Fighting Back Against Abuse in Care Facilities
By Stacey Bucklin
Back in June, we shared the story of Cerebral Palsy Family Network mother Dana DeRuvo. In “Making the Decision to Place a Child in a Residential Center,” she discussed the huge leap of faith she took to give her disabled child a better life than she could provide him. Their story had a happy ending and her son is now thriving in his residential facility.
Although there are many well-run facilities throughout the United States, others are less reputable. Disabled residents of long-term care facilities are vulnerable to abuse and neglect by their caregivers. Fortunately, disability advocates are raising the profile of abuse and neglect in residential care centers and are making strides toward ending the cycle of abuse.
In New Jersey, a new law has been proposed that would put strict rules on community care residences. The law, called “Tara’s Law” in memory of 28-year-old Tara O’Leary, a developmentally disabled woman who died due to abuse and neglect, would provide oversight for community care residences. The new law would require yearly evaluations of community care licensees, continuing education programs for staff, and better injury reporting at all levels.
One of the law’s proponents, New Jersey Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, said, “Developmentally disabled individuals rely on their caregivers to be their communications link with the rest of the world. When that link breaks, fails or is ignored, tragedies like the one Tara’s family experienced occur. By creating multiple ways to test those links, we can help prevent future miscommunications from becoming tragedies.” To learn about the specifics of the proposal, read more about Tara’s Law.
It Can Happen to Anyone
Mr. Weisenberg is not only father to a grown son with cerebral palsy, he is also a state assemblyman for New York and the Legislature’s most prominent advocate for people with disabilities. When Assemblyman Weisenberg discovered his son, Ricky, had beenabused by his caregivers and that the abuser was hired at another care facility after being fired, he decided to take action. He filed a lawsuit to raise the profile of his son’s case and bring light to the issue.
“If it can happen to us, it can happen to anybody,” his wife said. “I just think it’s something necessary that we have to do and bring it to light. We’re not suing for any money; we’re suing to have it be known and have something be done about it.”
The Weisenbergs say they would donate any money received from the case to organizations that serve people with developmental disabilities.
We Can All Make a Difference
The vast majority of care facilities are safe, nurturing places for the disabled residents they house. However, we can’t ignore the facilities that endanger the health and well being of the disabled. It is all of our responsibilities to protect the vulnerable members of our communities and to expose abuse and neglect when we see it. If you suspect abuse, contact your state’s Department of Human Services.
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