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Unlocking the Door to Community Living
June 24, 2011
Unlocking the Door to Community Living

Posted by Betsy Closs

Doreen Cummings, Director, Day, Creative Living & Family Supports and I recently spoke with more than 50 families who have teenagers and young adults with special needs on the topic of “Planning for the Future.” Although we met in a spacious, comfortable room, it felt like a packed house. The questions that were asked and the worries that were unspoken filled the room.

Raising a child with disabilities is inevitably a challenge. Having a child who is leaving the special education system in these tough budgetary times is especially daunting. Young adults who would qualify for a group home five years ago are now told they do not meet the eligibility requirements. Day and work programs that were once virtually guaranteed for those completing special education are now quite limited. Therefore, when Doreen and I speak at a program such as this, we must balance real limitations with a sense of hopefulness. We do this by giving examples of how families have met these challenges. We present creative solutions to very difficult problems.

At these workshops, I suggest to attendees to just let our ideas and suggestions “wash” over them as the details of the presented material are too numerous to master in one sitting. Thanks to the CJP Disabilities Housing Initiative, JF&CS can offer such workshops frequently so participants can attend similar workshops as often as they need to in order to become familiar with the process. Through recent funding from the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, we have also been able to completely revise our written materials and we provide a comprehensive workbook, called Unlocking the Door to Community Living, which families can take with them. And now, it is available on the web.  

The Torah reminds us that we are not to cast an impediment before the blind and the lame. In these economic times, the impediments may seem insurmountable. We cannot eliminate the obstacles, but as a community we can help—we can share resources frequently and provide support to families who are trying to create viable futures for their teenagers and young adults. And we will continue to expand affordable programs like the Yellow House in Norwood. Our goal remains constant—to expand services so that more adults with disabilities can lead truly adult lives. 

Betsy Closs is the Director of JF&CS Services for People with Disabilities. She has worked in the field of disabilities for more than twenty years, in both day and residential services as well as quality improvement. She was the director of the MA Governor’s Commission on Mental Retardation before joining the staff at JF&CS in 2002. Betsy has degrees from Vassar and Harvard in addition to her social work degree from Simmons. She has two young adult children, a son who is pursuing a master’s degree in education and a daughter who is a junior in college. 

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