Last night, I attended the public unveiling of a project I’ve been following with great interest for quite some time now.
My friends Cheryl and Alex Chan told the story of their years-long journey in finding a path to adulthood for their now-20-year-old Son, Nick. This testament to their love, perseverance, and creativity was an astounding presentation to watch. Supported by a large cast of collaborators, they told of their struggle to find the right solution, one that would work for both of their children; of the obstacles they faced, of the choices they made, of the friends and professionals who encouraged and supported them at every turn.
There were, of course, setbacks along the way, and second-guesses about whether they had made the right choices. In the end, though, they have created a home for Nick and an environment in which he can thrive, learn new skills, work in the community, and develop the friendships he cherishes.
It is an extraordinary story, and, as Cheryl announced, they want to share it with the world so that “the extraordinary can become the ordinary.”
I learned a lot from listening to the panel discussion of how Nick was able to move from an institutional setting (“a residential placement” is the euphemism) to a shared living arrangement, skipping over the intermediate step that many such people take; the group home. Shared living has been around for a long time, and takes many forms. Institutions have been on the way out for a long time, too, and closing the last one can’t come too soon. Group homes have become the mode of choice for the vast majority of people who can’t live fully independently. While these arrangements may be best for some people, it’s clear that shared living offers a better environment for a lot of people. The model keeps evolving.
You’ll be hearing a lot more about this new organization, created by the Chans. I urge you to take a look at their blog and to follow their progress. It’s a conversation we need to engage in for a long time to come.