Written by: Claire Lin, FCSN Voices Youth Reporter
Some major worries for parents with special needs children include: What will happen to their child as the parents grow older and are unable to take care of their adult children anymore? Who will take care of them? How will they spend the rest of their lives without their parents’ support?
FCSN’s Dream Project was born out of these worries. A group of parents noticed that families were constantly worried about their children’s future since it is hard for special needs children to find jobs and be independent. Most of all, the parents were unable to find living arrangements that could ensure that their children will be able to maintain a quality of living without their parents’ support. As a solution to this problem, the parents bought a piece of land and built ten apartments to provide living arrangements for their special needs children. The individuals who live there will live in a safe community with other special needs adult roommates and Supporting Living Services staff who understand and support their needs.
Currently, FCSN provides two different types of living services: Supported Living Services (SLS) and Independent Living Services (ILS). Individuals who require more living support are placed into Supported Living Services. There are staff members who stay overnight and help the clients take their medication, set up doctor appointments, or help with handling emergencies if they come up. As for Independent Living Services, these are best suited for clients who have plans to move out of their parents’ homes in the future. A trainer goes to their home and provides training on skills that the client will most likely need in the future, such as taking public transportation, learning about finances, working with a budget, grocery shopping, and meal planning. Once they are ready, the client can move out of their parent’s home and move into a shared apartment or their own apartment. These two services are similar in fundamentals, but one service will work better than the other depending on the individual and the help they need. All clients will take a test, which determines if they are better suited for Supported or Independent Living Services. To ensure the program’s best results, another assessment is taken to ensure they receive the proper amount of assistance.
One case in point is the story of Joe*. Joe’s parents took care of Joe until he was in his twenties, yet as time went by, they wondered how many more years they would be able to keep this up as their physical strength declined with age. When Joe moved into a Supported Living Service facility, the staff helped him learn how to organize his living space, schedule and attend classes that suited his interests, share house chores with his roommates, and make decisions with the staff’s support. In a safe and supportive environment, Joe learned to get along with his roommates and relish in his independence. Joe’s parents were very surprised at how capable Joe had become within a couple of months. One day, Joe told his parents that he wanted to stay home instead of visiting his parents during the weekend because he had some activities he wanted to do with his roommates. This was when they realized that Joe was truly at home at his new place, and they could finally lay their biggest worries to rest. With that, Joe’s parents booked the vacation they had always wanted for the last 20 years. This is what every parent of special needs ultimately wants.
SLS and ILS have continued to help many families throughout the years. Since each family receives a specialized plan along with appropriate support, the client learns valuable living skills and establishes a home, support system, and social network. The benefits of these services go both ways. For the special needs individual themselves, they are able to become independent and live by themselves without constant support from their parents. For the parents of the special needs individual, they are finally able to witness their child’s independence and no longer worry about the future of their child, which ultimately provides the parents with peace of mind.
*Name and some facts have been changed to protect the identity of the person.