“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Follow up on "How disability ministry could cause a change in human services."

I was thinking some more about the previous post on the impact disability ministry could have on human services.

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.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How could disability ministry cause a change in human services?

As I have often mentioned in this blog, the current system of human services in America are based upon the wrong model of what disability is. Services are exclusively based on a medical model which basically sees disability as housed in an individual and interventions are geared to fix the person. Although this is quite a generalization, I would argue that it is basically true. What we need are also interventions by human services that work toward social environment change through an understanding which has become known as the social model of disability. In reality we need both and an emphasis on one or the other of these models takes us in a wrong direction.

The entrenched nature of human services causes one to feel it is virtually impossible to facilitate change. We appear (even professionals in human services) to be satisfied with the way services are designed, planned and delivered. I can tell you that parents are very often unsatisfied as are individuals who receive the services. But those of us in human services go on our merry way believing we are "God's gift" to those we serve. To not only change that mindset, let alone the services themselves, is once again virtually impossible. Human services' resistance to change is tantamount to moving a mountain. Might there be another way to facilitate changes?

But we could change the church.

Imagine the church got serious about its call to be the Body of Christ. What if we embraced social environment change in a social model kind of way? What if we developed relationships with devalued people rather than always relegating them to various programs? I truly wonder what the effect would be. State delivered services would become redundant at times because they were occurring naturally via relationships. As churches developed places where people could live, used the church network to facilitate employment, worked to maximize people's gifts so the didn't spend their days in adult day care or sheltered workshops, would this cause a change in the way human services are delivered?

I once went to Sacramento Ca. to lobby for a change in the regulations governing the way services to persons with developmental disabilities were provided and funded. In my 30 seconds of fame before the committee, I spoke of how the state should encourage faith groups to get into the lives of persons with disabilities. Not only would the supports be more reflective of a person's needs rather than a menu of services, they could be provided at a fraction of the cost. Now don't hear me wrong. I AM NOT SAYING THAT THE CHURCH SHOULD TAKE OVER ALL HUMAN SERVICES FOR PERSONS AFFECTED BY DISABILITY. However what I am saying, is that human services could be much more "surgical" in the ways they are delivered, just meeting needs in specific areas. If churches were encouraged by the state to be involved in the lives of devalued persons rather than being treated like a pariah because of draconian notions of church state separation, all would benefit. Persons with disabilities would develop relationships and feel caring. States could spend money on network development and addressing discrimination rather than segregating people from the community for the purpose of medical model fixing schemes, protecting them from community members, or simply doing things which are not in the interest of those they are serving but rather based upon what is administratively convenient.

The possibility of changing human services via some kind of full frontal attack of the models on which they are based is worthy of effort. However, perhaps a better way is to demonstrate a model of supporting people, based on scripture, that doesn't entirely rely on government programs but rather on relationships with people.