A Place to Call Home: Intellectual Disabilities and Residential Services in Nova Scotia

  • Rachel Barken Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology, McMaster University
Keywords: Institutionalization, Community Living, Intellectual Disability, Nova Scotia, Government Policy, Advocacy, Institutional Ethnography


Despite broader trends toward the deinstitutionalization of people with intellectual disabilities, evidence that they have a higher quality of life in the community, and recognition of community living as a human right, many in Nova Scotia remain segregated in institutional settings. This article provides insight on the reasons why people with intellectual disabilities continue to be institutionalized in the province. It is based on participant observation, document analysis, and qualitative interview research. It finds that implicated community members— including policymakers, residential service providers and workers, and advocates— hold conflicting beliefs about the purpose and necessity of large institutions, as well as the extent to which community-based group homes reflect institutional models. This paper argues that these conflicting beliefs have practical implications for disability advocates, community service providers, and policymakers in Nova Scotia and in other provinces as they attempt to improve residential services.

Author Biography

Rachel Barken, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology, McMaster University

Rachel Barken is PhD student in Sociology at McMaster University with interests in caregiving, aging, chronic illness, disability, gender, and paid and unpaid labour. She is working under the supervision of Dr. Margaret Denton, Dr. Lori Campbell, and Dr. James Gillett.

Rachel’s doctoral dissertation will examine the relationships between paid home care workers and family/friend caregivers providing support for aging Canadians. This SSHRC-funded research seeks to inform homecare services policies in a way that privileges the perspectives and interests of people directly involved in care relationships.

Rachel completed her undergraduate and Master’s degrees at Dalhousie University.