I believe for most of us working in this field we have a reason why we chose this path. My reason is my cousin Stephanie or as we affectionately called her Stephy. Stephy was born with a severe case of Cerebral Palsy. She was in a wheel chair and was fed with a feeding tube. She couldn’t talk but she could smile. And when I tell you she smiled she lit up a room with her smile. My uncle was a single father who worked for Proctor & Gamble to support his family. He worked 7 days on and 7 days off. For the seven days that he was at work Stephy got to know the wonderful people at St. Joseph’s Center. There she did many things and met many people. As a young girl I didn’t see Stephanie’s disabilities I just saw Stephy. She had the same charms on her wheelchair as I had on my bike. She enjoyed my hot pink bean bag chair just as much as I did. I didn’t know it then but she changed my life and way of thinking in many ways. Stephanie passed away at the young age of 12. At her services St. Joseph’s Center played a video. The video was created to show all the amazing things she did there, and the friends she had made. Without St. Joseph’s I don’t know what my uncle would have done or what Stephanie’s life would become. She would be home. No friends, no activities.
The changes that legislation is trying to make look great on paper. It honestly does. However, I live this every day of the work week and I’m telling you it’s going to be detrimental to these individuals. Imagine being told how much time you have to spend in your community or where you will work. Imagine not being able to be with your friends because you are supposed to be in a group of 3 and the other 2 in your group aren’t exactly your cup of tea but you have no choice. Choice has gone out the window.
Integrating individuals into society and getting the ones who want to work at community jobs is a great idea. That’s what the company I work for is trying to do, but it takes time. And not a set amount of time for every individual. They want to keep job coaching for only 3 years. What if a particular person needs 3 ½ years? What if that extra 6 months would have helped them keep their job for years to come? No one person is the same and it seems like the Office of Developmental Programs is trying to imply just that. They are people just like you and I.
I couldn’t imagine starting my day without being asked what I had for dinner, what I was having for lunch and what would be for dinner tonight by one particular individual. Another comes in and gives the best hugs and tells you her exciting news of being able to go home for the weekend. Another individual and I spent a lot of time together over the past 10 years. She and I have grown very close. She does not have the capabilities of working at all. So they expect her to be out in the community 75% of her day. She needs help with eating and with her hygiene. It’s not a possibility, So where does that leave her? It leaves her home without her friends without being able to work on basic skills and without her 2 hours in the community. Home to sit and lose all the things that she and her caregivers over the years have worked towards. It’s not my job to just come in, punch the time clock and leave. I am their voice. I am advocating for them. I implore you to take a second look and think about what will happen to each of these individuals. Fight for them because they can’t fight for themselves.
Katie Franklin - Art Instructor / Day Program Professional