It must have been a decision made out of desperation – as desperate as the new mother who leaves her child in a basket on the steps of a social service agency. In this case, the “child” left to another’s care is 21-years-old.
Wilma Arthurs’ husband, Chris, has terminal colon cancer. Their daughter, Emilia, has autism, epilepsy, and cortical deafness. Because they are no longer able to care for Emilia at home, Wilma and Chris went public after leaving her in the care of a respite home, Community Living, in their hometown of Sarnia, Ontario. It could have happened in any province or state.
The county the Arthurs live in has 220 placements in group homes, but there are another 180 people on the waiting list. Tragically, the Arthurs couldn’t wait any longer.
Disability Concerns was started by the CRC 30 years ago to address the problem of lack of housing for people with intellectual disabilities. A few churches and CRC classes rose to the challenge and now operate group homes.
Some fine Christian organizations in Canada and the US also operate group homes. Some have just one home, others have 50 or 80. Many of these are public/private partnerships. A few accept no government money. In spite of all this effort and funding, many adults with intellectual disabilities still need safe, comfortable, and appropriate housing and supports outside of the family home.
Many of them would like to move out of the family home as their peers do, but unlike their peers these individuals need additional supports to live apart from their parents. Some live with aging or ill parents who, like the Arthurs, can no longer care for their sons and daughters.
The need for housing and supports for people with intellectual disabilities is another facet of being prolife. If we as a church are serious about being prolife, some of us will hear the call to establish group homes, and we will go to the voting booth and we will lobby our politicians with this aspect of being prolife clearly in view. I hope the day will come that no mother or father will have to make the desperate decision that the Arthurs have made. We can take steps to ensure that will not happen.