May 13, 2024
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May 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Where Will Our Child Live?

Seeking housing solutions for our children with special needs.

Most of our friends and by now many of our readers know that my wife and I are the parents of Zev, a sweet and handsome son who has special needs/autism. He is now nearing 18 years old and is currently matriculating in a self-contained special education classroom in our local public high school during the school year. He goes to Camp HASC in the summer. This is his senior year in high school, and although New Jersey and most other states mandate and provide education until he turns 21, we have already started thinking about what the future holds for him and us.

The future, to virtually all parents of children with special needs, can be daunting and scary to contemplate. Who will take care of our son as my wife and I get older and after his siblings have moved out and moved on with their lives?

Unfortunately, our son needs a lot of help and support and will never be able to live truly independently. Will he get the same care and love he gets now? Can any agency or caretaker truly replace us, his parents? Will he live near us? Where is the best place for him and us? Also, at what age should we—and he—be looking to move out of our home?

These questions above, and many others, plague all parents of teens and young adults with special needs. The answers aren’t always clear or easy, and some are simply unanswerable.

For the generation just a few years older than us—especially in New Jersey—a number of families either moved out of New Jersey to another state like New York, or established residency outside of New Jersey, in order for their adult children to qualify for a group home or apartment overseen by New York agencies such as HASC, Makor, OHEL/Bais Ezra, Yedei Chesed and Hamaspik. When I worked for OHEL over a decade ago, I recall receiving multiple calls from parents as far away as Illinois and California looking to move their children into a New York State group home. A good number of these parents were ultimately able to successfully move their children into New York-area homes in Brooklyn, Queens, the Five Towns and Monsey.

While this option still exists today, although it is certainly not an easy or simple one, there is a strong feeling among a new generation of parents here in New Jersey that we need to look closer to home. Our communities here are thriving and growing and it makes perfect sense that the communities that we currently live in or nearby areas could serve as the natural locations for our adult children with special needs to reside as well.

While there are certainly good organizations out there that do provide housing to Jewish adults with special needs, and many local parents are in touch with them, there is a perception among many special needs parents that we need to do better and look harder when it comes to finding long-term housing solutions for our children.

To that end, my wife and I, along with other local parents, recently met with each other to review and discuss housing options and ideas. We had a good meeting and we have committed to researching and meeting with as many of the existing New Jersey organizations as we can. Our overall takeaway from the meeting was generally positive but that it would take significant time, research and effort. As a first step and follow-up, we challenged ourselves to find out how many prospective families and individuals would be eligible and interested in housing over the next five to 10 years. Who precisely is out there and interested in long-term local housing for their children with special needs?

While I am certainly aware of a good number of families due to our involvement with great organizations such as Yachad and Friendship Circle, I am certainly not aware of everyone, nor do I necessarily have everyone’s basic details. So I am using the platform of The Jewish Link as a way to ask for your help!

Here’s what I am asking for: If you are a parent of a child with special needs in his/her teens (13+) or older living in New Jersey and have begun thinking about the future, OR if you have a family member or friend or neighbor with a teen or young adult with special needs, please show or forward them this article and ask them to consider filling out the simple Google form/survey form here: https://goo.gl/forms/BT641cuXFnh8YzZh2

On our end, we and our group of local parents are committed to gathering as much information as we can and are equally committed to responding individually to everyone who expresses interest. We will also try our best to communicate regularly both privately with everyone and occasionally in the public sphere within the pages of The Jewish Link to report on our efforts.

If you have any problems using the Google Forms link, feel free to email me at: [email protected].

We look forward to your responses and to helping us get just a bit closer to figuring out where our son Zev, and all our community’s adults with special needs, will live in the future.

By Moshe Kinderlehrer,
Co-Founder and
Co-Publisher, Jewish Link of NJ

 

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