This is an area about which I rarely speak out. I don't keep up with all areas of politics. I don't spend mounds of time researching backgrounds of candidates, on moral and ethical forums, and hashing out the level of corruption in various areas of government gives me a headache. I know...I should (and might become) more involved. I generally brush the surface of areas that might effect my family directly, but really, it's just reading - not doing. I have opinions, but they are mine, not yours. I appreciate that and, unless provoked or blatantly asked, I don't go around blurting out my political beliefs (blog excepting - this is my area - if you don't like it, move on - that's the beauty of having about 9 zillion blogs to choose to read right?)
So, there are a number of budget cuts "on the floor" right now. You can read the very abbreviated list to get a gist of the "tone" of cut backs here:
And, I can offer my opinion of said tone:
embarrassing. I'm pretty sure anyone, ANYONE mind you who reads this list can very quickly surmise that the areas of money skimping all have one thing in common: vulnerable populations. The very young, and the very old...in short: non-voters.
These are not just cut backs. They are cut offs. Programs that assist elderly with activities of daily living, provide meals for those that might not be able to provide nourishment for themselves, and help with general care while allowing these people (PEOPLE) to live out their days in the comfort of their own homes and continue to have what's left of the autonomy they so deserve - gone.
Our Early Steps program - gone. GONE. This would mean that a 24 week baby could go home without follow up. A child with profound disability could just sit at home for 3 years with parents that simply lack the guidance or knowledge - or funds - to help their baby. Early Steps not only provided us with services, me with education and exercises, but also with the peace of mind after such a long hospital stay, that we would have a few more opinions to consider. Early Steps helps foster children, low income and high risk children, children with congenital anomalies, autism, cerebral palsy, and many many other "rough beginnings" to get on track during their first 3 years. The program, as it is structured, works. The only issues I've had have been differing in opinion with the therapists on occasion.
These people helped me to teach Mary Louise to eat instead of gag on things. They helped me help my children to learn to walk, to facilitate their muscle development upon their homecoming to simulate the womb growth. In our 2 years of being essentially homebound, these therapists became a solid part of my support system.
Our case worker? Holy moly. This woman worked tirelessly with me for 3 solid years. She offered mountains of information and leads to assist with seeking out insurance for David, private services when I felt that was what we needed. She followed up via email, phone, and in person. She graciously opened her heart to our family and I still talk to her and she STILL checks on us - even though it is no longer "her job". She is nothing short of family. Her compassion for us is nothing short of amazing. She does all of this while caring for her own family, her own 2 children, one of whom has special needs.
From what I've seen and learned, she is not alone in her passion for this program. Many MANY of our therapists have had children in special circumstances. It is through their personal experiences that they came to find "their calling" as Early Steps service coordinators and service providers.
My friends, this makes these people some of the most valuable employees a company can have. They have a vested and intensely personal interest in seeing this system not just coast along, but succeed, and even get better with time.
Though I wish that spreading this information could save their jobs...and I'm sure they wish the same, the truth is that budget cuts made to our DHH (department of Health and Hospitals) system a while back have all but insured that many of their positions will no longer exist. Yet, they continue to work and beg for the basic program to remain. They appeal to their public to keep Early Steps in place so that some children (there will minimally be cut backs and stricter entrance requirements) may still be helped during such a formative time.
The fact is, in our area, we have 2 (that's two) facilities that provide therapy services to children. One accepts Medicaid. The other only accepts private insurance. Children are placed on waiting lists in the order of their requests for services - not in order of need. The one David attends accepts only private insurance. We were taken in there in a week or 2. In contrast, for those who quite simply can't afford the literally hundreds if not thousands of dollars necessary to receive this critical therapy, they are put on the waiting list for the other facility. David was on the waiting list for both places at one point. The second facility called 2 weeks ago to say that he was at the top of the LIST!! not that there was an appointment - but that he was finally next in line! (I got him on that list in August of 2011.) We have a few pediatric specialists in this area - no developmental pediatricians - and if I am concerned about something, I make so many phone calls to insurance companies and primary care physicians just for our referral that it is literally integrated into my "job" as a mother. "who do I call this week??"
Keep in mind here, I am a nurse. I have access to many MANY health care professionals and have a total "type A" personality when I comes to my children's health. I will literally get them help at all costs. If I don't like opinion A, I will absolutely seek out opinions B, C, and D. We travel wherever we need to get care for our little ones - and let's be completely honest here and point out that all things considered, Mary Louise and David are pretty low risk these days. Many people simply don't have the back ground, support (financially and emotionally) to do as such.
Oh and about all of those "money saving" cuts:
The first 3 years of a child's life can literally set the stage for their entire existence.
Beyond those 3 years, many issues can be identified and TREATED not PREVENTED. In case you are unaware of the difference between the 2: money. (in a business sense only of course).
Imagine dumping a 3 year old who is unable to communicate (verbally or otherwise) in "mainstream school", and child who cannot eat independently, and sweet baby who simply hasn't had physical therapy and never received those crucial work outs and therefore is now wheel chair bound rather than walking. The child who can't communicate? Beyond the obvious issues with finding a way to "know" this child, the teacher must then figure out how to facilitate learning with this over frustrated, severe introvert who has no idea what to do with feelings, emotions, and cannot communicated his own personal needs. Eating? Teachers- do you have time to make sure or try to work with a 3 or 4 year old that doesn't eat? Are you going to try to coax each bite down that babies' throat? Beyond time, do you feel qualified to do this? (even special education teachers answer here.) These children would then be in a position to need interpreters, assistants, special accommodations in the classroom. These accommodations, of course, would be the bare minimum. Teachers are already over loaded. Putting more children in their classrooms with more intense individual needs would not only cost more money, but also draw needed attention from the other students. At what point did our precious teachers become baby sitters?? (that's more of a thought than a question - ha - no need for an answer to that one).
Many of the Early Steps goals (if not all of them) keep in mind the greater, broader goal of readying this child for the classroom and beyond. The therapists offer a vital hand in the early molding of these "high risk" children into contributing members of society. They offer information needed to cater to our special needs and ensure that these children become the best individuals they can be. They offer a line of confidence to parents trying to muddle through systems they never wanted to know existed - but are nonetheless thankful for the olive branch.
It does certainly take a village to raise a child. One of our pillars is at critical risk for being demolished. I am embarrassed, ashamed and wholeheartedly disappointed at the targeted constituents at risk here. Civilized societies, by definition, care for and respect their "weakest" populations. The elderly - oh my, how much can we learn from their vast experiences? Endless. The young - our future. No other words needed.
How can you help?? You can write to your Senators - tell them why these programs are so needed!
You can also sign a petition to keep (in particular) Early Steps up and running:
Make no mistake, we are all effected by these cuts.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this - and to take action.