The Power Behind #65Years

Posted by The Arc of North Carolina

Written by: Executive Director, John Nash

This year, The Arc of North Carolina celebrates 65 years. It is amazing to look back and see all that we have accomplished and all that we have provided to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families.

In the 1950s, there were not many options for families who had a child with a developmental disability. Many parents were told that there was not much that could be done for their child and they should consider an institution. Some were even told that they could leave their newborn baby at the hospital and the child would be handed over to a state institution.

Many parents refused to accept this advice from medical personnel and decided to come together to establish organizations that would advocate and provide supports and services for their child. They started a grassroots movement, met with their legislators, and held barbecue fundraisers in their backyards to get programs started and get the recognition that was needed.

In 1953, The Arc of North Carolina was established by a group of parents who came together to share common interests and concerns. The existing services of the time were characterized by minimal, custodial care typically provided in institutions. From the beginning, The Arc in NC worked diligently to increase educational opportunities for children with disabilities. The overriding focus, however, was an effort to educate policymakers about the needs of citizens with disabilities and about the state’s responsibility to provide services.

      Throughout the years, The Arc of North Carolina recognized that advocacy is always necessary to ensure that individuals with I/DD and their families have a voice. The Arc’s advocacy necessitated close contact with both NC General Assembly and the United States Congress. Threats to funding of the federal special education law and demands for a Medicaid waiver called chapters of The Arc across the country to action. Back home, The Arc of NC also focused on the need for guardianship, ultimately receiving approval to provide corporate guardianship for people whose families could not or would not assume that responsibility.

      The 1980s signaled a surge in the most important advocacy movement in the country – self-advocacy. The time had come for families and professionals to turn over some of the control to the people whose voice needed to be heard. The Arc of NC spearheaded support of the first statewide Self-Advocacy organization.

      Beginning in the 1990s, The Arc began expanding its ownership of housing properties and created new programs. Recognizing that there were many areas in the state that needed specific support, The Arc began developing and establishing local chapters. They provide day programs, employment opportunities, and family events.

Today, The Arc of North Carolina now owns and/or manages nearly 400 properties throughout the state serving over 2,500 people with disabilities. There are successful programs including guardianship, Project SEARCH, Community Navigators, and housing.

As we look back, we are proud of what we have accomplished in 65 years. We want to thank all of the families that have helped make these dreams a reality. There is still much work to be done and we will continue to work hard for individuals with I/DD and their families, to provide them a choice and an opportunity to realize their goals of where they live, learn work and play.