The Arc of Chester County was founded in 1952 by local parents who wanted to make lives better for their children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The group was originally known as The Association for Retarded Children then later The Association for Retarded Citizens. Now we are simply The Arc.
When The Arc was founded, there were few programs and services for people with special needs. In line with prevailing thinking, many people with developmental and intellectual disabilities were institutionalized at Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Embreeville State Hospital, and other places. The Arc’s founders defied conventional wisdom by advocating and working for public education and community inclusion for their children.
From the beginning, The Arc has been a respected voice for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The organization continues to be committed to integration and community inclusion.
A Series of “Firsts”
With the help of churches, organizations, and interested citizens throughout Chester County, The Arc led the way in making educational, occupational, and recreational opportunities available to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities through a series of “firsts” including:
- First sheltered workshop in Chester County, now a separate organization known as Handi-Crafters, Inc.;
- First community-based classrooms for children with developmental or intellectual disabilities, known as Tom Thumb;
- First recreation program of its kind in Chester County for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, which gives parents a much-needed break from caregiving and helps participants develop social skills;
- First in Pennsylvania to advocate for public education for children with special needs;
- First group home in Chester County, now operated by Brian’s House;
- First community-based job coaching and employment program; and
- First and only classroom-based program for two-year-olds with autism.
The performance and stability of The Arc of Chester County have been validated by its award of the Seal of Excellence from the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO) for completing the Standards for Excellence Program. This accomplishment attests to The Arc’s commitment to accountability and best practices in the non-profit sector.