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

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.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Human services in America is unfair to people with disabilities. However, it is much better and more open compared to the human services in other countries. For instance, Vietnam, my homeland, does not have any services provide for people with disabilities. The disabilities are viewed as "evil" and should not be live among the norms. But who is the norms? What defines disability? It could be a person having a stressful day and is acting different than he/she usually does or a person born with a disabilities. Having disability is considered a "curse" in our culture and should not received any empathy or anything. Vietnam lack of awareness and poor infrastructure which create an even more difficult life for people with disabilities. Though there is little agreement on how many disabled live in Vietnam, one indisputable fact is that this group is at a huge disadvantage compared to the non-disabled. In Ho Chi Minh City, someone with no legs crawling along the side of a busy road trying to peddle tickets, or a blind person approaching tables at a roadside eatery is a common sight. Sadly, this is far as many with disabilities get here. Of course, the challenges they face begin long before they reach university or working age. A widespread lack of understanding of disabilities leaves many people unsure of how to deal with the disabled. Sadly, many people believe that a disabled child is punishment for a past sin, so there is still an issue with families hiding them out of shame. Sometimes this prevents disabled children from getting even a basic education. Disability ministry is much needed in Vietnam and possibly cause a change in human services and educate the society. (Student # 614452, Fall 2016, EDU 541)