Over this past year I have increasing represented families whose children need residential placements. While I have no illusions that simply placing a child in residential is the answer to all prayers, it is almost always a the final culmination of years of trying less restrictive placements. Despite what too many school personnel think, residential placements are not an effort to rid the family of a troubling child, but rather to save the child so he or she can have a life and a real connection with the family.
One family I represented the student was openly homicidal, but according to the school that was only at home so there was no educationally-relevant need. Unfortunately the majority of cases (and I have researched this topic thoroughly) do not consider home-based issues of primary relevance in making a residential placement decision. I think of this case often and hope not to see his name in the paper in connection with a homicide at school or at home. Remarkably the private day school where was placed described him as sterling citizen in the school. This description and the overall stance seemed to be about keeping him in the private day school and the funding that went along with his placement. I lost all respect for that staff that day!
The even more troubling situation is when students age out of residential placements. Most residential schools do not serve students over the age of 18. Moreover, as described in the video clip below, states are increasingly cutting back on funding any residential placement even though this placement is mandated under IDEIA. To paraphrase my long standing reader of this blog, Daunna Minnich, schools view students one way when they are young children but take and entirely different view when they are 18 and above. She squarely is confronting the hard and incredibly frightening reality of raising an adult with severe developmental disabilities with little or no resources. Planning is a nightmare in the best of economic times; these are obviously not even those times. Creative juggling of time and money only goes so far, when basic issues of safety and supervision are the essential issues. Daunna eloquently and painfully puts a spot light on the reality of adults with developmental disability. I am deeply grateful to Daunna and PBS [click here for the video] for laying out the stark reality. Now politicians need to act and reorder our collective priorities so people are in fact put first.