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Hidden Figures

If you haven’t seen the movie Hidden Figures,  GO!  It is an amazing hidden part of our history which cannot be missed for many reasons. I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, so I will just tell you where my mind went as I was thinking it over.

We have hidden figures to consider in our strategic plan. Consider these three groups.

  1. Hidden from view: the economics of the low income workers 

The families of the children we support in early learning centers try hard to make ends meet.  Some of these children have special needs. Most of these families live from one check to the next with nothing left over.  A recent statistic was released that 63% of Americans have $500 or more in savings.  So, that one time you need tires for your car, and the co-pay bill arrives from you recent doctor visit, you are wiped out. While some may qualify for SNAP, the new term for food stamps, SNAP is supplemental.  You are expected to pay part of your income, and this program supplements that.   Imagine someone living on $450 a week with a family of four, with two adults working part time without benefits.  That family will likely get $24.00 per week in SNAP. That raises your weekly income to $524.

What are your monthly bills?

Rent                                         $300

Utilities                                     $50

Food                                        $60

Clothing,                                     ?

Co Pays, deductibles               $115

Transportation                          ?

Clearly without a second job, overtime or other assistance, this family cannot pay all its bills.   By the way, $450 dollars a week is the about the average base pay of a direct support caregiver in our organization.

  1. Hidden from view: the people with intellectual disabilities on the waiting list

All over the county, people are waiting for service.   While there are strong advocates working on their behalf, the amount of funds to develop services is inadequate.  Our services are funded by taxes, and fall into the broad category of health care spending.  Most of our dollars in PA are spent on physical health-related needs.  That leaves nowhere near enough for intellectual and developmental disability services, including health-like safety and affordable housing.


  1. Hidden from view: the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in congregate settings

When I was entering the field, Bill Baldini had just done his expose’ about Pennhurst, “Suffer the Little Children”.  If you have not seen it, click here.  It propelled the state and the community to think differently, to rise to the challenge of offering equal rights.  We are struggling again to define equal rights. At one point in my career, someone suggested that we have separate bathrooms for staff.  The proponent said, “Everyone knows that the clients, people with intellectual disabilities and mental illness, were not as clean as the staff. Staff should not have to accept that lack of cleanliness.”   This statement is no different than creating bathrooms, water fountains and seats on the bus for the “colored people”.

We now see many people we support in sheltered settings. These participants have accepted it, made the most of it, and enjoy their friends and coworkers. For the most part, they are safe from discrimination in a broader world, safe from ridicule of people who think they are lesser mortals.

Rosa Parks chose where she sat on the bus, defying the rule that people  of color needed to sit in the back. While we each must choose our role in changing the world, none of us can accept that separate is equal. When you step out, there are risks. But relationships cannot be made if people are hidden.

If you are worried about the changes in our field and you would like to join in the conversation about the hidden click here. We want to include you in our conversation.

January 19th, 2017 Uncategorized
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