I want to be hopeful but am afraid that nothing will change. Even though The Seattle Times published an article by Maureen O’Hagan entitled ” State ignoring abuse at group homes “ and The Seattle Times published the editorial “DSHS must investigate alleged abuse at group homes for the disabled” my hopes of reform fade. We hear that The Arc – Washington State will be advocating with legislators on this. The Arc-Washington writes “The basis of the problem lies with DSHS. It takes weeks or months for them to respond to reports of abuse and often nothing happens. The Governor proposes to add funding for more investigators.”
This is just “talk” and will amount to “no action” from The Arc, Disability Rights Washington, Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council and other agencies which receive public funds to advocate for this population. The history is that they use these funds to discriminate our most vulnerable. In the name of deinstitutionalization these groups have advocated for community inclusion. What these groups do not understand is that many of these same people already lived in a community – it may have been a different type of community than what the people who run these organizations may choose to live in, but it is a community for the people who find it supportive, safe and stable.
The mis-placed and misguided advocacy of these groups is also the basis of this problem. I know that I am not the only one who has attempted to educate these advocacy groups on the issues of unsafe conditions in these group homes or issues of safety and stability. These groups have not wanted to hear or acknowledge that there were problems. They wanted to see that moving people from stable and safe supportive communities to individual homes scattered far from their friends and families to be “included” in community was an experiment that was succeeding. They wanted to see “inclusion” and “integration” work. I do too – the difference is that I see inclusion as being part of the community – community meaning participating, contributing and belonging. I believe each person can define what that community is to them and they can make a choice. The misguided advocates do not allow people to make this choice and have defined “community” to mean something else. Many times the “community” these misguided advocates force upon people does not lead to “inclusion” but to ISOLATION and IMPRISONMENT.
This experiment failed – many have been harmed or killed. It’s time to stop this experiment on unsuspecting people. How many of these people provided “informed consent” to this social experiment?
Where is the advocacy for improved oversight, better staffing levels, better pay for caregivers? These are critical to improving care, safety and stability for all. Yes, we need investigations but investigations without action will do nothing except waste more money and cause more harm.