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To the editor:
My name is Patricia Birk and I have lived in
Lincoln since 1959. My son, Tony, is developmentally disabled and
lives at Lincoln Terrace in Lincoln -- a group home for the
Tony was in the first trainable mentally handicapped class at
kindergarten level in Lincoln and was in the first TMH class at the
high school level. He was the first of his peers to be placed into
the first group home here in Lincoln, located on Railroad Avenue,
and was very happy there. But when a second home was built, many of
his peers lived there, so he moved into that facility.
When that second home was proposed at Wyatt Avenue and Kickapoo
Street, there was opposition, so Tony and I attended a city council
meeting to tell our side. Neighbors were concerned they would have
"these people" terrorizing their neighborhoods and property values
would decrease. I introduced Tony and told them he was the "type of
person" that would live in the homes. I told them he had lived in
Lincoln all his life and attended the schools and played in the
neighborhood without any complaints or bad incidents. Well, the home
was built and everything went well. In fact, the home actually
improved the neighborhood.
The caseworker provided by the workshop he attended part time
while he was in high school approached us about Tony living in the
group home. She said Tony was the type of individual they wanted to
live in the home and that he deserved a life on his own. After we
thoroughly discussed it, we decided we would allow him to move
It was the single most difficult decision I have ever made in my
life. The decision was not about us but about Tony and his future
after we were gone. The thought of allowing my son's well-being to
be entrusted to strangers was almost unbearable. But my husband and
I felt it was a "golden opportunity" because at our stage in life we
still were able to make choices about his future. If we had waited
until we were forced to make this decision, we may not have any
choices. My husband, Wilmer, and I hadn't ever considered Tony
living anywhere except with us and had tried to make arrangements
for his care after we were gone.
[to top of second column in this letter]
But Tony moved into the group home after high school and served
as sort of a "trial person" for his school friends and peer group.
Other parents asked me about the home and how Tony liked it. I told
them we are definitely blessed to have such good facilities here in
Lincoln. I am not sure I could have let Tony go to another city to
live, where I could not be able to see him often. I know other
children and adults who lived at home -- some of them seem to have
limited activities and seem to be bored. Others have little
structure and need medical attention. I have also seen some people
in very inappropriate situations without enough supervision.
I have seen people in institutions like LDC. I worked there while
I was pregnant with Tony. I think it was God's way of preparing me
to care for him. There were people there I didn't feel belonged
there and would have benefited from a home like this. Some shouldn't
have been there at all because they were so high-functioning. And
then there were the people that needed so much care. These were the
people that really need a facility like LDC. Many residents with
tracheotomies would not have survived for such a long time if they
hadn't received the skilled care they got at LDC, attended by
qualified nursing staff that knew how to care for their needs. If
Tony needed that kind of care, I would love to have a place like
Each individual has different needs. People like Tony and the
family he lives with certainly benefit from a home like Lincoln
Terrace. He has a family there. He receives good meals, clean living
conditions, medical care, eye care, dental care, vacations, dates
with girlfriends, parties, supervised work at the workshop, attends
church services and more. I feel good that I know Tony's needs will
be taken care of when I am gone.
I hope Gov. Blagojevich and other decision-makers will support
group homes like these. Who knows better than parents what is good
for their children?
(Posted June 16, 2006)
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