He says: We should put our son in a group home
Our son is a good candidate for an adult group home, and I think we should consider it for him so he is settled somewhere before we die. Karen disagrees. It’s causing a rift between us.
She says: He’s happy at home with us
We have a loving home and our son is happy here. I think he should stay until we are no longer able to care for him. I don't understand why Jim doesn't see that.
What do they do?
It sounds like Jim and Karen both have their son’s best interests at heart. Raising children with disabilities requires “very special courage,” according to St. John Paul II. (Letter to Families, 1994, no. 16) He added that “the Church firmly believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a splendid gift of God’s goodness.” (Familiaris Consortio, 1981, no. 30)
Jim and Karen are smart to start planning for their son’s future before crisis hits. Nothing can substitute for the sheltering arms of a family. But it’s important to consider the physical and emotional health of the care-givers and siblings, too. Especially as they grow older, Jim and Karen may not always be able to give their child the care he needs.
Group homes can provide many benefits, such as feelings of independence and community. Many of the residents have jobs, and the staff often helps them with transportation. In some houses, staff members assign chores to the residents and organize social or cultural activities for them. God creates each person to live life to the fullest and discover who they are and what they can contribute. Group homes can make that happen, while giving parents peace of mind that someone will be there to care for their child when they are gone.
Just because their child may have a different address doesn’t mean Jim and Karen would be severing all connection with him. They can help everything to go more smoothly by staying in close touch with the residential staff and with their son, either by phone or in person.
Finding a good group home can be a time-consuming process. Waiting lists are often long, and applicants must wade through a sea of paper to obtain government funding that will cover the high cost. Location is also a factor, since the closest available group home may be several hours away. It’s wise for Jim and Karen to begin researching options now. Then they’ll be prepared to make a change, if and when they determine the time is right.
Read Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Note: Nothing in this column is meant to provide psychological or medical diagnosis, treatment or opinion.
Dr. Manuel P. Santos and Karee Santos are co-authors of The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime (Ave Maria Press, 2016).