Over the years, my wife, Patty, and I have discussed many times the caretaking of Steven, our wonderful son with Down Syndrome. Things like: When we die, who becomes his legal guardian? Who makes decisions for his well-being? Who will continue to care for his body, his mind, and his spirit?
We have observed the lives of young people around us in the same situation as Steven. Believe me, we realize that things are far better now for people with disabilities than they have been in the past. Community homes have become a way for people with developmental disabilities to live with their peers in an enjoyable, productive setting. We have witnessed what a loving community home provides to individuals with disabilities. The joy that abounds from the self-satisfaction of a young person that lives “independently” is uplifting. It is quite an experience to be a part of – a group of young people all in the same, difficult situation, yet living life together. That’s what we want for Steven and the men and women in the same situation as him: a fun, happy, stimulating place to live, enjoy and become part of the community.
As we were doing research into group home availability we learned several disturbing things. There are thousands of people like Steven waiting for placement in a group home in New Jersey alone! The high priority list is greater than 4500! This number grows every day. In 2011, with a goal of placing as many as possible, The Department of Human Services was only able to place 229. It’s obvious this problem is far bigger than we ever imagined.
I’m sure a lot of parents out there like us feel the same way. They’re overwhelmed with the reality that their loved one will probably wind up being a “ward of the state” someday, placed with people with entirely different needs so that no one’s needs are actually met. If given the choice, what parent would want that?
We must do something… We must make a difference! Not just for our children but for the whole community of people living with disabilities! The Smile of Hopatcong organization was created with them in mind. The Smile of Hopatcong organization is dedicated to the vision of creating multiple homes each year. Homes that will meet and exceed the needs of God’s children, dutifully loving them and providing them with high-quality care and a feeling of self-esteem.
Obviously, we cannot possibly do this on our own. We need the help of family, friends, loved ones and those with an understanding of just how hard it is to raise a child with disabilities to the age of maturity. Please think carefully about it, pray about it and consider supporting us financially to help The Smile of Hopatcong organization make a difference in the world of those so less fortunate than us.