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Mulheir: Family Care is the Best Option for the Development and Progress of Children with Disabilities


Chief Executive Officer of Lumos, Georgette Mulheir, estimated that the transition period for persons with disabilities from the welfare system of institutionalization to a day care system takes 7 – 10 years. The transition takes place gradually in such a way that would guarantee the best interests of people with disabilities.


Mulheir visited the Kingdom last week as part of an experience exchange program in the transformation from the system of institutional centers to family care for people with disabilities. She said, “During this transitional period, a support service system will be established for families to care for their children. Educational institutions will be rehabilitated to ensure children's right to inclusive education.” She also added, “The cost of providing these services before will be much less than the cost of institutionalized care.”


The new law on the rights of persons with disabilities was enforced last September and provides for the gradual abolition of institutions for people with disabilities.


Article (27) of the Law stipulates, “The institutional system for persons with disabilities shall be replaced by a supportive system of services. This should help achieve the maximum standards of self-reliance in individuals with disabilities. They would also attain their right to independent living with their families and local communities.” The law grants a ten-year period for gradual transformation from the institutional system to the day care system.


In a conversation with Al-Ghad, Mulheir said, “Family care is the best option to ensure the development and progress of a child with disabilities. It is also more economic, as the cost of taking care of one child in institutional homes covers the cost of caring for 10 children within their families,”


She said “This system will not require spending more money, but rather re-distributing it.” Mulheir added, “If the program is implemented, everyone with disabilities will have the services they need within the framework of their families and society, and it will be covered by the state.”


Mulheir reassured residents that no child or adult with disabilities will return to his family before the family is able to and qualified to care for him, including providing services to families so that they could do their part.


She stressed “The philosophy behind the creation of institutions is to provide rehabilitation, shelter, treatment and food services for people with disabilities. However, the experience of 80 years in the institutionalization system has proven this approach to be a failure. It proved that institutionalization harms the development and progress of individuals and that people with disabilities belong in their families and communities.”


She pointed out that “The cost of institutionalization is much higher than the provision of services to people with disabilities in their families,” indicating that “the cost of one person in the institutional centers for people with disabilities equals the cost of caring for 10 people in their families and social environment.” She added, “The plan to move from the system of institutionalization to the day care and family support system will be well thought out.”


Mulheir clarified that the system will include “making diverse services available to families at flexible timings, and these will meet the needs of families.” She continued saying, “For example, if a family has 4 children, and one of them is a child with disabilities, the family will be assisted with the provision of a companion at specific times to care for the child with disabilities while the mother takes care of her other children’s needs.”


According to her, the transition will encompass the educational system, so that it becomes inclusive. All children will be able to go to a regular school, and school will provide the requirements for inclusive education for children.


Concerning the cost of changing education in Jordan to an inclusive one, Mulheir confirmed “It will not be costly; redistribution of funds is all that is needed. Instead of the State subsidizing institutions, it will redirect this support to inclusive education in schools and to day care centers.”


Mulheir noted that parents are wondering about the special cases of children with disabilities, such as orphans, abandoned children or victims of domestic violence. Here, she said “The solution lies in resorting to foster/ alternative families. Currently, there is a limited application of caring for children by foster/ alternative families, and we will expand this program.”


With regard to persons with disabilities and those whose families cannot take care of because of age or illness, Mulheir underlined the philosophy of independent living for this sector. By this process, a group of persons with disabilities live in a home independently, and supportive services will be provided for them.


In the cases of extreme disability, and if the family is unable to care for them, there will be an institutionalization system, but within small and open houses. Concerning the negative stereotypes dominant about intellectual disabilities, she said, “This requires a media strategy and communication to change it.”


A recent survey by the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities revealed that “1847 persons with intellectual disabilities were residing in government, private and voluntary care homes. 864 of these are Jordanian nationals, 983 belong to other nationalities, mostly Saudis with a total number of 722 people.”


According to the Council's survey, “The vast majority of these residents are male, with 1382 compared to 465 females. The majority is severely disabled with 842 people, compared to 716 cases of moderate disabilities and 289 simple ones.”


The study notes “Of these cases, 468 people are suffering from difficult family situations, 55 of whom have lost familial support, 97 come from dysfunctional families and 316 are orphans.”


The survey covered 36 centers, of which 5 are government centers, 2 are voluntary, and 29 are private centers. Jordanians are concentrated in government centers, with a total number of 547: 349 of these are cases coming from dysfunctional families, are orphans or have lost familial support. 252 cases are females.


The number of Jordanians in the private sector is 283, of which 55 suffer from difficult family conditions (dysfunctional families, orphans, loss of familial support), while only 63 are females. In the voluntary sector, the number of Jordanian beneficiaries is 33 children and adults.