Sunday, January 04, 2009
Over the Christmas holiday, Kathi and I did some shopping and bought a bunch of gifts for friends of ours who live in a couple of local group homes. The one home I visit regularly, the second not as frequently. Anyway, we went by the first home, getting there at around 6:00 PM, and imagine our surprise when we were greeted by two workers who told us that all the men who lived there were already in bed, asleep. That implies that they were in bed for the night at 5:30 I would guess. We were quite surprised by this. Why do 30-50 year old adults go to bed at 5:30 PM?
I am sure that I do not need to supply an answer to this question. I am not sure what time they get up in the morning, I would assume very early, but it certainly seems a strange schedule to keep. Where do adults with severe intellectual disabilities learn to keep a schedule that is different from 99% of the adult world, and different I would have to suspect from any schedule they had while they were growing up?
I also have to say that the group home is a good one. The directors are very caring people, I believe, who generally have the best in mind for their clients.
One of the benefits of church involvement in the lives of persons with severe disabilities is that you get to see what goes on in group homes that typically no one would see other than those who run residential settings or check for compliance. The extra set of eyes cannot help but ensure that things are as they should be. I will often look to see that their possessions are still there and have not disappeared. I am interested in how they are treated and what freedoms they enjoy in their lives. By developing a relationship with those in charge, I can develop the right to ask questions about care. For example, because of involvement in the group home I have had over the last few years, I will be asking about the going to bed at 6:00 PM. Now I do not expect that anything will change...it is not normal, but it is not abusive and the residents seem to be happy people.
But presence can do a great deal should abuse be occurring in a residential facility. It is a simple thing that a church/disability ministry can do in the name of social justice. You are looking out for those who haven't the ability to protect themselves and wouldn't know what to do if they were experiencing some form of abuse.
But 6:00 PM also shows something else about the lives of persons with disabilities and the power of service providers wield over them. Therapy is power whether it is delivered in a hospital or in a group home. Lives are managed for the ease of the managers not to facilitate the freedom of the managed. Remember that if you are a person who works in human services. I always tell the wide eyed, idealistic teachers that I train that far too many educational decisions are made on the basis of administrative convenience not on the basis of pedagogy. It is just a fact. I don't like it, but it is a fact. I, however, encourage my teachers to fight for pedagogical decision making, particularly when they have tenure...we also always discuss what is worth loosing your job over when you buck administrative decision making on the basis of convenience. That is fighting for social justice. You won't be celebrated by those you are inconveniencing, and you will get the reputation of being a pain, but you will be able to live out the passion that motivated you to get into human services in the first place.
It should also be a part of the motivation which gets you into disability ministry. Why do you think that ministry to persons with disabilities has been so long in coming? Does decision making on the basis of administrative convenience also apply to the Christian church? Unfortunately it too often does.