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.