A mother in Illinois has abandoned her adult daughter because she could no longer care for her. From the account, the daughter has severe mental deficits and is unable to care for herself. In a former time, she probably would be living in a state-supported school with full-time care.
Across the country, the services for people with mental health and mental retardation issues are having their budgets slashed. Many think the community is the place where they should get their services. What if the family is unable to give them? This mother has another child with disabilities at home and decided she could no longer cope with two. She decided her best option was to drive her daughter to a state that had what she said was the “No. 1 health care system in the United States of America,” let her out of the car to go to the bathroom at a bar, and drive away. The daughter couldn’t even tell police her own name and address.
Let me be clear. Nothing illegal has been done by the mother. The daughter is legally an adult. Morally, I don’t think it is our place to judge. I have to wonder when the last time this woman had a few hours to think of something other than her family. Time to take a walk, read a book, visit a friend, without her children being present.
If there were adequate services for her daughter as a child, she probably “aged out” of the system when she turned 19, if not earlier. It is all too common for children to be able to get some sort of services through the school systems, but lose them when they get too old.
If institutions are no longer the answer, and many think they should be closed, then we have to have viable alternatives in the community. That includes alternatives for people of all ages who need 24-hour care by someone other than a family member. For people with mental illness who will NOT remember their meds on their own, but function just fine if they have them. For people with mental retardation whose parents are willing to help, but truly need to take a vacation now and then.
Folks in the community need to understand that group homes for these people are part of life. NIMBY (Not In My BackYard) needs to stop being a kneejerk reaction when they hear one might be moving in. We determine what property values are, and we need to stop letting a group home affect the property values. Stop blocking services for these people and start embracing them as neighbors. Just like people in general, most of them are quite nice when you get to know them, some of them are jerks, and once in a great while one will be dangerous. The percentages are probably not that different from what you find in the general population. They might just look or sound a little different.
They are people. They need support. They need services. Many of them can give back to the community and earn a living if they have these services and that means paying taxes to help with their own services. Without the services and support, many of them end up living on the street. Which would you prefer? A neighbor or a vagrant?
Let’s be neighbors.