Schippel House Provides Opportunities for Youth with Developmental Delays

Rachelle Dunahee is the Program Manager at Schippel House, a therapeutic residential home in Salem, Il. for youth with special needs, specifically those with developmental delays who are low-functioning and on the autism spectrum. There, she works with youth to help make them as independent as possible and integrate them into the community.

Meet Rachelle

Rachelle’s background in special needs education uniquely situated her to work at Schippel House, especially after having worked with Hoyleton Youth & Family Services’ summer program as a teacher for six years. She decided to make the transition from education to residential care after she realized she could combine her love of teaching youth with special needs with her love of leading teams.

As Program Manager, Rachelle is responsible for overseeing staffing, programming, community engagement, service plans and making sure that everyone is working toward the goals set for youth to address the unique challenges presented by their developmental delays.

Meeting Goals

These goals differ for every youth as their unique disabilities affect their independence in different ways. Some youth have goals as simple as picking up their toys or organizing their room. Other youth have more complex goals related to socialization. It all depends on where their developmental abilities are and what the care team at Schippel House deems appropriate.

One goal for the whole of Schippel House is to keep clients’ families involved. Because of the nature of their needs, youth require 24-hour care and can’t stay at their families’ homes. However, that doesn’t mean families are cut out of the picture. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rachelle and her team hosted “family days” where youth and their families could participate in group activities, meals and even have photos taken.

“A lot of my staff, even if they weren’t working, would bring their families to these days,” says Rachelle. “And the families of clients themselves have made connections with other families and created a support network, which is important.”

School and Community Engagement

That support network doesn’t end with the family units. It extends into their schools where Schippel House staff work with special needs educators and administrators to mutually work toward students’ goals, making sure their goals at home and school align. One of these goals is community integration, which takes place in school but also in the greater Salem community.

“Our youth are out and about every day,” says Rachelle. “They struggle with social cues and social settings, but depending on the severity of their developmental delay, if they’re willing and able, we get them as involved as we can. I will say the community has always been extremely supportive of us. Even our neighbors, they’ll come visit when we’re outside playing, and if they feel like maybe something is wrong, they’ve called and checked in. All of our neighbors have been understanding and welcoming of us.”

When asked how her job has affected her personally, Rachelle explained that she sees her work as a calling.

“I have a God-given ability to work with these types of kids, and I have a really unique understanding for them. When family members let you know that what you’re doing matters and that they trust their child is safe, growing and learning, that is huge.”

To learn more about Schippel house and the amazing work they do to support youth with developmental delays, visit

How One Foster Family Is Making a Difference in the Life of a Youth With Disabilities

Hoyleton Youth and Family Services provides specialized resources and support during extenuating circumstances. Nicole and Nick Nolte quickly became aware of these opportunities when they were contacted by DCFS regarding a friend’s daughter, Ariana, who at the age of 11 was placed in protective custody and admitted to Cardinal Glennon Hospital suffering from signs of severe neglect.

The Noltes were referred to Hoyleton Youth and Family Services and formed a plan to bring Ariana home. Getting home would be a long transition and require planning as Ariana suffers from cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, epilepsy and neuromuscular scoliosis. She requires constant care and assistance as she is non-weight bearing, has a G-tube for feeding and cannot use words to communicate.

The foster care staff at Hoyleton were specialized case workers who utilized relationships with other agencies to ensure Ariana had all the necessary medical equipment to be home with her foster parents in a safe environment. She received specialized bedding and a wheelchair, and case workers guided Nicole and Nick through financial services and other necessary paperwork.

Cortney Walker, the Hoyleton Staff Nurse, provided feedback and talked through several scenarios with Nicole during difficult situations. Cortney’s knowledge of specialized services and her caring attitude were a comfort to Nicole. She became a medical advocate for the family and provided resources to make certain Nicole and Nick had the techniques, medication and equipment they needed to manage Ariana’s health. According to Nicole, “Cortney became my sounding board for feedback and helped through some trying times.”

With the support of Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, Nicole and Nick gave Ariana a fuller life. After three days of being home with them, Ariana showed emotion for the first time in their care. Whether a smile, frown or tear, they knew in their hearts there was a purpose to making a difference in Ariana’s life. She was formally adopted on January 9, 2020, and became a part of their blended family. The Noltes didn't stop there; they recently adopted Ariana’s three siblings and became a family of eight. Three of the six children have a passion to help others and aspire to pursue careers in social work.

Hoyleton is truly blessed to have families like the Noltes who have a passion to help others. To learn more about our foster care program, visit

Hoyleton | Engaging Youth in a Time of Crisis


The world has spent most of this year learning to live in a new normal. Mollie Dale, Program Manager at Hoyleton’s Koelling Cottage, is experiencing exactly that. Every day Mollie works with children on the autism spectrum and must find ways to deliver educational changes that do not hinder their growth and ability to develop life skills.

Koelling cottage is home to 10 boys between the ages of 13 and 21, all who have moderate developmental delays. “These kids thrive on schedules, so any kind of change in their schedule can be difficult,” she says. “When COVID hit, we really had to make the best of it and be as consistent as we could be as we found a new normal routine for them.”

Schools in for the summer

Koelling is one of five cottages located on the main Hoyleton Campus. Like the other cottages, it is set up to provide the children with life skills training, access to ongoing education and the opportunity to develop social skills with their peers. 

A typical day for the children included getting up, attending to personal hygiene, cleaning up their rooms, heading off to school and interacting during social time back on campus. The schooling part of the day now takes place entirely at the cottage. “The schools will send packets to us, and we’ll help instruct the classroom assignments each day,” explains Mollie. “Then they end the afternoon with free time to do activities either inside or outside.”

One of the biggest challenges has been the limited socializing among the boys. Typically the children across the five cottages could interact with each other during campus-wide games and activities. “They have lost some of those close connections,” says Mollie. “But we also know that we need to take this seriously and keep taking precautions for the health of the residents and staff.”

New ways to stay engaged and active

In the past, the staff at Koelling would also take the kids out to go shopping or see a movie. Each received a small allowance and enjoyed getting away from campus. Now they have to stay safe and find ways to entertain themselves in or around the cottage grounds. Thus far, keeping the boys close to home has kept everyone safe with no COVID cases being reported. 

“Our staff has been outstanding with coming up with creative activities to keep the boys engaged,” says Mollie. “Whether it’s making tie-dye shirts or spin art, we do our best to keep things fun and active around here.”

Like most young boys, the staff works to burn off as much of their energy as they can. “One night we decided to turn on some YouTube videos of different dances to see if we could do them,” says Mollie. “The boys had so much fun that it became a weekly dance party!”


As the staff comes up with new ideas for activities, sometimes there is a delay before they can do them. “WIth the need to maintain the staff to youth ratio onsite, we can’t just run out to the store at a moment’s notice notice,” explains Mollie. :But again, the staff is great and will volunteer to get things to bring in the next day for us.”

A surprise donation to lift up spirits

Mollie was surprised one day when an anonymous donor reached out and wanted to lift up the spirits of the boys. They wanted to provide a picnic and some fun for everyone, so Mollie was told to get on Amazon and order what she needed. 

“Since we can’t go to a waterpark or pool, I asked if I could get a giant tarp,” she says. “We created our own slip and slide, which was the big hit of the summer.” Along with the supplies came a gift card for a fried chicken dinner and matching shirts for the boys and staff. “We are really big into matching shirts,” says Mollie. “They seem to bring everyone closer together.”

Moving forward in the new normal

As COVID precautions continue, Mollie and team continue to keep things in perspective. “We really have learned not to take everything so seriously,” she says. The team takes things one day at a time and are thankful for a group of kids that are resilient and understanding. “If you stopped by and didn’t know any differently, you wouldn’t think anything was going on,” says Mollie. “That’s a testament to the kids and this great staff.”

How you can help

When asked how people can help, Mollie was quick to respond. They are always looking for activities to keep everyone entertained and busy, whether it’s games, DVDs, crayons, party favors or any other types of indoor activities, especially as winter approaches. 

“We truly appreciate our partners and donors for all they have done to help these children, especially this year,” Mollie says. “It’s that type of support that allows us to see the boys thrive and continue to grow with their life skills here at the cottage. Hoyleton supporters are giving them futures they deserve.”

To learn more about Residential Care and how you can help, please visit: