I’ve been concerned for some time that the global economic downturn might lead to a resurgence of institutions as models of “care” for people needing extra support to live in the community.  Sadly, I’m seeing that my fears are well-founded.

Today I opened the Wall Street Journal to an article titled “The Best Thing About Orphanages” by Richard B. McKenzie.  The author seems to know whereof he speaks, in that he references with some fondness his own childhood in an institution.  He doesn’t point out, but certainly could, that the child welfare and foster care system in the US can be the stuff of nightmares.

A few moments later, I cam across the Sacramento Bee news item that  financially devastated California is dramatically reducing funding to help support seniors and people with disabilities to stay in their own homes.  The budget crisis is all too real, and unquestionably some painful budget cuts must be made.  This decision, though, strikes me as rather severe.  Nursing home beds are expensive and scarce, the same Sacramento Bee article mentions that many other supports (the nutrition program, among others) are being eliminated.  The vulnerable are becoming increasingly marginalized.

I don’t doubt for a minute that all the people involved are trying to do the right thing–trying to balance competing priorities.  It is up to us, though, to lead the way and remind decision-makers of the practical consequences of policy decisions.  Despite the challenges, we must not return to the days of institutionalization.

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