A Challenge

What we need: Radical collaboration. Civic engagement. Civil discourse. Relationships and partnerships. Support for people with disabilities and their families.

What We’re Facing

The Minnesota Legislature refuses, again, to put people with disabilities and the people who support them on an equal footing with other service recipients.

The U.S. Department of Labor strengthens overtime rules, increasing the salary threshold for eligibility without a corresponding increase for people providing services.

A continued push for a $15 per hour minimum wage, with no corresponding increase for disability supports.

Staffing shortages now and into the foreseeable future, and questions about what that means for disability services.

The constant need to keep up with new learning while providing excellent services and supports.

A demand for instant answers and providing adequate responses that don’t appear to be defensive or lacking in transparency.

Maintaining our culture of dignity and respect for every person, when the outside world doesn’t seem to know what that means.

I see intersections between so many of these. We need time to make them happen. Time to make change happen throughout systems and communities. Time to evaluate and plan. Time we aren’t given by people who want things to happen RIGHT NOW. Time we don’t have because our resources are stretched to the breaking point. Our capacity to plan and create has been squeezed by budget cuts and rule changes and staffing shortages and other demands.

These other demands don’t respond to the unmet needs of today or our vision for the future.

Often, they are desires labeled as needs and delivered with veiled threats. I see this as a reflection of the larger world that we live in, where we govern from fear and denigrate those we don’t agree with. It’s so far from the culture of dignity and respect we seek to live out at Laura Baker Services.

I get excited by the possibilities of collaboration, see the need for civic engagement and civil discourse, and know we can’t do any of our work without good relationships and partnerships.

I am wearied by the assaults on our services from policy makers who don’t stop to see the whole picture, by community members who don’t see the need to adequately fund our services, and who also criticize anything they don’t perceive as being appropriate, and by partners who demand without being willing to sit at the table with us.

Lately, I feel as though I am swimming in a sea of negativity and fear. My rose-colored glasses are smudged and it’s hard to find the sunshine.

There’s Hope

I am heartened by:

  • The gracious gift of learning offered by St. Olaf Social Work and Family Studies Department Chair Mary Carlsen. She provided our leadership team with a custom-designed professional development session on ethics.
  • A new partnership with the Northfield United Methodist Church to create an inclusive and supportive community.
  • The incredible support of committed donors, who give until it feels good.
  • The circles of support from the Northfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority task force on affordable housing, and our partnership with Three Links Care Center, Village on the Cannon, and Chris Kennelly, to develop an innovative housing community, and Mike Hero, who is voluntarily helping to navigate the legal challenges involved in that partnership.
  • The work and partnership of the LBSA Board of Trustees. Their passion for our mission makes me believe.
  • Our partnership with the Cannon Valley Special Education Cooperative. In particular, the outstanding professionals from Northfield Public Schools who I have had the opportunity to work with: Cheryl Hall, Matt Hillmann, Chris Richardson, Jim Kulseth, and others.

Let’s Create New Solutions

I firmly believe that our challenges make our successes that much sweeter, and that learning comes from every challenge. (Otherwise, I would have left this work long ago.)

My message to you in this? Please join us. Add your voice to ours at the legislature. Every voice matters. Legislators have told us that the grass roots needs to ask for this. That’s you and me, Joe and Jane Citizen. Be a force of encouragement and partnership. When we need correcting, please do so gently, knowing we are all humans on the journey. Challenge us to do the same, if we aren’t. I want to be a place where respectful, civil discourse lives. I want to be an example to the community of how to agree, disagree, and find a way to create new solutions together.