What can we count on [PDF]

What Can We Count On To Make and Keep People Safe?

Perspectives on Creating Effective Safeguards for People with Developmental Disabilities

John O’Brien, Connie Lyle O’Brien & David B. Schwartz


The question—What can we count on to make and keep people safe?— frames an important perspective on the continuing work of building communities that offer people with developmental disabilities full and dignified lives. It arises from a realization of the vulnerability to neglect, abuse, and mistreatment risked by people who require substantial, long- term assistance to take and keep their rightful place as citizens. It is shaped by a sober recognition of the shortcoming s of unregulated relationships between people with disabilities and their caretakers and the limitations and ironic effects of systematic efforts to keep people safe through pro- fessional, bureaucratic methods. Left to their own devices, a frightening number of care providers act inhumanly. But increasing investments in formal means to regulate these relationships donʼt proportionally increase confidence in peopleʼs safety. Indeed formal systems seem to weaken the spirit of commitment necessary for caring relationships to thrive. Discus- sion is animated by acknowledgement of the desirability and necessity of action to increase peopleʼs safety by both strengthening the ties of commu- nity and making necessary assistance more relevant and effective.