“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.



Unknown said...

I thought you posted some real truths in these two posts concerning Human Services. There is indeed a need to change the system, how Human Services works and what it means, but that is much easier said than done. Some of the challenges that you bring up in these posts in regards to changing Human Services are part of the many that a huge change like that would entail. I think that some of the first steps in moving towards this change are precisely to think of all the possible challenges and roadblocks and how to begin to tackle those. The example that you bring up on the trouble with not always being welcomed with open arms in places where people are under the care of the state, or any institution for that matter, is one that I have seen firsthand as well while trying to volunteer at an elderly group home. Because these are such a marginalized group of people and it's commonplace for them to be ignored by the rest of society when somebody who is not a relative or somebody that they know begins to show interest in having a relationship with them it is natural for that to seem odd and be questioned by those that are supposed to be protecting them. I think this elicits both sides to put a guard up and doubt each side. Because it is such a big shift in how this population is treated I think it is going to take time and certain considerations need to be made by both sides but it is certainly not impossible. Tackling the issue from both sides (society’s view and those in the disabled community) is something that I think would be necessary in the going about changing the system. I do very much like your idea however in bringing the humanness back into Human Services and not having it all be about just about meeting government regulations in terms of providing medical care for people with disabilities. As we see with so many of the other government systems that we have, these systems may have good intentions in wanting to serve the public and answer to the need of its citizens but the problems usually lie in execution of them and the human aspect of them usually falls short.

Anonymous said...

My main concern is with the church and the hypocrisy experienced many times over, with people of disabilities and uncomfortable issues for those in administrative positions. In my opinion, the church should be at the forefront of setting examples of how Human Services and government should be structuring change and making the general public more comfortable with these blessings. If the disabled community doesn't have the church to lean on, who are they supposed to turn to? Many people turn to the church and their members for healing, guidance, love, comfort, and direction. What makes me more deserving than anyone else? Because I look different, learn different, speak different, come from a different background... these are all things that could be debilitating or uncomfortable for anyone not familiar with the specific person at hand. The church is supposed to be a place of worship, fellowship, understanding, and opportunities for ALL.
Use the Scripture to better educate and create understanding for those with "disabilities". Not just those who may be interested in working with people with disabilities but actually educate people by putting as much information in the public for all to understand and question. People are understandably scared of the unknown and change. Eliminate the unknown of those with disabilities by allowing them to speak for themselves and better educate us "normal society". I believe people would see the beauty and all there is to learn from those labeled "different". I believe by challenging the church to reach out, accept, and educate ALL for who they are, could absolutely make a difference with Human Service, Government Systems, and society as a whole.
The longer we continue to put a label on those different than normal social norms, the longer we will miss out on their blessings and "us" becoming a better world. This can and will all be converted by those not afraid to ask questions, seek out the disabled or different, and show the world how absolutely beautiful we are as a whole. I know this is all easier said than done, but if anyone can make the transition it can and should be the church.