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First Published Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Emphasis on group homes is troubling
By Maria Dibble

http://www.presscon nects.com/ apps/pbcs. dll/article? AID=200990303032 0


Broome Developmental Services (BDS) is planning to build a new group home
for eight children with autism in the Town of Union.


Southern Tier Independence Center strongly opposes this project. If instead
of spending over a million dollars to build a group home, plus hundreds of
thousands more for staffing, those funds were used to provide more
individual respite, supports in the child’s home, and behavioral
intervention services, many more families could keep their autistic children
in their own homes.


If there are children whose families cannot keep them, development of family
care homes with appropriate services for these children would be better
because, unlike group homes, family care provides a much warmer real-family
environment.


This project is part of a larger Office of Mental Retardation and
Developmental Disabilities pilot project to build four group homes for
autistic children around the state to conduct research and demonstrate new
techniques. But those techniques can be even better applied in children’s
natural homes or family care homes.


In recent years OMRDD Commissioner Diana Jones-Ritter has promoted a new
emphasis on community integration for people with disabilities in New York,
both in her work at OMRDD and as chairwoman of the state’s Most Integrated
Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC).


STIC was hopeful that with Ritter’s appointment of her MISCC point person,
Carl Letson, as director of Broome Developmental Services, that promised
direction would be followed locally. But Letson told me they would not
consider stopping the project, which has been in the works for more than a
year.


Group homes are far from the most integrated setting appropriate for
children with autism. Better options are available, and STIC is now gravely
concerned that the changes promised to people with developmental
disabilities in the Greater Binghamton Region and across the state won’t
happen.


Residents of group homes have told us that they are just small institutions
where they are unable to be independent or to truly take part in the
community. Letson says these homes are “community-based, ” but that isn’t
what people who live there think. Consumers don’t want group homes, so why
are they being built?



Ari Ne’eman
President
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
http://www.autistic advocacy. org
732.763.5530



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