A Wicked Problem: Can Governments be Fair to Families Living with Disabilities?



Families provide priceless support to members with disabilities. Without the support of families the lives of most individuals with disabilities would be diminished in comfort, independence, opportunity, and caring relationships. Without the support provided to individuals with disabilities by family members, public expenditures for nonfamily assistance would be several times what is currently expended. In its responsibilities to the well-being of individual citizens and to the efficient and effective use of public resources, governments struggle to accommodate the great diversity among families in what they want and what they need. Governments are challenged in targeting limited resources to reach those who need them most, in the amounts that are most cost-effective, and in a manner that is most beneficial to the family and its member(s) with disabilities. The attention on support to families is further complicated by changes in families and their individual members as they pass through lifecycles of changing relationships, expectations, aspirations, and capabilities. This article offers a modest commentary on how in the midst of such complexities our society can develop fair, effective, and cost-beneficial approaches to supporting families and their individual members.