By Anne Dachel
This is from California, the state where parents no longer have a choice when it comes to vaccinating their children. Here's one mother's story of looking for adult services for her daughter. This is the inevitable disaster we'll all face in America.
By Pamela Raymond
California’s day programs for adults with autism are underfunded and overcrowded. But with thousands of young people with developmental delays or disabilities about to reach the age at which they can no longer attend a public school and receive the many services offered there, the problem is soon going to get much, much worse....
When Briana’s special education school abruptly closed in the fall, I was faced with the premature task of finding her a placement in an adult day program. Because she is just turning 21, she would only have one more year of special education services under the 1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — or IDEA — which assures a free and appropriate public education to disabled students to age 22.
...“This is a program I could see my Briana in. How do I sign her up?”
Not so easy. There is not even a waiting list per se, and the program prefers clients that are more independent than Briana. She still needs help sometimes in the bathroom, and she needs a pair of eyeballs on her at all times due to her wandering tendencies. There really was no space for someone with such great needs.
...I saw 50-plus clients crowded into two run-down rooms, many in wheelchairs parked in front of a big-screen television. It was noisy and chaotic. ...
...They had greater staff-to-client ratio, but the clients almost never left the building. There was no outdoor space to utilize or enjoy....
These programs, with some exceptions like the well-established one in Marin, are buckling under current conditions, and they are only going to get worse with the increasing number of adults like my daughter about to age out of the school setting.
The demand is leading some new programs to open, but they are faced with trying to operate a business without failing. This can mean sub-optimal buildings, and paying low wages to staff.
The ratios of staff members to clients are controlled by reimbursement rates by the regional centers. The regional centers receive funding from the state Department of Developmental Services. The pay rates of some of these professionals are on par with what caregivers are paid, which is close to minimum wage. Pet sitters or baristas that serve us our coffee may earn more than we pay those important, compassionate people that care for our loved ones. Are we OK with this?
Time is needed to find a good day program for a disabled young adult because there are not enough options. In the next decade, 500,000 children with developmental delays will enter adulthood nationwide, overwhelming a system that is already inadequate for the current numbers. Legislative leaders need to know how bad the problem already is so that plans can be made to avoid this looming public crisis.