Abilities First,
Chief Program Officer

Poughkeepsie, NY


Founded in 1962, Abilities First is a $34M not-for-profit organization located in Poughkeepsie, NY works to provide people with disabilities and their families support to attain independence, self-determination, integration and acceptance by others through education, exploration and experience.

Abilities First has had a long-term commitment to providing a cohesive culture of compassion, empowerment and respect for people with a variety of disabilities through educational, vocational and habilitation services. It presently serves over 1,200 children and adults throughout the Hudson Valley region of New York State.

The programs and services provided by Abilities First are comprehensive in scope, meeting the needs of people of all ages with a wide range of disabilities. Rehabilitation, education, employment, vocational and residential support and services are provided by professional and caring staff who make it their goal to allow each individual to meet their full potential. The values-based approach incorporates, at its core, communication, dignity, excellence, independence, integrity, leadership and safety. These values are woven into the fabric of everyday life at Abilities First, and are, without question, the key to its overall success.

Abilities First Universal Pre-Kindergarten, Abilities First Preschool, and Abilities First School
Abilities First offers full-day integrated Pre-K at no charge to families. The Special Education Preschool provides a range of educational services year round to children ages 3-5 with developmental disabilities. Our School age program provides a unique, warm, accepting educational experience for students ages 5-21 with moderate to severe disabilities at sites in Cornwall, Poughkeepsie and satellite classrooms in the Red Hook School District.

Social Work and Service Coordination
By working together with our broader community, our Social Work and Service Coordination staff assists program participants in obtaining an education, engaging in available and appropriate therapies, find meaningful work and live to their fullest potential. We also provide counseling and support for families and caregivers.

Community Habilitation
Community Habilitation offers one-on-one service to children and adults with disabilities who live at home with their families or independently in the community. A variety of respite programs for caregivers are also available.

Residential Services and Housing
Residential opportunities range from supervised living settings with around the clock staffing for people who require a high level of specialized care to supportive apartment sites for individuals who are more self-sufficient, and uncertified housing options for people who are nearly independent.

Day Habilitation
Operating out of nine community neighborhood centers, our Day Habilitation program provides customized services that focus on developing social behaviors, communication skills, personal and health care competency and other daily living skills.

Employment Services
Abilities First can offer a vocational plan and a variety of work-related settings that will provide fulfillment to people with a broad range of disabilities. Through our School to Work program, our onsite supervised workshop, supported employment in the community, work enclaves, volunteer services and individual job placements, we have developed a range of support that encompasses opportunities at every level. Each has the power to build on the special abilities of our program participants and provide them with the chance to earn money or participate in a work environment that results in much greater self-confidence and overall life success.

Recovery Services
Abilities First offers one of the only Substance Use Outpatient Clinics for people with developmental challenges in New York State. The Outpatient Clinic uses the traditional 12-step model that is adjusted in order to benefit people with developmental challenges who are struggling with alcohol or other substance use.

For more information about Abilities First, please visit their website at www.abilitiesfirstny.org.


The Chief Program Officer oversees 8 departments within the organization, with approximately 500 staff. Those departments are: Preschool, School, Social Work and Service Coordination, At Home Services, Residential Services and Housing, Adult Day Services, Employment and Recovery Services.

A newly restructured position within the organization, the CPO will be a member of the senior leadership team and act as the central figure directing Abilities Firsts programmatic portfolio ensuring excellence, innovation and sustainability. The CPO will provide the creativity, authority, management and implementation necessary to ensure that the organization has the mission focused programming, partnerships and services to meet near-term and strategic objectives. Further, the successful candidate will understand, reflect and uphold Abilities Firsts core values of a person-centered approach to services.

In addition to ensuring the effectiveness of existing programs, the CPO will be expected to possess an entrepreneurial mindset to grow programs or develop new opportunities. S/he will be tasked with turning ideas into action. As part of the leadership team, the CPO will contribute to an agency culture of collaboration to partner with other team members in the strengthening and creation of new programs.



Leadership and Management
- Lead and manage programmatic operations and ensure that the expectations of stakeholders (consumers, community, students, funders, and staff) are met

- Lead a high performance team that is mission-focused, collaborative and constantly striving to improve its services

- Communicate a compelling vision based on the organizations mission

- Develop a team-based environment for staff, providing for development, collaboration and well informed decision-making; fostering a supportive work environment in which to thrive

- Provide expertise and advice to staff in order to facilitate collaboration and partnerships with multiple stakeholders


Program Development
- Design, implement and continually improve Abilities Firsts programming model using evidence-based best practices

- Use evaluative approaches to oversee the integration and evaluation of its programs

- Bring a creative problem-solving approach to program management while ensuring that the necessary planning is undertaken for smooth programmatic operations and expansion

- Establish program goals with a corresponding comprehensive dashboard, to be shared and utilized organization wide for tracking results, successes and opportunities for adjustments

- Ensure that programs and services contribute to and reflect the organizations mission, core values and priorities


Strategic Plan Implementation
- Ensure successful focus and implementation of Abilities Firsts strategic plan that support the organizations mission and goals, monitoring progress, partnerships and innovations.

- Monitor emerging community needs, network trends and changes in legislation, recommending appropriate changes in strategy to ensure that Abilities Firsts strategic advantage and ability to serve the community are maintained


Fundraising and Development
- Partner with the Chief Advancement Officer to develop public and private sector fundraising plans to ensure funding for existing and planned programs

- Develop and maintain relationships with funders, contract managers and other stakeholders as needed


Financial Management
- Work closely with Chief Financial and Administrative Officer to ensure the financial viability and sustainability of all programs

- Develop and monitor annual program budgets

- Use logic models for developing new programs, recommending new opportunities, and evaluating outcomes


Ideal Candidate Profile
The ideal candidate will be a strategic, vibrant senior executive with a proven track record of leadership experience in a complex environment. The CPO must be a creative, resourceful thinker who has the ability to create innovative solutions to mission related challenges.

Specifically, the success profile of this candidate will include:
- Demonstrated experience in leading teams to produce successful outcomes at a large nonprofit organization

- A record of achievement as an innovator with hands-on program experience, ideally in similar or related sector

- Experience in soliciting, negotiating, and managing government contracts

- A highly effective and skilled communicator; a good listener; actively seeks opinions of others in decision-making; consultative; able to inspire confidence and trust

- Ability to motivate and inspire others

- Ability to balance a creative approach with the need to develop and follow a plan

- Recognized as a developer of people, someone who cultivates teamwork as a fundamental organizational practice

- Strong emotional intelligence to be able to handle pressure and respond to needs of others under pressure

- Seven to ten years' experience

- Advanced degree preferred


David Hinsley Cheng, Managing Partner
Sarah Waldbott, Associate

Please submit a resume and cover letter
Email: AbilitiesFirst@drgnyc.com
Fax: 212-983-1687

This search began in August 2017 and is currently active. This position description is based upon material provided by Abilities First, an equal opportunity employer.