Dane County has outlined the multifaceted role of the Support Broker in a paper entitled “Obligations of Being a Support Broker”. The following information was adapted from “Understanding the obligations of supported living,” a section of Assistance With Integrity, by John O’Brien and Connie Lyle O’Brien, Responsive Systems Associates, Lithonia, GA., . It is written from the perspective of the Support Broker.
People with developmental disabilities need committed, capable allies if they are going to overcome the barriers imposed by widespread prejudice and discrimination. It is important for a Support Broker to be committed to becoming such an ally. Being someone’s ally doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a close friend or endorsing everything the person does or wants. From the point of view of the Support Broker, whose primary role is to help people obtain what they want, it means being willing to be involved in a constructive way in helping a person discover and move toward a desirable personal future.
Obligations to the Person
There are a variety of obligations Support Brokers accept in relation to the people we assist. We acknowledge that in order to assist individuals effectively, we must earn trust and the distinction of being an ally by:
- respecting the individuals who hire us;
- listening carefully so that we can keep getting to know each person better;
- learning with each individual about the kind, amount, and style of assistance needed to live successfully in her/his home and community;
- learning with each individual about her/his interests and preferences and helping identify the kind of support that will offer a safe and reasonable basis for participation in community life;
- working with the individual, and her/his family and friends, to identify ways to obtain the assistance needed;
- recognizing the social, financial, and personal barriers to the kind of life each individual wants, and helping identify ways to overcome them;
- understanding each person’s vulnerabilities related to her/his disability and personal history, and carefully negotiating safeguards with each person to balance risk and safety in a responsible way;
- using our knowledge and experience to help individuals be flexible and creative with all the resources available, and responding as her/his interests, preferences, and needs change;
- keeping responsibilities clear so that, in every area in which we work together with individuals that hire us, all team members are aware of each other’s contributions and responsibilities;
- minimizing our intrusion into each individual’s life by periodically checking to make sure we are not doing unnecessary things or doing necessary things in intrusive ways;
- sticking with each person during difficult times;
- learning from our mistakes;
- following through on our commitments to the people who hire us and not making promises that we cannot keep.
We recognize that social, legal, and service developments may open many new possibilities for people with developmental disabilities, and we accept responsibility to:
- provide current information to individuals who hire us;
- invite and encourage each person to try new experiences;
- invite and encourage each person to widen her/his circle of friends and contacts;
- hold high expectations for the quality of each individual’s life, and assist her/him in participating as a full citizen and community member;
- stretch our own awareness of possibilities by actively seeking contacts with people involved in building up our communities, and with people who are developing more effective and practical ways to assist people with disabilities.
We realize that team members may disagree with us or be dissatisfied with our assistance to the individuals who hire us, and we accept responsibility to:
- negotiate openly with each individual in search of mutually satisfying outcomes;
- try new ways to assist, then check to see if the new approach has good results;
- work hard to understand communication about the adequacy and acceptability of our assistance, especially when an individual more often communicates with behavior than words;
- help each individual explore other sources of assistance, if she/he wants to do that.
Obligations to the Person’s Family and Friends
We acknowledge the importance of family and friends to the individuals we assist. We want to invite and encourage active support for a positive future for the people who hire us, and we do not in any way seek to replace family and friends in the person’s life. We recognize that family and friends may disagree with us or be dissatisfied with the support we provide. Thus, we accept responsibility to:
- respond to concerns about the person’s safety and well being;
- negotiate openly in search of mutually satisfying outcomes.
We realize that the individuals we assist and their family and friends may have different, perhaps even conflicting ideas about what is possible and desirable for the individual. In the event of these differences, we agree:
- to uphold the importance of mutually respectful relationships among family members;
- to assist everyone involved to negotiate a satisfactory resolution to the conflict, if our help is acceptable to the person we assist and to involved family and friends;
- that if the conflict is serious and we cannot resolve it, we will maintain respectful contact with all parties but honor the choice of the person we assist.
To help each individual build the future she/he wants, we believe we must invite and assist others within our community to do what the human service system cannot do alone, which is to help people create satisfying lives and fulfilling community relationships.