Advocacy Alliance News
On Monday morning, January 14, Brockton Area Arc’s Family Support Navigator Cathy Hickey, The Arc of Massachusetts Advocacy Alliance Coordinators Julie Heffernan and Herb Cabral, and ten family members – moms, dads, and a sister who was home from college on winter break – gathered at The Brockton Arc for “Coffee, Cookies, and Conversation.”
Julie gave the family members some storytelling pointers and encouraged them to share their stories and use them as tools for advocacy, since “Stories reveal the details, the impact of systems on the daily lives of families and children . . . [and] often spur change in systems that seem impossible to understand” (Glenn Gabbard’s “Family Experiences: Ways to Lead Change Through Telling Your Story”).
She then shared a statistic from the 2017 FINDS Survey of Caregivers, which resonated with all the family members gathered: 48% of the respondents were either very or extremely stressed by having to provide care for an individual with I/DD. This statistic sparked conversation and story-sharing in the group. Family members told stories which illustrate the many ways they rely on the direct workforce for respite, employment support, stress reduction, and help with their family’s daily routine – and they shared stories about how difficult it is to find direct care providers.
In fact, according to the 2017 FINDS Survey, 72% of Massachusetts human service providers report that it has become increasingly more challenging to fill job openings over the past three years. For these reasons, The Arc of Massachusetts has decided to make Family Support and the Workforce a couple of its top priorities for the upcoming legislative year. So, please, share your story; use it as a tool for change.
There are a number of ways you can join the conversation: host a “Coffee, Cookies and Conversation” gathering at your Arc chapter/affiliate or in a setting of your choice, share your story via The Arc of Massachusetts Survey Monkey, join us for Supporting Families Day at the State House (10 AM on Tuesday, January 22), visit your legislators at their local offices or town hall meetings, or host a legislative breakfast. For more information, contact Julie or Herb.
On Wednesday, November 7, Advocacy Alliance Coordinator Julie Heffernan attended the Minuteman Senior Services Annual meeting, where The Arc of Massachusetts was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation.
The certificate was in recognition of the work that its Dana Home Supporting Seniors with Disabilities in Lexington program did last year in collaboration with Minuteman Senior Services. As Executive Director Kelly Magee Wright said in her remarks, it is so lovely to celebrate community partnerships and collaborative efforts.
Pictured here: Charlotte Rodgers, Lexington Director of Human Services; Michelle Holmberg, Director of Services at Cooperative Elder Services; John Natale of Natale Company & SafetyCare; Julie Heffernan, Advocacy Alliance Coordiator at of Massachusetts; Kelly Magee Wright, Executive Director; Meals on Wheels volunteer Greg Doran. Not pictured: Meals on Wheels volunteer Judi Kotanchik; Donors Nancy Goodwin and Nikolas Waggener.
The Becker Center for Advocacy is learning about the needs of older caregivers by organizing community forums across the state. Three forums have been held so far: North Shore, Merrimack Valley, and Greater Boston. Caregivers are asked to discuss three topics: what is going well; where are the gaps or challenges; and recommendations.
Responses vary; however, a big concern is the workforce and the inability to find reliable and well-trained respite providers, PCAs, and nursing staff. Other areas of note include the lack of choice and options for residential services and the need for more individualized and person-centered supports.
Attendees also learned about the supports offered by Elder Services and DDS. Real life experts shared their stories and how they are planning for the future. At the end of the program, participants were encouraged to take action and share their stories and advocate for increased funding!
Special thanks to our co-sponsors: North Shore Link, Northeast Arc, DDS, Fidelity House Human Services, The Arc of Greater Haverhill Newburyport, Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Minuteman Senior Services, Minute Man Arc, Charles River Center, Springwell, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, and the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy.
Forums on the South Shore and Western Mass are being planned. Look for the announcement in Notes from The Arc.
Written by Kerry Mahoney
Director of Outreach and Education