BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Prior to the 1970s, the resources available for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) were limited. It was not uncommon for children with more severe disabilities to be institutionalized.
After class-action lawsuits were filed over the conditions at multiple institutions, including the Belchertown State School, a federal judge issued a Consent Decree in 1975. It called for thousands of people to be moved to community homes from state institutions.
But the road to positive change was a bumpy one. While the state was focused on moving people out of institutions, parents who had chosen to care for their children at home weren’t getting assistance.
“It was just a real crisis,” activist Mary Lou Maloney said. “They were dealing with all these poor folks from the institutions coming out into the community. And by the 90s, you had all these families who had gotten no care whatsoever.”
Maloney, now retired, began working at The Arc of Massachusetts in 1976. In 1996, The Arc helped launch Family to Family. Maloney was the program manager, and worked with aging parents who feared for the future of their disabled adult children.
“People were terrified that they were going to die and leave their son or daughter at home with no care,” Maloney said.
Through its outreach and support centers, Family to Family identified nearly 3,000 people in need of home services funding or group home placement. The tireless lobbying paid off with $25 million appropriated over three years.
It was a monumental win for the families of children with IDD.
“If you see different people who just have fury in their eyes, you could get a lot done,” Maloney said.
The Arc of Massachusetts is celebrating its 70th year with a gala on Nov. 9, 2023. The non-profit is dedicated to enhancing the lives of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Click here to learn how to donate.
WBZ NewsRadio's Shari Small (@ShariSmallNews) reports: