ABOUT THIS BOOK
Group homes emerged in the United States in the 1970s as a solution to the failure of the large institutions that, for more than a century, segregated and abused people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Yet community services have not, for the most part, delivered on the promises of rights, self-determination, and integration made more than thirty years ago, and critics predominantly portray group homes simply as settings of social control.
Making Life Work is a clear-eyed ethnography of a New York City group home based on more than a year of field research. Jack Levinson shows how the group home needs the knowledgeable and voluntary participation of residents and counselors alike. The group home is an actual workplace for counselors, but for residents group home work involves working on themselves to become more autonomous. Levinson reveals that rather than being seen as the antithesis of freedom, the group home must be understood as representing the fundamental dilemmas between authority and the individual in contemporary liberal societies. No longer inmates but citizens, these people who are presumed—rightly or wrongly—to lack the capacity for freedom actually govern themselves.
Levinson, a former group home counselor, demonstrates that the group home depends on the very capacities for independence and individuality it cultivates in the residents. At the same time, he addresses the complex relationship between services and social control in the history of intellectual and developmental disabilities, interrogating broader social service policies and the role of clinical practice in the community.