Friday, October 05, 2012

Never Take "NO" for an answer!

When my autistic nephew came to live with us he was sixteen. Admittedly, we placed some serious expectations on him, and he responded well. When he reached twenty one, he decided enough was enough, and let us know he wanted to move. At first I was worried for him, having heard and /or experienced what challenges he would face, but decided he was now capable of taking care of himself with some support. I spoke with his case manager, who suggested we begin visiting some group homes she would refer us to.

These places were bad! In one setting they wanted to have him share a room with a guy who was in his 60's, blind, non-verbal, and developmentally disabled. They were serious! I couldn't believe it! Talk about the odd couple. They actually proposed a 21 year old guy, with speaking issues, who does jigsaw puzzles on the floor, would be compatible with someone who can't see, and never speaks, and is three times his age. Needless to say, we declined.

We checked out a few others before trying out a foster home. Bingo! We found a place where there were 4 other guys in their 20's, some working in the community, in a nice big home! Joseph loved the place, and within a month he decided he wanted to live there. There was one problem. His case manager said the house was set up to receive people in crisis, who would stay there until their crisis was over. I spoke with the managers who said she was right, but they would change the policy so that he could move in. Because they get a large payment from the county, the case manager had a lot of control over the house, and said she wouldn't allow them to do that. Guess her thinking was if you do this sort of thing for one person, you've set a precedent to have to do it again in the future.

Now I was angry! To keep her life/job simple, she was going to deny someone the right to live where they choose... WITH the blessing of the people who run the home! On the phone I told her Joseph would in fact, end up living there, and she hung up on me. What I did next caused my statement to come true. I collected 35 letters from people who knew my nephew, saying he should get to live where he wants. These people were from many walks of life, including family, teachers, skill trainers, past case managers, and familiar community members. I was pretty overwhelmed with some of THEIR passion to see this happen. I faxed the letters to her one at a time, with 5 minutes between each. I figured that would get her attention. After the last one was sent I called her again. This time I told her if she didn't agree, I would take the story to the media. She hung up on me again!

A few days later I got a call from the managers of the foster home, telling me Joseph could stay there! The county was changing the home to a non crisis home. And... Joseph had a new case manager!

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