is the case with a program that interests you, be sure to ask the center staff to put you on the program’s waiting list.

Will Regional Center pay?

Most AbilityFirst programs for adults and children with disabilities qualify for funding by Regional Center and our staff will work with you to request Regional Center funding. For some programs, Regional Center may require you to pay a portion of the cost. If you are denied funding by Regional Center, you can still enroll with AbilityFirst and pay for the program directly. Regional Center no longer funds camp but scholarships are available based on financial need.

Do you have a pool?

Three AbilityFirst community centers have heated indoor pools that are open year-round. These include Long Beach, Claremont and the Joan and Harry A. Mier Center in Inglewood. In addition, the outdoor pool at the Lawrence L. Frank Center in Pasadena opens seasonally.

How do I know if my family member is appropriate for your program, and which program is the most appropriate for him/her?

During the intake interview, which is the first step in the enrollment process, AbilityFirst staff will help to guide you through the wide range of high quality programs we offer for adults and children. Our dedicated staff is trained to help families select the right program to meet the unique needs and interests of each individual child or adult.

Why should I pick your special needs program for my family member?

The most important reason to select any program for adults and children with disabilities is because you believe it is the very best place for your family member to have his or her individual needs met. AbilityFirst is confident that the quality and variety of programs and services we offer is second to none. We have been honored with numerous awards and commendations. AbilityFirst is accredited by CARF and the American Camping Association.  Another important consideration for some families is the continuity of age-appropriate programs AbilityFirst can provide -- beginning in childhood and continuing throughout an adult’s life. In addition, we maintain a staff-to-participant ratio of no more than 1:5, and under special circumstances we can offer a 1:1 ratio, which enables us to meet a variety of individual needs.

Can I volunteer for a special needs program?

Yes! All of our AbilityFirst community centers and work centers encourage and appreciate volunteer involvement. To become a volunteer, you will need to complete a volunteer application and attend an orientation at the center where you will be volunteering. To get started, click on Locations to decide where you would like to volunteer, then call or email that center’s director to let him or her know you are interested. The center director will be delighted to hear from you, and eager to work with you.

What are the qualifications of AbilityFirst staff?

AbilityFirst sets high standards for our employees. Staff must have the personal attributes, previous work experience and education that are needed to work effectively with children and adults with disabilities. They must also be committed to working in an environment that respects diversity and values the contribution of each individual.

We are also committed to providing thorough staff training to ensure quality programs and services for adults and children with disabilities. This training covers topics ranging from behavior management and person-centered planning, to certification in CPR, first aid, lifesaving, water safety, as appropriate.

Because the safety and well-being of the participants in our special needs programs is our top priority, our Human Resources department also undertakes an extensive screening process prior to hiring. This includes checking references, fingerprinting and performing a criminal background check, and drug testing.

Are you a licensed program for adults and children with disabilities?

Our afterschool programs, adult day programs and group homes are licensed by the Department of Social Services.

Where are your programs located?

AbilityFirst offers programs for adults and children with disabilities throughout Southern California. To see if we have a facility near you, click here.

Do you provide transportation?

AbilityFirst does provide transportation in connection with program activities, such as day trips. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide transportation for participants between their home and the AbilityFirst locations where programs take place. Families may be able to obtain assistance with transportation from Regional Center or their school district.