Parents Planning Programs (PPP)
for the Developmentally Disabled of Florida, inc.


Melbourne Beach, March 1, 1999...The recent interest in community living for children and adults with special needs has prompted a group of parents to participate in workshops which explore options open to them for their  family members with developmenal disabilities.

Particularly critical to them, as it is to other parents who are aging, is the need for permanent long-term care for their children.  Long waiting lists for group homes compound the problem. 

Parents are at a point in their lives where they must make plans for their son's or daughter's future beyond physical housing.  For the more dependent individuals, the prospect of supported independent living is unrealistic.  Because of the prevalence of inadequately trained staff, high rate of turnover, abuse, inadequate supervision and poorly maintained facilities, many group homes are shunned by parents.

Parents are also concerned that many of the existing training and sheltered work programs offer little challenge, with repetitive and limiting tasks such as sorting, paper collating, envelope stuffing, and packaging.  There is a pervasive "workshop" mentality among providers who conduct programs, often in windowless and confining facilities.  We knew there were other possibilities for more purposeful programs, in a less restrictive, challenging and richly aesthetic environment. 

Parents Planning Programs (PPP), a grass roots organization founded by parents, organized parent field trips to five Camphill communities in New York and Pennsylvania in 1998 and 1999, and came away with renewed hope that the Camphill concept might be ideally suited for both long-term care needs of mentally challenged adults as well as for the younger population in Florida.

The varied focuses of each Camphill campus range from early childhood development programs (Waldorf School), open to the community at large, to vocational and academic training for adulthood and for transition into independent living where appropriate. 

Local parents who attended workshops viewed videos of daily life at Camphill and noted the rich family, social and cultural life, beautiful rural setting, homes, art studios and classrooms. They saw villagers and staff (a.k.a. co-workers) working side by side in farmlands and in studios where they create quality handicrafts sold worldwide.  Interaction with neighboring communities was depicted in scenes of a co-op store, gift shop and coffee shop and in the marketing of dairy, bakery and organic farm products. Villagers were also seen in cultural interchange through concerts, dramatic productions and community beautification projects.  In stark contrast to the windowless workshops that so often typify the usual work setting for people with developmental disabilities, parents felt that this was a breath of fresh air. 

Camphill's success, parents agreed, owes to its unique philosophy of purposeful work in the context of family and community life, the long-term commitment and training of co-workers, closeness to nature, and an abiding respect for the abilities of its special-needs residents. 

We look to the brilliant and innovative work of Camphill, whose philosophy embodies nurturing family care and community support, while providing challenging opportunities for developing human potential.  Camphill advances an enhanced work ethic, where residents contribute their unique talents to community life and also produce worldwide marketable products under the guidance of skilled artisans. 

Innovation requires an understanding of the past and a venturing spirit.  We hope the families and friends of our special population will contribute their efforts to creating a similar model in Florida.

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PPP invited Cornelius Pietzner, President of Camphill, and his wife, Elisabeth, to conduct a seminar in Melbourne on Feb. 28, 1999.  Both Cornelius and Elisabeth have had extensive experience in all phases of Camphill life.  They have lived, worked in and directed Camphill communities since 1983.  Cornelius grew up in a Camphill community where his father was one of the original founders in the U.S. in 1959. The Pietzners explored the possibility of starting a Camphill community, or other similar innovative programs in Florida.  The seminar included a question-and-answer session in which parents discussed current issues such as funding options, cost efficiency, community inclusion, freedom of choice, and scope of care for their handicapped children.