When the boys were very young, I used to imagine what I would be doing at any given moment if I had typically-developing children. In the intervening years, I have strayed so far from the path of "normal" that I cannot even see that path, or remember what it looks like. However, now that the guys have turned 21 and are relunctantly starting on their independent, adult lives, I had a vague notion of what seeing one's first-born off to college might be like.
I get ahead of myself! The past year has been fraught with a looming deadline. At age 21, Hart had to move
on from Allendale Association where he has been for three years. He loved his group home, although he
chafed under the rules and strictures which were designed to manage unruly, disabled teenagers.
So the search for an adult living situation began! There are two major threads of this effort, which are both
independent of each other but intertwined. The order in which documents are completed and submitted
is paramount. It was a Kafka-esque journey.
First, one must qualify for goverment benefits as a disabled person. This doesn't seem so difficult based on
Hart's life history. However, even other parents of disabled children are incredulous that I worked to get Social Security benefits and Medicaid for almost two years. Still, I am occasionally summoned to the SSI office
and I dutifully appear with my accordion file of documents: guardianship, bank statements, citizenship
papers, adoption decree, etc. I speak to a clerk who dutifully complete the forms on her monitor, assures me
everything is in order and, am dismissed until the next summons.
The second piece is much like the college application process with an evil twist. A caseworker submits
applications on Hart's behalf to potential agencies all over the state, and based on the availability of beds,
houses, and whether any place is equipped to handle Hart's particular needs, the matchmaking begins. Only
in Hart's case, there was only one potential match. Upside, it was our top choice, Jewish Children and Family Services here in Chicago. So, the vetting process began with JCFS, its group homes, families and
current residents. Reams of documents wended their way from our local school district, doctors, Allendale and JCFS
to the black hole of a bureaucratic desk in Springfield, very slowly, as Hart's 21st birthday loomed.
And then, the light appeared at the end of the tunnel.
In August, Hart moved in to Migdal Oaz, JCFS'
residence for young men in the Rogers Park neighborhood (exactly 3.6 miles' drive from my house). Our
school district suggested its post-high school transition program and offered cab service to get Hart there
As moving day approached, I imagine that Hart engaged in something similar to pot-latch, bestowing many of
his possessions on his friends and housemates in Waukegan. Thus, he had a small suitcase of clothes, a bin
of books and other treasures, and $200 in cash when he left Allendale. While he was enjoying a welcome barbecue with his new housemates, I made a quick trip to Target. Presumably that is the closest I will ever
get to organizing a dorm room or a first apartment. Within 30 minutes, I had purchased sheets, towels, a
wastebasket, a laundry basket, a shower caddy, plastic hangers, an electric razor, toiletries, underwear,
pajamas, socks, and returned bearing the bounty to organize his new room.
And now I am done . . . . until
Jeff decides he wants to move out.