The Strength of Arc

Why Is Arc So Darn Good?

Advocacy was and still is at the heart of Arc's success in "building inclusive communities".

"Advocacy is an activity which can be used to ensure the protection of constitutional rights and to meet social and emotional needs of people with developmental disabilities. The goal of advocacy is to enable people to develop to their maximum potential in the least restrictive and most normal setting that is possible for them."

If you look around Southeastern Minnesota today you will find that many people with developmental disabilities are:

  • living in their own homes (assisted or independently) - working in the community (assisted or independently)
  • attending school with students who do not have disabilities (integrated)
  • recreating in the community - bowling, swimming, singing, exercising ... - using public transportation
  • going to movies, eating out, just hanging out,...
  • worshiping as members of local churches and temples.

    Arc refers to this as inclusion. People with developmental disabilities are enjoying the same aspects of life that people without disabilities enjoy.

    In the 1950s, when a mother gave birth to a child with a disability, she was told to "take the child home and love him/her" or place the child in a state hospital and forget that you had him/her. The implication was that the child did not belong in society. Indeed, many children with disabilities were sent to State Hospitals where they were "warehoused".

    Some insightful parents saw this injustice and founded A.R.C. - The Association for Retarded Children. These parents were the first advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. Over the years the name has changed from ARC - The Association for Retarded Children to The Association for Retarded Citizens and finally to:

    The Arc - an agency providing support, education, and advocacy to persons with developmental disabilities and their families.

    Advocacy - the results have long term implications!

    The name changes followed our growth in recognizing that this was bigger than just helping children. Arc recognized that we need to be advocating from pre-birth to post death for the rights of people with developmental disabilities. Often when Arc advocates stand up for a person who is receiving poor services, whether it is educational, residential, employment, or any other situation that is not just, two things happen:

    1. The situation is resolved and the personís situation improves
    2. the provider sees that changes need to be made to ensure that others don't have that same experience. The result is that the community changes and becomes more inclusive.

    Over the past 50+ years Arc has handled thousands of advocacy situations. Thousands of people have seen their personal situation improve. The sum total of the institutional changes that occurred as well has had a profound impact on our community. We used to boast that "We have changed Society". It wasn't boasting - it is true. Our communities today have support and understanding that the founding parents could only have dreamed of.

    The work is not done. But we are working at a higher level than in years past. People with developmental disabilities are not "included" without programs and support in place. Fifty years ago these changes were being made by local ARCs. Today Arc Southeastern Minnesota continues to advocate, monitor, and encourage services that are needed for people to enjoy community life as others do. The support system today includes:

    • Residential - There are dozens of housing providers in Southeastern Minnesota. Many of these organizations were created by Local Arcs (Arc Olmsted, Arc Winona, Arc Houston, etc.). Even if they were not created by Arc, they were supported and encouraged by Arc.

    • Employment - Again, Local Arcs were instrumental in developing or encouraging Employment Providers. In some cases job provision was in place for people with physical disabilities and Arc encouraged these agencies to expand to include developmental disabilities.

    • Recreation and Socialization Providers - Local Arcs have helped many communities develop a wide variety of recreation and socialization opportunities ranging from specialized programs designed for persons with developmental disabilities to inclusive programs sponsored by typical community providers such as park and recreation departments, community education, and private providers.

    • Transportation Assistance - Transportation has long been an impediment to an inclusive life for people with developmental disabilities. Local Arcs, again, were the impetus for getting these services in place in many communities.

    All of these agencies are a part of the provider network that makes inclusive life possible for people with disabilities. Many of the advances we have made, help people with physical disabilities as well. Think of this network as a family of providers. We work together and appreciate what each agency brings to the table. I think of Arc as the mother. At times, Arc advocacy will "get in someoneís face" and suggest that changes in a situation need to be made. The providers expect it. They want their services to be top-notch as well.

    Arc needs your financial support - think about a recurring contribution.

    Advocacy is one of our most important services. Arc is the only agency that looks at a personís entire life -from pre-birth to post-death, from education to employment, from family home to residential living, from specialized recreation to inclusive socialization. As advocates, we must avoid conflicts of interest whenever possible. That makes finding funding for advocacy very difficult.

    Arc depends on local businesses and citizenry for its support. We are truly the "mother agency" that has had it's fingers in every new program or service for people with developmental disabilities. The community must realize that Arc is indispensable - We are at the "heart" of the disability service and support network. Individuals with developmental disabilities depend on our advocacy to ensure they continue to live productive and "included" lives. The many agencies that provide services and support are near and dear to us. In many cases, they are here because we recognized the need. But if services falter, Arc will be there to advocate for change.

    Make a commitment! Help Arc for the long term. Give a recurring contribution. Discuss this with Arne Fockler via the Arc office: (507) 287-2032

    ALSO SEE: The Bishop Family - a Plea for Needed Services

6301 Bandel Road NW Suite 605
Rochester, MN 55901
(507) 287-2032
(888) 732-8520 (toll-free)

© 2003 Arc SE Minnesota,
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