Tag Archives: relationships

Supporting Natural Support Networks

For several years, many of us have been trying to figure out how to move away from systems of support and create natural support networks for ourselves, our family members, and our friends.  I have been fortunate recently to be working with some wonderful people in my other home community in Prince Edward County, Canada around inclusion – in schools and communities.  They are a part of an organization that appears to be trying to work with people rather than provide services to clients.  I wanted to share some of their information to see what you think. 




Picton, ON, Canada

Principles of Support, Standards and Best Practices – September 2009

Community Living Prince Edward’s (CLPE’s) Principles of Support represent the value base of the organization.  It is the responsibility of all employees of CLPE to adhere to and promote these principles, ensuring a high standard of respectful and professional service. 








      Natural Support Networks are the people involved in a person’s life who have a   lifelong commitment to them, inclusive of family, friends, spouses, partners, and community connections. 

      The involvement of a natural support network is seen as an integral part of the organization’s Mission and Values, in keeping with our principles concerning health and wellness for all people.  Natural Support Networks reduce a person’s reliance on paid employee’s as well as their vulnerability of abuse, neglect, mistreatment, and exploitation. 

Standards for Natural Support Networks

  1. People will determine who is important to them and who they want in their lives.
  2. People will determine what they want their natural support network relationships to look like.
  3. People will take the lead role in developing/maintaining their relationships.
  4. People will have a circle of natural support networks that are not paid staff. 
  5. People will have action statements included in their plans that foster and nurture natural support networks.
  6. Staff will be knowledgeable about the natural support networks that people have and support people in enhancing and maintaining these networks. 

Best Practices for Natural Support Networks

  • We encourage and support people to make phone calls, write letters & emails, and visit friends and relatives.
  • We keep a written record of people’s natural support networks in their files and document all communication in their personal binders.
  • We respect a person’s privacy and only provide support when necessary.
  • We ensure that where people have family involvement, purposeful plans to get together are made based on the choices of the person. 
  • We ensure that where people have reciprocal relationships with others that are part of their natural support network.
  • We support people to send cards, flowers, purchase gifts, etc. to their natural support networks when celebrating significant events (e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers Day, etc.) based on their personal preference.
  • We support people to use resources such as family trees, genealogy, internet, CAS, etc. to reconnect and find family and friends if they are interested to do so.
  • We support people to use resources to mediate unresolved conflict with family or friends that may be presenting a barrier for developing relationships.
  • We support people to remember people that were important in their life i.e. memorials in the paper, pictures, memory boxes, visiting gravesites, DVD’s, etc.
  • We ensure people are aware of and support people to connect with community resources and support when they are involved in unsafe relationships i.e. Counseling, Alternatives, Al-anon, etc. 

Join Us as We Learn About Social Circles and Networks

A Circle — It’s Simple, Really

Loving, caring relationships are the key to a good life. A person’s well-being is intertwined with the relationships he or she creates. Most of us cannot imagine a life without someone with whom to share our closest thoughts, dreams, and fears. Yet the truth is that many people—including many with disabilities—are often lonely, and the most significant disabling condition they face is their isolation.

Adapted from “Weaving the Ties that Bind”

PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship

Loneliness is the only real disability.

David Pitonyak

Most of us know that isolation is both uncomfortable and dangerous. Bad things are more likely to happen to someone who’s disconnected from other people. And, anyway, most people long for community—for the richness of connection with others. Most of the stories we tell each other and most of the celebrations in which we take part are about the vibrancy of our relationships with other people.

So, we need to act against the isolation that people with disabilities experience. We need to invest our whole selves in building lives-of-connection with and for them. We need to do this on purpose.

Luckily, others have taught us about a simple and familiar image that helps us try to build relationship-networks for others. That image is the CIRCLE. Circles join things together. They include. All right, they can exclude too, but we’re not going to use them that way.

When we build a circle for someone who’s been isolated or who hasn’t had enough connections in his or her life, we do four related things:

1. We try to get to know the person as well as we can—what interests or excites this person? What makes or might make life rich for her? Who is already likely to have some sort of connection with him?

2. We look in communities for places and, more important, people whose excitements and interests match those of the person with whom we’re circle-building.

3. We ask. We invite others to join in the effort to bring the person out of isolation—to make her or his own space with the rest of us. We do this intentionally, consciously. The experience of others is that many people say “Yes” to this kind of invitation.

4. We work to keep circles (also called “social networks”) active and sustained over time.

A few Southwest Ohio citizens have joined together to learn more about how social networks/circles can be created, to spread the word about how important such circles are, and perhaps to create a way for circle-building to become a part of our communities’ lives. We’re arranging for Al Etmanski, a founder of PLAN (Planned LIfetime Advocacy Network) of British Columbia, to spend a few days in Butler and Hamilton Counties, November 12, 13, 1nd 14, 2008. Please save these dates for good listening and conversation about how to relieve isolation and loneliness.

Jack Pealer