Thursday, April 22, 2010

Doing Your Job

Last December, Jessica and I met with our state’s Department of Rehabilitative Services. That agency, DRS, is responsible for helping people with disabilities find employment. Of course, the person has to be found eligible first before DRS will assist.

Our first meeting didn’t go so well. The ‘counselor’ who scheduled our meeting seemed annoyed from the beginning of the meeting. I’m not sure why. Although the meeting was about Jessica, the counselor would only talk to Jessica through me. At one point, he claimed to have a difficult time understanding what she said. I told him that if he would look at her when she was talking, more than likely he would be able to understand her.

The counselor also gave us the impression that he didn’t feel Jessica was capable of being employed. He talked down to her (again through me) with statements like, “you know, you will have to get up to an alarm clock to get to your job on time.” And, “Do you think you can handle using public transportation?" These rude (in my opinion) questions were all posed before the gentleman even got to know Jessica.

The meeting ended when the counselor said he would contact Jessica’s school and our county’s agency that provides case management for people with intellectual disabilities. He told me he would let me know if Jessica was eligible for DRS’s help.

Like I said, that was in December. By March, I still had heard nothing. My calls to DRS went unanswered, and Jessica, now 19 years old, still had no plans for preparing for future employment. So, I contacted our state’s protection and advocacy organization. They agreed to represent Jessica and immediately began requesting records from DRS.

DRS said, “of course we found her eligible”, but of course, they hadn’t notified anyone. They were unable to produce records that showed she was eligible, and in fact could produce no records at all. So the attorney from the protection and advocacy agency and I met with DRS today – the original counselor and his supervisor.

The DRS folks were nice as could be today. They apologized. They made plans to do an employment situational assessment. They agreed to contact the school and the county case manager. In short, they agreed to do everything they should have done last December. I’m convinced that things changed because the attorney accompanied me to the meeting.

Why does it have to be this way? There have been way too many times that the only way I could get the attention of someone or some organization was to contact an attorney. The sole function of DRS is to help people with disabilities get jobs. Why did it take threatened legal action to make them do what they are tasked with doing?

Things really do not need to be this difficult.


MMC said...

That really sucks but I'm glad things appear to be moving now. Over the years, I have found that I spend more time making sure other people do their jobs - it's crazy.

And when I think that they get paid to do those jobs - I don't get paid to spend all my time following up with them. Yeah, a personal pet peeve (and often that's quite the understatement). I'm sure most of us feel that way.

But the other thing is this - I hope you (and other American parents) realize how lucky you are. We have no state or provincial protection and advocacy organization. If a parent needs a lawyer to go to a meeting, to request records or whatever around here ... they either hire a private lawyer and pay or convince one to do something pro bono. I envy you guys so much - I know your system if so far from perfect in so many ways. And yet, from where I sit, it is a thousand times better than ours.

mommy~dearest said...

It does suck, but unfortuantely, that's how it is. It took legal action for my son to even be treated like a human being at his old school. The attorney even told me that he wasn't saying anything differently than I was, but he had the cred. to actually do something about it. It really is a pity.