From Presence to Citizenship: Algonquin College DSW
FROM PRESENCE TO CITIZENSHIP
A two-year Ministry of Community and Social Services sponsored initiative to share best
practices and success stories in the Developmental Services (DS) sector. Our objectives:
1. To support DS organizations who are making a person-centred shift, by providing them
with best practices, success stories and practical tools to accelerate the transition.
2. To develop a permanent learning community where DS agencies can continue to
share best practices and success stories so that we all continue to learn and improve
our person-centred outcomes.
2015-2017 PARTNER AGENCIES
• CL Upper Ottawa Valley
• CL Atikokan
• CL Thunder Bay
• CL Algoma
• CL Brant
• CL St. Mary’s & Area
• CL Ontario
• Kenora Association for CL
• LiveWorkPlay (Ottawa)
• Mills Community Support (Almonte)
• South-East Gray Support Services
The original notes to the first slide were particular to the live
From Presence to Citizenship Learning Exchange, hosted at the
Holiday Inn Toronto Airport on February 7-8, 2017.
The event featured speakers Al Condeluci, David Pitonyak, Dr. Barry Isaacs,
and Bruce Anderson, as well as leaders from participating agencies
and the release of the From Presence to Citizenship video with
commentary by videographer Bob Fleck.
Christine Keupfer from the Ministry of Community and Social Services
presented a unique social policy perspective.
Keenan Wellar from LiveWorkPlay in Ottawa delivered this presentation
to introduce the 300 attendees to the origins of the project.
The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services
Launched the provincial government’s social policy
direction for the transformation of Developmental
Services back in 2006 with the document “Opportunities
and Action: Transforming Supports In Ontario For People
Who Have A Developmental Disability.”
The Minister of the day, Madeleine Meilleur, said the following:
“Ontario is at a crossroads in the evolution of the way it supports people who have a
developmental disability. As we prepare to move to a completely community-based
approach…to support Ontarians who have a developmental disability to live as independently
as possible and to participate in the life of the community.”
More than ten years later we must admit that much of our work in Developmental Services
fails to deliver assets-based, person-centred, community-focused processes and outcomes.
Many of our assessment procedures and service approaches remain deficits-based, placing
priority on what a person cannot do, rather than their strengths and opportunities.
Significant investment in segregated and congregated group living and day activities continues.
Developmental Services continues in many ways to work within the community, rather than
as a part of the community.
In the early days of the transformation of Developmental Services
much emphasis was placed on inspiration and motivation.
We saw an explosion of gatherings where graphic facilitators
brought individuals with disabilities, family members, and support
professionals together to think about want people want out of life,
and to consider what “inclusive communities” really means.
It would have been rare to hear anyone speak up at one of these
gatherings to present opposition to any of what was being discussed.
And yet here we are in 2017, with a system that continues to be challenged by barriers
to a modernized person-centred approach. We are not tracking or evaluating DS outcomes
based on data or metrics that corresponds with our social policy promises.
Health and Safety
To be fair, there have been a lot of distractions!
This includes the reality that the resources available far
exceed the demand for the services, as a provincial system as
well as at the regional and agency level.
Individuals and families waiting for service are frustrated.
Leaders and front line staff of local agencies are frustrated.
And yet we see throughout the province that in certain regions and at certain
agencies, significant transformation is underway – although opportunities for
Improvement never end, is never completed, in some cases service outputs and outcomes
have been dramatically transformed - no group living, no segregated day activities,
and people with intellectual disabilities enjoying homes of their own, jobs and other
community engagement, and expanded relationships.
What is the key to their success?
Without exception, they asked for – and accepted – help
Without exception, they provided help when asked.
At LiveWorkPlay we reached out to Community Living
Upper Ottawa Valley at the start of our own transformation process back in 2004. The key
help they provided was to demonstrate their own success in bringing an end
to day programs and sheltered workshops.
LiveWorkPlay has worked to pay it forward over the years, spending time with other agencies
such as Community Living Atikokan and Community Living Thunder Bay, and closer to
home, enjoying frequent learning exchanges with Mills Community Support. We have also
received delegations from across the United States and contributed to conferences and
gatherings in a half dozen states.
It is one thing to be challenged by the barriers to positive change, while it is quite another
to refuse help that is available, or to simply refuse to seek out improvement. From Presence
To Citizenship aims to be the start of a new province-wide network that eliminates the
frustrations of re-inventing the wheel, and also removes the common excuses for
continuing to pull a square-wheeled cart of outdated practices.
Where it began…
Although there had been many years of conversations over
email as well as at meetings and events, the origins of the
From Presence To Citizenship project can be traced
back to an impromptu gathering at the Community
Living Ontario Annual Conference in 2014.
Agency leaders who were engaging in significant transformation and fully invested
in person-centred services and outcomes talked about the unique challenges to
agency transformation and wondered how they might contribute to broader change.
April 20, 2016
April 14, 2015
The Learning Community for Person-Centred
Practices Annual Gathering
Most of the organizations that came together for From
Presence To Citizenship had previously attended the
annual Person-Centred Gathering on multiple occasions.
We all recognized that although the gatherings made for
terrific “feel good” experiences they were not
necessarily helping agency leaders and staff to
overcome agency-based barriers.
To this end we created our own opportunities – with the
complete blessing of the gathering organizers – to
propose the establishment of a learning community
to not only espouse person-centred concepts, but to
provide concrete answers to questions around agency
In November 2016, project representatives were invited by
MCSS to participate in regional presentations across
the entire province.
Project Chair Jim Turner from Community Living Atikokan
travelled to all the regions, while other partners co-presented with Jim at locations in
their own area (LiveWorkPlay contributed to day and evening sessions in Kingston and Ottawa).
These sessions helped in making strong connections between MCSS social policy
directives and the person-centred outcomes being delivered by the partner agencies
of From Presence To Citizenship.
Interactions with family members reinforced our belief that they are confused
by the promise of Developmental Services which is not all that aligned
with the actual practice of Developmental Services in many communities.
While MCSS and the From Presence To Citizenship partners would talk about
“an apartment, a job, and good friends” as some of the typical outcomes that
DS agencies should be facilitating, family members were much more familiar
with group homes, day programs, and segregated leisure activities as typical outcomes.
As the project moved toward its conclusion in March 2017, the partners
committed to three 2017 products: a project newsletter, a video,
and a learning exchange.
The newsletter and video are now circulating as a digital download and
a YouTube video, and the sold out learning exchange on February 7-8
was met with overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback.
The project is not coming to an end.
A new online community has been started where the entire proceedings
from the learning exchange are already available, and additional resources
are being added on a routine basis.
A discussion forum is a core feature of the community, which will help
connect agencies across Ontario for the exchange of knowledge
as well as collective problem-solving.
The video project was complicated by the challenges of time and geography.
Videographer Bob Fleck travelled the province and attempted to capture
the essence of the person-centred practices at each partner agency.
Due to scheduling issues it was not always possible for each agency to tell
their story with the involvement of supported individuals, so the video
is a mixture of people with intellectual disabilities telling their own stories,
as well as staff representatives talking about best practices.
Out of hundreds of hours of footage, the task of selecting just one or two minutes
from each partner and blending them into a reasonably coherent package was no
There is much that we like about our project outcomes, including the newsletter,
learning exchange, and video, but we would look forward to doing even better
with future efforts that will involve additional partners.
BONUS VIDEO: Phil’s Story
That’s a great story and well told by United Way Ottawa, but I want to add some
important context: Phil and his family had repeatedly been told that he could never
live in a home of his own, and further, that he was unemployable.
From his neighbours at the Beaver Barracks community on Catherine Street to his
managers and co-workers at the East India Company restaurant, Phil now knows he
is a valued and respected member of his community. There aren’t words to describe
the dramatic differences in his quality of life. All we know is that we can help make
it happen for many others. At least 100 in the coming year, but hundreds and
thousands more in the years to come.
Transformation to person-centred, assets-based, community-focused practices is
no longer just a vague idea, and it must become the reality for all MCSS funded
services. Clearly, the days when this was more of a suggestion than an expectation
are almost over. Agencies must adapt and adapt quickly if they are to remain
relevant and viable, and those who contribute to educating and training the DS
workforce must adapt with curricula and expectations that are ahead of the curve.
We must challenge
ourselves to ensure
that we teach as well
as put into practice
outcomes that deliver
on the promise of
inclusion rather than
maintain or reinforce
the status quo of exclusion,
segregation, and integration.