A group of nearly 20 people are gathered around a banner that says “Lori Stephens for 41 Years of Service” and “A+” on it. They are standing inside a room in front of windows. The people are smiling.
Lori Stephens, center, is surrounded by staff from DSHS’ Developmental Disabilities Administration and holding a banner during her retirement party on Nov. 30. She most recently served as a quality assurance development specialist for DSHS DDA’s State Operated Community Residential program.

She once fought to save an institution, but leaves a legacy that’s about community and choice

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DSHS DDA leader Lori Stephens retires after 41-year career

Contact: Lisa Pemberton, DSHS Communications, 360–902–7844

Lori Stephens retired Nov. 30 from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services’ Developmental Disabilities Administration.
She most recently served as a quality assurance development specialist for DDA’s State Operated Community Residential program.

DDA Deputy Assistant Secretary Kris Pederson has worked with Lori for many years and described her as a “servant leader” who has strived for excellence in her work.

“She has always been a dedicated employee with a can-do and no-nonsense personality,” Pederson said. “…She has always shown up to support her teams where and when they needed it.”

In 1982, Lori began as a direct support professional for residents at Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton, which had opened a decade earlier as an institution for children with autism.

“My favorite thing was seeing the clients I supported learn and grow,” Lori said. “When you’ve done something to help them it always was a really good feeling.”

In 2008, she moved over to Kitsap Field Service Office, where she worked as a case resource manager until 2013.

What’s changed during her 41-year career?

“I’ve changed,” Lori said.

A smiling woman with blonde hair and glasses wearing a white sweater over a floral top is standing next to a large retirement sign with her name, Lori Stephens and 41 years of service. There is also an A+ sign.
Lori said watching people experience the benefits of freedom outside of an institution made an impact on her.

The Legislature directed DSHS to close Frances Haddon Morgan Center in 2011 and transition the 52 people who lived there into other settings. It wasn’t a plan Lori agreed with, and she worked with the union to try to keep it open.

“The clients (at Frances Haddon) were very challenging, and I didn’t see at the time how they could be supported in the community,” she recalled.

In 2013, Lori took a management position in the State Operated Living Alternative program for Kitsap and Pierce counties, where 15 Frances Haddon Morgan Center residents had moved. Watching them experience the benefits of freedom outside of an institution made an impact on her. Some of the residents who required extra supervision due to behavioral issues at the institution flourished with more independence in the community. She saw behavioral issues go away, residents obtain and hold full-time jobs and become completely different people.

“I got to see them grow in ways that were pretty amazing,” Lori said. “…Something that I couldn’t see possible was possible. It’s the transforming lives — I got to see someone’s life transform. Actually, I’ve seen that many times.”

A large chocolate sheet cake with chocolate roses and the words “Congratulations Lori — You have changed lives, time to live yours” in orange icing.
Lori’s retirement cake included the message, “Congratulations Lori — You have changed lives, time to live yours.”
Lori talks about the State Operated Community Residential Program in this video.

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