Developmentally Disabled People Used as Pawns
- A Care Provider's Story
The lives of Developmentally Disabled People in California are subject to the whim of the Regional Centers, which actually are simply placement agencies but have far overstepped the boundaries of their authority with seemingly no requirement for their actions.
This is a very emotional issues for the many loving care providers who must explain to parents / families of their developmentally disabled clients that the Regional Center has suddenly removed their family member from the facility where they have resided, without explanation or even notification of said family members.
Such an incident has happened recently to the clients of my residential care group home. The heartbreak of losing these people, who I have grown to love as my own family, pales in comparison to the confusion and anxiety I know they are experiencing since removal from the only home some of them have known for the past eighteen years.
Twenty-one Regional Centers operate in the state of California; they are not governmental agencies, however, all the while claiming governmental immunities and authority. The Regional Centers are in fact non-profit organizations, which are funded by our tax dollars.
In 1969, Assemblyman Frank D. Lanterman introduced landmark legislation "Assembly Bill (AB) 225", which thereafter was known as the "Lanterman Mental Retardation Services Act". This act sets forth the legislative intent to extend the Regional Center network of services throughout the state of California.
The main purpose of the Regional Centers was to become placement agencies for the developmentally disabled children and adults, and to take these individuals out of state hospitals.
I have dealt with the San Gabriel/Pomona Regional Center for the past twenty-three years, starting my career as a direct care staff and working up to becoming an administrator, then later owning two Level 4-G (hard to place developmentally disabled clients) facilities in the San Gabriel/Pomona area. I have owned and operated my facilities for eighteen years.
In 1991, I took my first group of six personally selected men from the State Hospital, in order to assist them in their adjustment to living in the community; my facility was grant funded through SG/PRC. Two of these six original clients have passed away; one of my clients who had lived in my children's facility since the age of eleven was allowed to transfer to my adult facility when he reached the age of twenty-two; and one additional client came to reside in my adult facility in 2001.
In 1998, my first unpleasant issues began with the San Gabriel/Pomona Regional Center (SG/PRC). I owned and operated a children's facility, and one of my staff personnel struck one of my children on the child's back. I was not present when this occurred, but once notified and present in the facility I immediately notified law enforcement, which resulted in the offending staff personnel being arrested. Since that incident my clients, their parents/families, and I have been denied the right of due process by SG/PRC.
My children's facility was allowed to change to an adult facility in order that my two remaining children, who had become eighteen years of age, could remain in the home; they had lived in that facility since they were eleven years of age. SG/PRC intervened and my eighteen-year-old twin clients were removed without their parents' consent or agreement from my facility and placed in another adult facility. I had grown to love these boys as if they were my own children, but since the care provider is blocked from information I have only heard through others that they were separated and placed in different homes. The thought of this breaks my heart.
April 30, 2007, SG/PRC sent out a memorandum stating that all care providers in their area will list Regional Center on their liability insurance as an additional insured agency, and insure the Regional Center from all liability, or the Care Providers would not be paid by SG/PRC. Most care providers do not understand what that means so, why not comply? A care provider with two or more facilities, an annual fee of $50.00 is required per facility to add the SG/PRC to their insurance. The problem is, however, that the addition, which the SG/PRC insisted upon, was phrased in such a way as to require the care provider to become responsible for all legal fees and judgments incurred by the SG/PRC even the claims insurance does not cover. I fought this policy and won in court, when an administrative law judge ruled this requirement unlawful and unreasonable due to the fact it would take money from the clients to pay for administrative costs of SG/PRC. (If every care provider in California would go through this appeal process they would also be granted a favorable decision.) With that ruling, my real problems with SG/PRC began.
Steps Residential Care, Inc., my adult facility had no major issues with SG/PRC until the court's ruling on liability insurance; since then SG/PRC has retaliated by punishing my developmentally disabled clients, they're parents/families, my staff, and myself.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008, I received a phone call from SG/PRC stating that my six clients would not be returning home, and had been placed in other facilities. I calmly called the parents/families of my clients, finding that none of them had been notified of current actions with their family members. When they asked me where their family members had been taken, I sadly could only tell them that I don't know. The parents/families of my clients have contacted SG/PRC requesting information regarding the well-being and location/s of their family members. As of today, January 25, 2008, neither I nor most of the parents/families of my clients still do not know where my clients/their family members have been placed.
Like most care providers, I never dreamed this could happen to me. Most people do not know that care providers are responsible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for these clients. Most of us own one or two facilities. I am fortunate to own a six-bed facility; most residential adult & children's homes dealing with the Regional Center are limited by SG/PRC to a four-bed facility. This is an irrational and unreasonable restriction; care providers cannot make ends meet with four consumers, and too many care providers are slowly being forced out of business.
The Regional Centers are, as stated above, simply placement agencies; they do, however, receive the monies for the developmentally disabled clients living in care providing homes, from the state of California. Care providers receive less than half of the state/federal monies, which are dispersed by the Regional Centers for the care of these developmentally disabled clients. The added responsibility and stress that the Regional Centers place on care providers makes it difficult to just survive from month to month.
This is the first time a care provider has dared to put in writing anything about the treatment of the care provider, which harms the wellbeing of the developmentally disabled clients. SG/PRC violates the law by removing my clients. SG/PRC consistently violates client's rights regarding where they wish to live and where their parents/families wish them to live. SG/PRC exploits clients. SG/PRC violates care providers' rights to due process. SG/PRC violates my rights as a care provider.
As taxpayers, we should all ask (one) who regulates the Regional Centers in the state of California? And (two) who is monitoring these outrageous abuses of money and wishes of the developmentally disabled? I have been a care provider for over 23 years, and I still do not know!!
San Dimas, California