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Dwight Robson

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Belonging to a Community: How Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Are Finding Joy

Posted: 04/ 9/2012 2:59 pm

2012-04-06-DawnaandEdwin.jpg
Donna, a mentor, and Edwin
Belonging is defined as "acceptance as a natural member or part." For far too long, many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have not had the opportunity to feel accepted or believe that they truly belonged in their communities -- something that so many of us take for granted each day.

At The MENTOR Network, we believe that personal relationships developed in community settings -- where individuals feel safe, supported and surrounded by the people and places they love -- provide the foundation for growth. Our Host Home program's innovative approach to care gives individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities an invaluable sense of home, community, family, and belonging, offering them the chance to live their lives to the fullest. However, despite the enormous amount of progress made in providing community-based living environments for individuals with these disabilities, across the nation there remain tens of thousands of individuals waiting to access community-based services. About 30,000 still live in large, public institutions, while an even greater number have been placed in nursing homes.

Edwin was one such individual. Institutionalized for most of his life, Edwin longed for the opportunity to live in the community -- and 15 years ago he got that chance when he was matched with his mentor, Dawna, through The MENTOR Network's Host Home program in New Jersey. Today, Edwin is an active member of Dawna's family. He enjoys shopping at WalMart and spending time with Dawna and her husband.

"I feel good," says Edwin, speaking about his life with his loving mentor. And Dawna says the decision to open her heart and her home to become Edwin's mentor has changed her life. Click here to watch Dawna and Edwin's story.

Our comprehensive matching process is one of the reasons our Host Home program is so successful. It helps ensure that the mentor and the person who comes to live with him or her know each other well and will be able to live together comfortably. Some of our most successful placements -- like Edwin and Dawna -- last a decade or more, while others last several years before either the mentor or the individual's needs change and the placement ends -- though in many cases a life-long friendship endures.

During the matching process our team of human-services professionals gets to know the likes and preferences of the mentor and his or her family, as well as those of the individual. For example, if an individual loves animals, we might match him with a mentor who has pets. For a person who has complex medical needs, a retired nurse might make the perfect mentor. Once a prospective match is identified, the mentor and the individual are able to meet, spend time together, and get to know one another before deciding to live together.

At The MENTOR Network we're building relationships and enhancing lives through our Host Home program. If you're interested in learning more, please visit our website at www.makeadifferenceathome.com.