Monday, July 06, 2015

Is community integration understood by those charged with facilitating it?

The title of this posting is the title of an article I just submitted for publication by one of my students and I. We surveyed group homes in SoCal regarding the community integration activities they were involved in. Many things were listed by the homes. We then asked if the home had ever been cited by the State of California for not providing community integration activities. In every case, the answer was "No." So we then looked at what both the local group home and the State of California would deem as "community integration activities" based upon what was reported.

I will not reveal the details of the article until it is hopefully published, however, I will say that those charged with providing community integration opportunities have no idea what community integration is. Additionally, because the State has not called them on the lack of community integration being provided as well, apparently the State doesn't know or perhaps care either. I wonder what groups like Disability Rights California think about this problem? I once had the opportunity to chat with several leaders in their organization, and I think that the upshot was that they were not interested in this problem. They almost seemed fearful of what I told them.

As I have reiterated over and over in this blog, community integration is NOT something that state agencies appear to be interested in. They appear to think that community integration is one group home at a party with another group home. Or one sheltered workshop having an outing with another sheltered workshop. No where are there non regulated, community agents, other adults who are either not paid to be with the "clients" or who are not "clients" themselves involved in the mix. One can only conclude that this is the way the State of California, the Department of Developmental Services and their agents want it to be. Clearly if they were interested in something different, they would be pursuing something different, rewarding something different and evaluating their vendors on a set of criteria that they would NOT meet if there were evaluated on those criteria today.  What might those criteria be? Perhaps how they would answer questions like,
How many of your clients have real relationships with people in the community?
How many people in the lives of clients are paid to be with them and how many are not?
Of those not paid to be with them, what percentage are people with disabilities themselves, who are also under the same socially limiting constraints!
Where would you go in the community to find opportunities for friendships and relationships?

My first response to these questions is that those charged with facilitating community integration do not know the answers to those questions. 

My second response is that those charged with facilitating community integration do not want to know the answer to those questions. 

My third response is that if one of the answers to facilitating the kinds of integration they give lip service to was through local churches, they would be unwilling to facilitate such relationships ostensibly because of a warped notion of church/state relations which is really an excuse for not finding relationships where they might be found.

I have long been critical of exclusion in the Christian church towards persons with disabilities, but I will tell you that the church is waking up in a big way. It is not unusual for churches to now seek out persons with disabilities and their families so that they can be a part of the church community. I suspect state agencies are totally oblivious to this awakening because they really do not want the hassles that go along with giving people with disabilities fully integrated, real lives. I say real in the sense that they have real relationships with unregulated people like most of us who are not under the constraints that they live under, enjoy.  Many disability rights advocates are equally oblivious, using their own lack of interest in religion as an excuse to not advocate for those with limited options for integration, those with intellectual disabilities.

So as this blog title implies, those charged with integration at best, don't know what community integration is. At worst, they do know what community integration is but are unwilling to facilitate it because it does not go along with their personal, political, perspective. Rather than looking for options and doing what is best for people, the limit options only doing things if they personally agree with them. They are not interested in doing what is best, they are only interested in furthering  political perspectives independent of the repercussions on vulnerable people.


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