“The Last of the Institutions” Part 8 – Shawn’s Story

I have been following this series by Susannah Frame, Investigator from King 5 News in Seattle.  “The Last of the Institutions – Shawn’s Story:  From life in an institution to a home of his own” aired this past week.

Shawn Fanning – institution to community

Below is one of the comments that I wrote on King 5 comments regarding this story.  I will be following it closely and also writing about my own son’s transition from the same campus community to a home in our community.  Our son’s campus community (the same one that Shawn lived in) is in our community of origin and the same community in which my son has lived his entire life.  His new home is also in “our community” not “The Community” and this is a critical difference that is not often spoken about.  This was a requirement for us in any discussion regarding any move from the campus community.

Shawn is a great young man – I had the pleasure or enjoying his exuberance while volunteering in an art group at Fircrest. My son also lives at Fircrest and will be moving soon to a supported living home next month.

I fully support the RHC communities and am very disheartened by the bad press and inaccurate information that is being said about them. These communities are fully needed – some people may only need a short respite or crisis stay while others may need to live here for a longer time period. Whatever the time period everyone has the choice to leave and live elsewhere at any time. No one is there against their wishes or desires. No one is forced to live there – in fact, in order to be “admitted” families have been through some of the most horrific times of crisis that anyone could imagine. These families are survivors and have managed to advocate for their loved ones to have this care.

Our family will be forever grateful for the care of our son. He has loved living at Fircrest and when we told him that we had a new home for him we were afraid that he may not want to leave. Unlike the stories told, my son has choices – he has an iPad and is able to use it to communicate all sorts of needs and desires – he plans outings and parties and tells people what he wants to buy at the store and where he wants to go. He plans his showers around his daily schedule when he wants, he chooses and plans what he is going to eat, he goes to bed at his bedtime, he gets up early to go to work at his community job and he has a great life. Actually, as his mom, sometimes I think he has too many choices!

What would have happened to Shawn and his family if these resources of Residential Habilitation Centers were not there? I know what would have happened to my son and me.
I would have died and he very well would have too. He had spent several prolonged stays at Seattle Children’s due to mania/psychosis that was out of control. We were told that after his 6th admission he would not be able to be admitted again (this was because it was mental health care – he has a dual diagnosis of a rare neurogenic developmental disability and mental illness). We looked at staffed residential homes – none would have accepted him. We asked to have respite care at Fircrest and then an admission – they were both denied. When we asked what we were supposed to do when he had the next crisis DDA told us that we would have to call the police – that would mean that they would take him to jail. He was 14 at that time. That is not an option and never should have been considered but that is the only option we were given.

There is a lot more to the story after that about what happened but suffice it to say that eventually through various appeals he was finally able to move to Fircrest. I shudder to think of what could have happened if these communities were not there for our families.

Please stop calling these communities “institutions” and bad mouthing the services and the families that use these services. We are advocates for our loved ones and others who may not be able to speak up for themselves.

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