Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Matter of Trust

You know those trust exercises where someone falls backwards and they trust their friends to catch them? Well, they don’t always work.

The dark humored video above makes me wonder where we are, trust-wise, here in Colorado in the field of services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities. Is it possible that the level of trust among all interested parties is at an all time low? Does the state trust the community of providers? Do the providers trust the Community Centered Boards? Can the advocacy agencies trust anyone? And families . . . well, can they simply be asked to trust the publicly-funded support system to meet the needs of their loved ones?

I didn’t always ask these questions. During the 1970s and 1980s, when de-institutionalization was taking place at a rapid pace, the level of trust and collaboration was impressively high. Those in charge of the funding streams trusted providers to “get the job done” and gave them a degree of freedom that, in turn, allowed providers to be creative in how services were delivered. This creativity led to many, many success stories. And families suddenly saw incredible opportunities for their loved ones, opportunities that simply didn’t exist in the past.

But somewhere down the line, you have to wonder, has the trust eroded? As funding streams shrunk, the organizations in control of the funding streams, and the organizations that received the funding closed ranks and struggled to protect their rapidly diminishing territories. As a result, far too many times families fell backwards expecting to be caught, only to find themselves flat on their backs on the ground.

Families have realized that the early promises made to them regarding the care of their loved ones won’t be kept. They can see the future, and sadly, all they see is what the future doesn’t hold for them. They are left to wonder how their loved ones will be cared for when they are no longer around to do the job.

About the only thing all the parties involved in this circle of mistrust agree upon is that the prevalence of developmental disabilities in our communities is not going down. The need remains, but there remain many questions surrounding the commitment and collaboration of the community to meeting that need.

I’m not trying to be all gloom and doom here. The point of this post is to be unafraid of getting some of these issues out in the open. Too few people are comfortable with addressing the fact that as a system, we aren’t doing a good job of meeting the needs of those we serve. Many, in fact, don’t get any services at all.

We can’t move forward if we don’t acknowledge that a certain level of trust is required. It is time to admit that we are lagging way behind in our efforts to serve some of our most vulnerable citizens and start honest discussions aimed at improving those efforts.

Then again, what do I know?

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