HISTORY OF
THE ARC ALLIANCE

The purpose of this document is to give a history of The Arc Alliance for the beginning of our strategic planning process. Much of the information listed in this document have been reported to me orally, and I cannot confirm the accuracy of that information. However, the story has become our history to a large extent and its accuracy is irrelevant as we set goals and objectives for the next three years.

The Arc Alliance is made up of five affiliated corporations:
The Arc Alliance, The Arc Alliance Advocacy Services, The Arc Alliance Children’s Services, The Arc Alliance Guardianship Services and The Arc Alliance Foundation.

Our mission is to support individuals of all ages with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities, and their families, by providing exceptional personal services, support and training; inspiring hope, potential, and well-being, ensuring valued life experiences and treatment expected by all people.

The Arc Alliance is an affiliate of The Arc, with nearly 700 state and local chapters nationwide. The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The Arc is on the front lines to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families have the support and services they need to be fully engaged in their communities. The Arc works with its federation of state and local chapters to create an impressive network of human service agencies ensuring they have the strongest civil rights advocates promoting and protecting their needs at all levels.

The Arc Alliance has gone through some changes over the years.  A brief history follows below:

The Arc Alliance, The Arc of Pennsylvania, and The Arc of the United States all were founded in the early 1950’s by parents of children with a disability.  The Arc Alliance continues to be a family driven organization and The Arc Alliance leadership and its Board of Directors continue to have a majority of board members who have a member of their family with a developmental disability.  This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, and persons with developmental disabilities.

The initial movement of The Arc was comprised mainly of mothers. In the early 50s many mothers did not work and those who had a child(ren) with a disability and did work usually had to quit their jobs because of a lack of supports in the community. People with a disability were being refused an education and there were no day programs for individuals with IDD. So women began to organize and develop programs for their children who had no options except institutionalization. The Arc of Montgomery County along with other local chapters of The Arc began to develop school programs for their children. With no funding options for these programs the locations of the programs were anywhere space could be made available including churches and synagogues and other organizations that provide the space free of charge. These programs grew in the 50’s and The Arc of Montgomery County and other chapters of The Arc began to provide programs in the late 50’s and early 60’s. There were three local chapters of The Arc that eventually became The Arc Alliance, all of which had similar beginnings. By the mid-60’s all three were large providers of educational and workshop programs. President Kennedy, because of his sister who had IDD began providing substantial funding for programs for this population. The three chapters of The Arc continued to expand rapidly during the 1960s.

During the time before 1974 the only residential option you had was institutional care for your family member with IDD. The Arc of Montgomery County and The Arc of Pennsylvania became increasingly concerned about the poor quality of services being offered in institutions. Many individuals were on locked wards with little to no active treatment being provided. Individuals living in state institutions were denied any access to public education. Because of litigation, The Arc of Pennsylvania and local chapters of The Arc in conjunction with PILCOP (Public Interest Law Center), filed two lawsuits against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The first lawsuit addressed having active treatment in the institution and the second was a right to education case for individuals with IDD. In trying to decide which institution to name in the litigation it was felt that, Pennhurst or Polk state centers would be the best simply because they were the largest.  Polk was located in Venango County and the local chapters of The Arc in that area flatly refused to participate in the litigation if it was against Polk. The Arc of Chester County and The Arc of Montgomery County supported the litigation so Pennhurst was chosen. Half of the individuals who were named as the initial class for these two litigations were from Montgomery County. The results of these two litigations created the Parc consent decree which guaranteed education for all individuals with IDD who could benefit from an educational program, and the Pennhurst settlement which resulted in the first closing of a public institution. These two landmark decisions changed the face of how people with IDD would be served for the next 50 years.

1960’s

During the late 60s a conflict existed for The Arc of Montgomery County. The state and the county were major funders of The Arc and were also named in the litigation. Funding became more difficult and relationships became strained.  Two of The Arc’s decided to spin off their services and become advocacy only organizations. As a result of the spinoff of services the three chapters of The Arc no longer had governmental funding and much of their financial support went to the new provider organizations that they created. The third chapter of The Arc dropped out of affiliation and was no longer a member agency.

1970’s

In the 1970’s, The Arc Alliance spun off all of its adult services to other non-profits, including The Developmental Enterprises Corporation (DEC) and Prospectus Berco.

In the 1980s the remaining two chapters of The Arc were having significant financial difficulties. In 1984 The Arc of Montgomery County was informed by the IRS that board members paychecks would be attached to pay for the payroll taxes that were due to be paid by The Arc Montgomery County. The president and the executive director resigned at a board meeting and the volunteers took control of the agency. Two years later the agency was turned around financially and Paul Stengle was hired as Executive Director.

1980’s

In the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s The Arc Alliance major legislative push besides increase funding for community services were the enactment of legislation. One, permitted limited guardianship for persons with IDD and individuals who were deemed incompetent. Two, a mandate on the federal and state level a mandate for early intervention services to children with developmental disabilities and who were at risk. Both pieces of legislation became law.

1990’s

As a result of a reorganization in 1998’s, The Arc Alliance, the parent organization had the authority to appoint Board members for three separate corporations.  The Arc Alliance Advocacy Services to provide supports coordination services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and/or autism. The Arc Alliance Children’s Services to provide early intervention services for children birth-five, and provide other supports to children up to the age of 21. The Arc Alliance Foundation to raise funds for The Arc Alliance Advocacy Services, and The Arc Alliance Children’s Services.  This corporate restructuring alleviated the conflict that has historically existed between the provision of services and advocacy.

2000’s

In 2007, The Arc of Montgomery County was asked and agreed to be The Arc in Bucks County. The reason for this is previously reported that Barc dropped out of The Arc in 1970s and after two attempts to create an independent chapter of The Arc in Bucks County failed.

In 2008, The Arc of Montgomery and Bucks Counties merged with The Arc of Berks County, with the merger we became The Arc of Montgomery, Berks and Bucks Counties.  At this time we also began to provide increased guardianship and rep-payee services.  We have continued to expand these services.

2010 – Present

In 2010, one of the strategic goals of the agency was to operate more efficiently by restructuring the Table of Organization.  Executive Director/Department Head Positions of each affiliated corporation were approved.  A Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) positions were approved.  The CEO will continue to have ultimate responsibility for overall operations of all affiliated corporations.

The Arc of Montgomery, Berks & Bucks Counties voted in June 2011 to change its name and the names of all of the affiliated corporations.  The Arc of Montgomery, Berks & Bucks Counties became The Arc Alliance.  The new name was adopted for each affiliated corporation.  The official names for each organization are listed below:

The Arc Alliance Advocacy Services – formerly Marc Advocacy Services and The Arc Advocacy Services. The Arc Alliance Advocacy Services – provides supports coordination services for individuals diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disabilities, and/or autism.  Supports coordination services assist the individual with locating, coordinating and monitoring health and safety in addition to needed supports and services.

The Arc Alliance Children’s Services – formerly Marc Children’s Services. The Arc Alliance Children’s Services provides early intervention and support services to children between the ages of birth and three years with developmental delays.  Early intervention services are designed to allow the child the opportunity to actively participate in family and community life.  The Arc Alliance Children’s Services teachers and therapists work on the outcomes identified by the family for the child. Early Intervention activities occur in any location to meet those outcomes, at home, in a childcare setting or in the community.  It is not unusual to see early intervention services taking place in the grocery store, the mall, at the doctor’s office, the library and on the playground.

The Arc Alliance Guardianship Services (formerly The Arc Alliance Community Services)
The Arc Alliance Guardianship Services provides a variety of guardianship services and supports for individuals diagnosed with an intellectual disability or other disabilities. Guardianship Services also provides Representative Payee and POA (Power of Attorney) services.

The Arc Alliance Foundation (formerly Marc Foundation)
The Arc Alliance Foundation works to generate private and public funding to improve and expand services for The Arc Alliance Advocacy Services, The Arc Alliance Children’s Services and The Arc Alliance Guardianship Services.

The Arc Alliance has a deep commitment to the full inclusion of all individuals with developmental and other disabilities.  This inclusion means that people with a disability are given complete access to all opportunities and services that an individual without a disability receives and that these individuals have the opportunity to be contributing members of society.  The vision of The Arc Alliance is to see all persons with a developmental disability and/or other disabilities are fully included into society, and their mission is to achieve that objective.

The Arc Alliance continues to be a leader both on the state and national levels. There have been two past presidents of The Arc of US that came from The Arc of Montgomery County.  Over the last 35 years 50% of the presidents of The Arc of PA have come from Montgomery County and one president has come from Berks County. Presently there are four board members from The Arc Alliance serving on The Arc of PA the Board of Directors.

In 1972, The Arc Alliance had twelve full time advocates one specifically for Pennhurst class members.  In 1996 we had an executive director and three full time advocates.  At the peak of providing case advocacy services we had on average 2400 contacts per year with individual parents, and trainings for individuals.  Today we do not have any advocates.  As part of our strategic planning, we will need to decide if we will work to provide quality advocacy services and how this will be funded, or if we will should walk away from providing this service.

Today, The Arc Alliance is focused on two pieces of litigation to increase the rates of early intervention services and to increase the rates of guardianship services.

Paul Stengle