Monday, August 20, 2007

Family Reunions

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, children with disabilities were routinely sent to live in institutions. Most had some sort of developmental disability -- Down syndrome, retardation, cerebral palsy or autism. But some were also sent just because they seemed ‘slow’. And many had other secondary disabilities requiring wheelchairs or other mobility aides. As heartbreaking as that situation is to a parent like me who is raising children with even more significant disabilities, I can somewhat understand why those parents of the past made their decisions.

Parents in that other era did not have the supports available to them that are available to parents today. Also, pediatricians and other professionals were advising parents that institutionlization was the best choice for the child. We know differently now, but those early parents were operating without the knowledge we have. The bright light in this dark scenario is that many siblings of those children sent to institutions are now looking for and finding their family members.

The Arc, a national advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has created a new online family registry and search service, the FindFamily Registry, to help with such reunions. Read the CNN story about the FindFamily Registry, and the story of one man's search for his sister, Molly.

If you are someone who has lost touch with a loved one who was sent to live in a state institution for the developmentally disabled, I urge you to check out the FindFamily Registry. It's a free service from the advocacy and support groups ARC and ArcLink and may be the connection you need for your own family reunion.

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