With over 123,000 people in need of residential support on a DD waiting list in 45 reporting states, there is much talk among policy makers about how to meet the demand for services and supports. For the most part, policy makers have concluded that in the future there will be a greater reliance on families and natural supports. Some have suggested that natural supports should fill the gaps or even take the place of paid services.
Natural supports are described as the relationships that occur in everyday life. Formal supports usually involve some form of payment for services and may include relationships with service providers – such as counselors, therapists, line staff and care managers. In contrast, natural supports usually involve relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances, and are of a reciprocal (give-and-take) nature. Such supports help one to develop a sense of social belonging, dignity and self-esteem.
With the impact on families of using Natural supports on his mind, Denver Fox, a parent having two children with disabilities, conducted and compiled the results of his survey on Natural Supports. He wanted the survey to be a reflection of current experience with natural supports and perhaps lay out a premise for more research on it. The results are available at: http://www.ourwebs.info/naturalsupportmain.htm
Nearly two-thirds of those who responded to the survey indicated that they had little or no natural supports. Only about five percent of those who responded claimed that natural supports had been very useful.
If natural supports are to play a role in supporting families and people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, there is much work to do to make natural supports a viable and useful component among the services they receive.
Additionally, Denver has been speaking out on how waiting lists impact families and he has compiled information from all the State’s waiting lists. You may be interested at looking at his website: http://www.noewait.net/
If you want to share your story with Denver about being on the waiting list or your experience with Natural Supports, you may write him at: firstname.lastname@example.org