Community Brokering…Why We Do What We Do

The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. At a recent staff meeting, we talked about our mission and why it is important to us. At the Arcadia Institute, we make it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their communities. It is not always easy to quantify the work we do, but through our experiences with individuals, we know our work has a purpose.

Our mission was exemplified for me during a recent MAP we completed with an individual. For confidentiality sake, we will call the individual John. John is in his twenty’s and lives at home with his family. But, he wants to move out on his own. He would like to get an apartment and he and a friend have talked about being roommates. His family loves him so much, they struggle with letting him be more independent because they believe he is vulnerable and they want him to be safe. It is hard for them to let go. As for John, he commented that he feels like all people see when they look at him is his wheelchair.

At John’s MAP (Making Action Plan), John had a chance to talk openly about his dreams for his future, and his family had the opportunity to voice their concerns. None of this was new information, John knows his family worries about him, and his family knows he has bigger goals and wants more for his life. The difference this time, is that everyone was together talking it through, and, with Community Brokering, we were able to lead the discussion to move beyond the concerns to talk about what action we could take together to move forward. Fears were voiced and acknowledged, but we pushed through to talk about solutions and ways to minimize worries. Of course, there will always be concerns. That is just a part of life when it comes to parenting and watching your kids branch out on their own. But, through the Community Brokering process, we are able to bridge the gap between where a person is today, and where they desire to be in their future. Families and individuals don’t feel like they are on their own trying to figure it out.

I think one of the beautiful things about Community Brokering is that we meet the individual where they are at and together we start building a pathway into the community. Individuals don’t have to go through an assessment and interview process to determine if they are eligible for Community Brokering. Instead, we are intentional about getting to know an individual, identifying their strengths and then moving forward with the support of their community. With some people, we take very small steps giving them time to build confidence and courage to keep moving forward. With other people, they are ready to go now, but need someone to run along beside them and help them to navigate the road ahead. Every person is different, so we have an individualized approach.

John and I recently visited some apartment buildings in his community. We are starting the process of supporting him in moving out on his own. It doesn’t mean he will move into an apartment next month. Instead, he is taking the smaller steps of learning to use public transportation on his own, getting out in the community on a regular basis to pursue interests of his choice, and talking to people who have faced similar experiences. John is hopeful because of his increasing independence and his family is seeing the possibilities that exist for John. The worries and concerns still exist, but with the support of Community Brokering, John and his family are building momentum to move forward.