The Arc of Oakland County, Inc. (“The Arc”) is a parent’s group and is a non-profit membership organization working directly with persons having all levels of intellectual (mental retardation) and other related developmental disabilities, and their families. The purpose of The Arc is to provide direct and expert advocacy toward securing the proper services, programs and entitlements for the family member who has special needs. Specifically, assistance is available in the areas of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, special education law advocacy, estate plan counseling, guardianship, community residential options, the monitoring of group homes, respite care, recreational opportunities, as well as information and referral.
The Arc is governed by a fifteen-member volunteer Board of Directors. The chief professional officer of The Arc is Thomas F. Kendziorski, Executive Director, Attorney at Law. Mr. Kendziorski (B.A., Michigan State University; J.D., Cooley Law School) who supervises a compensated staff of fourteen, 150 volunteers, and a core agency budget of approximately $1,000,000. The Arc of Oakland County is the largest local chapter in Michigan with over 1,085 members, and is affiliated with both The Arc Michigan and The Arc of the United States.
The history of The Arc formally began in 1967 when a group of separate parent support groups in Oakland County decided to unite and gain strength from numbers. The Arc has flourished over the years within the realm of systems advocacy, that is, offering a “business-like approach” in the direct service of helping individuals and families obtain legal rights, benefits and entitlements. This organization and its members spearheaded the local grass-roots campaign in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s for passage of mandatory special education legislation. The Arc has also been on the “front lines” over the last generation advocating for the closure of all public institutions for persons with developmental disabilities, and the creation in the community of all the necessary residential and mental health support services.
The Arc has also pushed for: reform in SSI and SSDI eligibility standards as many people with disabilities were threatened with benefit cut-offs in the early 1980’s; implementation of the “Family Support Subsidy Act;” Medicaid reform, which led to a “Community Supported Living Arrangements” (“CSLA”) pilot project in Oakland County and Michigan; “Inclusive Education” as an option for all students with special needs; and supported employment instead of segregated vocational programs. Finally, The Arc of Oakland County has served as the “incubator” for many new ideas and now essential independent programs in the area such as: the vocational organization “New Horizons, Inc.,” the fine arts program known as, “F.A.R., Conservatory Inc.,” the Oakland County office for the “Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service,” the Lahser Respite Home for children, and even the “Oakland County Special Olympics.” The Arc conceived, developed its highly acclaimed comprehensive, lifetime advocacy service called the “Etheridge Plan,” and an outstanding respite program known as “Shared Parenting.”
The overall philosophy of The Arc is person-centered and family-centered in approach to all programs and services. The least restrictive environment and dictates of the concept of normalization are key to everything The Arc stands for and accomplishes. The professionalism of the employed staff at The Arc reflects these ideals, along with significant personal experience working through the problems inherent within the programmatic aspects of such beliefs.
The Arc serves a wide and diverse group of persons, and all consumers have a developmental disability.
The disabling conditions/backgrounds of persons (new intakes) typically served by The Arc of Oakland include:
- 70% – Intellectual Impairment
- 26% – Autism Spectrum Disorder
- 2% – Mental Illness
- 1% – Cerebral Palsy
- 1% – Epilepsy
The racial-ethnic backgrounds include:
- 84% – Caucasian [Oakland County = 88% (2000 Census)]
- 10% – African-American [Oakland County = 7.2% (2000 Census)]
- 2% – Middle Eastern[Oakland County = 1.5% (2000 Census)]
- 2% – Asian Pacific Islander [Oakland County = 1.5% (2000 Census)]
- 2% – Hispanic [Oakland County = 1.8% (2000 Census)]
Areas of advocacy requested:
- 22% – Estates (wills & trusts)
- 20% – Special education
- 18% – General advocacy and information
- 11% – Guardianship and alternatives
- 11% – SSI and SSDI benefits
- 7% – Medicaid/Medicare
- 5% – General legal advice and counsel
- 2% – Residential information
- 2% – Income tax
- 1% – Vocational information
- 1% – Etheridge Plan
The Arc of Oakland County served 2,500 persons in 2016.
The Arc of Oakland County boasts a number of significant “highlights” over the last decade or so of its organizational lifetime
- The latest strategic plan was accomplished in January of 2014.
- In order to better serve its physically-impaired consumers, The Arc of Oakland County moved during August 1993 from Birmingham into larger, barrier-free offices in Troy.
- The Arc of Oakland County made a successful transition of the innovative Shared Parenting program from Skillman Foundation funding to Oakland County Community Mental Health (and United Way’s of Oakland & Community Services). This program is now administered by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Inc.
- The Arc of Oakland County authors annually a tax guide (now FREE and located for download elsewhere on this website) for persons who support children and /or adults experiencing an intellectual impairment and/or other related developmental disability. Also, staff prepared and re-wrote the 1995 revision of a guardianship and estate planning booklet, which took both state and national “Communicators Award” honors in 1995. The tax guide won The Arc Michigan’s “Communicators Award” in 1996.
- Awarded a small grant in 1994 from the Oakland County CMH for “Para-Legal” services to assist families achieve more “Adult Home Help Services” benefits through the Family Independence Agency.
- The mission and purposes of The Arc of Oakland County were reviewed during early 1993; at the same time, a professional revision of the By-Laws and Articles of Incorporation was completed by independent legal counsel. Board sub-committee work and staff time went into the effort; approved by The Arc Michigan; then voted on by the membership in attendance at the June 1993 Annual Meeting of The Arc of Oakland. Further revisions were approved in 2014.
- About every five years, The United Way for Southeastern Michigan conducts an “Assist Visit” that explores in detail every facet of The Arc to determine that it is keeping to its mission statement, and is fiscally sound. The Arc of Oakland County last passed this “test” with flying colors during 2004.
- Since the summer of 2001, The Arc of Oakland County has served as Fiscal Intermediary for individuals/families enrolled in Self-Determination. The Arc of Oakland County serves approximately 1,600 consumers. As Fiscal Intermediary, The Arc processes invoices and time sheets and respite vouchers on behalf of each consumer, help them monitor their individual budget, current PCP guidelines, and Medicaid law. The Arc staff works with the consumer, his/her family, and their MORC, Inc. supports coordinator to help them flex their budgeted dollars to further meet their needs while staying within the guidelines of the current PCP and medicaid.