The more that the church gets into the lives of people with disabilities, particularly those with more severe disabilities who live in residential settings, a variety of things could happen. The first thing is that churches could bump up against the perceived regulations covering these facilities, get frustrated with their lack of access and then give up. From my experience, that is something that could happen. Community members who endeavor to form relationships with people under the care of the state are not always welcomed with open arms. If one is allowed access, there is a feeling that you are up to something no good. There is also a worry about what you might see and to whom you might reveal what you have seen.
We had a situation once where there was something a bit disconcerting which occurred at a home. We didn't say anything to anyone, but somehow word got out about it and the agency which regulated the group home confronted them about what had happened. The owner of the group home accused us of telling the regulating agency about them and for the next almost year, residents were not permitted to go to church. As I relate in the Sherlock Holmes post the folks who lived in the home, once again they were people with quite severe intellectual disabilities were taught the phrase, "We are taking a break from church." So, you bump up against human services and they restrict church attendance of their residents.
So the second lesson is that we need to be serious about our desire to include people in relationships and then be persistent in attempting to facilitate the changes needed for residents to experience community integration. We are moving from being complicit in large scale social isolation to wanting to facilitate true community integration. No wonder our motives might be questioned. We have not been interested in those folks for a very long time and our change in interest can be misunderstood. So we need to be at homes, regularly, so that we can become known. As prove we are trustworthy, we can then move toward social integration via relationships with real, unpaid, community members.
Perhaps a third lesson if we are unsuccessful in our efforts is to work in some areas of human services ourselves. That is, perhaps we can develop homes people can live in. I know Christian parents who are desperately looking for Christian alternatives where there is the freedom to attend church. Perhaps we can facilitate vocational training and placement with businesses represented by the people who attend church. Perhaps we can facilitate opportunities for service for persons who are friendly and would make great companions but end up either at home all day or in adult day care settings where their lives might be wasted. In a future posting I will describe efforts I am pursuing to develop a certificate in Christian service for adults with disabilities. But rather than relying exclusively on government programs, perhaps we might develop better programs to both serve our community and reflect a Christian perspective.
There are more avenues which might be pursued. Let's keep thinking. Things as they are are not great. There is much room for innovative thinking and the offering of alternatives which could be significantly better for all.