It never officially went away, but ARC Minnesota Southwest is officially back in Redwood Falls.
It never really went away, but ARC Minnesota Southwest is back in Redwood Falls.
"Redwood Falls has been a leader in programs for the developmentally disabled for a long time," said Lee Ann Erickson, Program Director/Acting Executive Director.
"We want there to be an ARC in Redwood Falls again, and we'd like to be organized by local families."
At its largest in Redwood Falls in the 1980s, ARC had over 200 local members. However, there hasn't been an official ARC meeting in Redwood Falls in several years.
Last Thursday, Erickson was in Redwood Falls to see fi there was interest in reviving the group.
ARC was founded more than 50 years ago as an informal group of parents of children with developmental disabilities.
"In those days, parents were looking for an alternative to institutionalizing their children," said Erickson,
The name was originally an acronym for Association for Retarded Children.
However, the name was changed in 1989, partly because of concern over the word "retarded", and partly to open the organization up to a wider spectrum of developmental disabilities.
At one point, there were 85 ARC groups spread across Minnesota, advocating for better living and working conditions for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
And it worked. Conditions improved dramatically from the days when the disabled were just automatically placed in state homes.
However, in a sense, ARC became a victim of its own success.
"The ARCs started disbanding with the communities found places for the developmentally disabled to work and live," said Erickson.
"Parents are telling us they're facing quite a lot of cuts in schools, residential, and transitional programs," said Erickson.
"Today, parents of children with disabilities feel alone, and isolated. Because of new date privacy laws, they don't get to find out about each other, and get to network."
With funding cuts affecting ARC itself, the organization had to take a good look at itself.
"We haven't really been reaching the younger parents," admitted Erickson.
"We're not really a viable organization if we have to pay someone to organize chapters, so it occurred to us, why not go back to the families? They know what their kids need, and don't need the training (to work with them).
"We're reaching the self-advocating families, but not all of them know about us, and we're not reaching all of them that we can help," said Erickson.
For more information about ARC Southwest Minnesota, contact Erickson at 507-235-8580, or Pat Brooks, Regional Coordinator for Lyon, Lincoln, Redwood, Yellow Medicine Counties, at 507-430-1455.