Children with developmental disabilities become Adults.
When they are young, CHILDREN and their families have a variety of educational and social programs and agencies to support them.
BUT, what happens to them when they become ADULTS? Are they included in the community, provided adequate housing, helped to develop their skills and gifts?
Strangers in Our Midst
We have come a long way from the darker days of past generations, but the fact remains that people with developmental disabilities are still marginalized in our society.
Today, as children, they are present in our schools but once the reach adulthood, they are rarely included as part of our business or social lives.
They are known to their families and immediate friends, but to the rest of us they remain strangers in our midst.
As these individuals grow into more mature adults, their families are aging as well, and the challenge for many parents can become one of having both the physical and emotional stamina to continue to support them. Some parents reach a point where they are no longer capable of caring for their adult children.
Some young adults with developmental disabilities also reach an age where, for their own growth, they choose to move out of the family home.
Where Do They Go
If they are not living in their family home, where do they go? In too many cases, they are living in places and environments that are less than acceptable.
In 2010, Canada Mortgage and Housing determined that over 25% of people with developmental disabilities in BC – that’s one out of every four – live in housing that fails standards of safety, stability and affordability.
A Day in their Life
Whether they continue to live at home, or move out into the wider community, people with a developmental disability can face isolation and loneliness unless they are involved in community-based programs.
The only option for many are generalized day programs that do not support individual goals. It is important that they are assessed in terms of their individual needs and goals, and activities and programs are tailored to them.
Sharing home life together is at the heart of L’Arche
L’Arche communities consist of a small number of households integrated into a local neighborhood. Homes usually consist of six to eight people, with and without intellectual disabilities. These people live in a family-like environment where each person contributes as he or she is able, helping with chores or cooking or perhaps bringing the gift of helping others to slow down and be more present to the moment.
The core members, as the people who have disabilities are called, are at the heart of the home. The assistants represent diverse cultural and religious traditions and may come from various countries.
Who comes to L’Arche?
Some people come to L’Arche because they are interested in the field of intellectual disability. They are drawn by the L’Arche vision, which focuses on the gifts and contributions to our society of those who have developmental disabilities.
Others come to L’Arche wanting an experience of life in community. The prospect of living together with people of differing intellectual capacity, social origin, religion and culture is attractive and the experience of building community around the weaker members of our societies challenges them.
Some people find L’Arche a good environment for personal growth, and others come to L’Arche because of a social justice motivation or because the spiritual dimension of L’Arche attracts them.
Does one need special training to be part of a L’Arche community?
Some people who come to L’Arche have studied in a related area but most have not. The first requirement is that applicants have a desire to share life together in a community setting. L’Arche invests much in the assistants and friends who help provide support to people with intellectual disabilities in its homes and day settings.
Besides training in skills and competence, L’Arche provides educational experiences on broader topics that help its members to reflect on their vision of humanity and how they want to live their lives.
Life in a L’Arche community
The key to life in L’Arche is being open to relationship. Assistants and core members (people with intellectual disabilities) create home and share their lives together in households of approximately six to eight people.
Days are filled with ordinary tasks of daily living: cooking, bathing, cleaning, laundry, shopping, accompanying people to medical appointments attending regular community meetings and events. Home life is the cornerstone of L’Arche. The evening meal, birthdays, and times of prayer are cherished celebrations that strengthen the bonds between people who live and work together.
Most people come with an initial commitment of one year. Assistants come with a broad range of backgrounds and qualifications. All new assistants participate in a program of orientation and training. Remuneration, benefits, days away and vacation time are provided.
If you are motivated to be a live-in assistant at L’Arche and to contribute to the building of a vibrant community life, please go to the L’ARCHE CANADA website, where you will find more detailed information and the ONLINE application.