INARF-Strength through Diversity
By Steve Sacksteder, Chair, INARF Board of Directors
Diversity can lead to conflict and division in many contexts. This has often been true within trade associations, and has spelled the demise of those which value uniformity above commonality of purpose. Those associations in which differences become preclusive, and that value only strict similarities, often end up representing a small proportion of the members they represent. Ultimately, they find themselves ineffective due to their fragmentation and lack of broad support.
Throughout its 40 years of growth and influence, INARF has thrived on the diversity of its institutional membership. What began in the early 70's with a core membership comprised of mostly local ARC chapters largely providing pre and post school age day programs, INARF now represents a membership which is extremely diverse across agencies. In many cases, member agencies are very diverse even within themselves. The 80's brought the addition of group homes and supported living agencies and related service components, as well as for-profit members. In addition to the array of child and family services including infant, early childhood and preschool services, many agencies added Head Start, Healthy Families, clinical therapies and other child and family services to their menus. INARF members in the 90's and 2000's expanded their vocational options to include Welfare to Work, veterans' services and other employment programs. Also within this timeframe, many INARF agencies have become extremely active in housing development and in public transportation. A number of INARF facilities also include substantial industrial operations.
The common threads that secure us all together is our passion for enabling people with disabilities and other challenges to be self-dependent and naturally interdependent, our belief that all people merit access to the full array of life's opportunities and experiences, and our drive to enrich lives through the services and support of INARF agencies. Whether the INARF member is a non-profit, for-profit, day program only, child and family services only, case management only, Arc affiliated or not, residential only, group home/waiver/supported living only, housing, public transportation or one of the various combinations thereof, INARF's membership is sewn together by its commonality of purpose which motivates its diverse membership to united action and impact.
INARF can be proud of its diverse, yet united history and will continue to progress and succeed through this variety as a challenging future unfolds.