My youngest adopted daughter and my foster son have been living in small group homes in the community for 20 years now (since they left Hissom behind). The good news is that they have so much better lives now than I ever could have imagined. My son has a part time job at a re-cycling center and last month he made enough money to cover all his living expenses. He takes piano lessons, bowls on a team and swims. He has autism and severe mental retardation and when he first came to live with our family at almost two years, he was so incredibly messed up that I would not have dared to even think about what his life would be like at almost 40. What a blessing. My daughter, too, has a much better life. But there have been a lot of scary problems. Her mother had Rubella when she was pregnant and as a result my daughter has all the possible disabilities from that - she's legally blind, totally deaf, has cerebral palsy and a bad seizure disorder. No doubt she has mental retardation too but she's impossible to test. The problems she's had mostly stem from the difficulty of finding staff to work with her that are willing to carry out the activities she needs to stay well and happy.
After 20 years of frustration, I finally woke up to the realization that the people who work with her are not really paid a living wage. Most of them just make minimum wage and many are single mothers. Their lives are really difficult. My daughter's life is much better than theirs - she has a reasonably nice house, nice furniture, good food, pretty clothes, and enjoyable activities. Her medical care is good. They don't have any of these things and yet I expect them to work hard and do everything for her. So (and I think this is a God deal), I have realized I need to care as much about the well-being of the staff as I do about hers and be as strong an advocate for them as I am for her.
I wish I could say that I've had many wonderful ideas about how to put this realization into action but I haven't. Right now all I've thought up is fund raising to supplement the small amount they are paid. So I'm throwing myself a 70th birthday party and since I already have everything I need in life - I'm asking people to contribute to an "Integrity Fund" which I will distribute to her staff on a monthly basis. I also plan to have other fundraisers throughout the year.
Of course, if my memoir is a best seller I will be rich and will be able to double their salaries!!
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