Frequently Asked Questions

How does a family go about exploring a L’Arche placement for a family member?

Families work with the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to obtain a referral for their adult son or daughter over the age of 22 to explore whether L’Arche is the best fit for them.

How is the L’Arche program funded?
Our primary funding is through contracts with the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). We also receive funding from Social Security Disability benefits. The remainder of the funding is through fundraising efforts.

How are L’Arche assistants recruited?

The majority of L’Arche Boston North assistants are recent college graduates who want to spend a year or two working with adults with developmental disabilities in a faith based community. We also have a number of retirees and other adults who work as part time assistants.

How long must assistants commit to working with L’Arche?

A person coming to Irenicon is required to make a minimum commitment of one year. However, the first thirty days of a person’s time living in community, is set up as a time of discernment for both the community and the individual. If, at the end of thirty days, the individual or the community feels that it is not a good match, the person leaves without concern for the one year commitment. In addition, there is a 90 day introductory period. If at the end of 90 days (beyond the initial 30), the community feels that there are significant difficulties, a person may be asked to leave at that time.

What is the staff to core member ratio?

L’Arche Boston North operates on a 2:4 staff to core member ratio, with 3:4 and 1:1 depending on the needs in each home.

What is an ‘intellectual disability’?

The mission of L’Arche focuses on the needs of people with intellectual disabilities. Because there is no standard definition of this term, it is not possible here to give a common terminology for all countries of the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an intellectual disability is defined as a greater than average limit on an individual’s mental capacity – this would limit how quickly a person can learn or remember new information, etc.

There are a wide variety of causes of intellectual disability, some of which are presently unknown. Genetic causes include Down syndrome, one of the most common disabilities. Sometimes, a disease like Rubella causes disability. Precise definitions and respectful terminology varies from country to country, but the important thing is to avoid pejorative terms and remember that whatever words are used, such a label can never convey the full richness and complexity of a person’s individual experience.

What is meant by assistant?

People who have an intellectual disability need support in their everyday lives. In L’Arche, people who choose to share their life ‘assist’ them in a wide variety of tasks: cooking, household maintenance, medical or personal care, gardening… The term ‘assistant’ includes both volunteers and employees. The role can involve sharing the life of the home, working in a workshop or taking on leadership. People choose to get involved in community life, in various ways and for varying periods, and L’Arche welcomes them all. A lot of young people come just for a year with us, while others want to commit themselves for much longer.

Is L’Arche a religious organization?

Across all five continents, L’Arche promotes the well-being of each member, regardless of their faith, religious or philosophical tradition. Each community is founded in the context of a specific culture, and naturally the members come from that culture, bringing with them their beliefs and cultural background. Whether one is Christian, Hindu, Muslim or one of the many who stand outside the major faith traditions, the experience of living together leads to a better understanding of our common humanity, and the life-spirit that enables such a very diverse group of people to live in harmony together. Given L’Arche’s stated aim to help each person develop and fulfill their potential, the community is led naturally to respond to their needs, whether physical, intellectual, emotional, relational or spiritual.

What does ‘Larche Irenicon’ mean?

L’Arche, the French word for an ark, as in Noah’s Ark, was the name given to the original home created by Jean Vanier Trosly-Breuil, France, where he began to live with Philippe Seux and Raphael Simi, two people with an intellectual disability. Subsequent houses founded in Trosly received individual names, although collectively they were all under the L’Arche umbrella. Other communities that started in France and elsewhere have followed suit, although those in India, founded in a Hindu context prefer to use the term Asha Niketan, meaning House of Welcome. Soon, all the L’Arche communities around the world decided to join together in the International Federation of L’Arche Communities, better known today as L’Arche International. This term has also commonly come to refer to the international structure set up to support the communities. Irenicon, used to recognize the L’Arche community in Haverhill, MA, means a message of peace.