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Advocacy group calls for more assistance for adult children with disabilities

Ellen Abbott
Assemblyman Al Stirpe is joined by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Chair of the Assembly Mental Hygiene Committee, and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney at an event advocating for families with developmentally disabled children.

Advocates for the disabled in central New York are calling for more housing and support for families with children who have disabilities. The focus is on help for families with adult children.

Barbara Resseguies' 28-year-old daughter has Down Syndrome and a dream to have her own apartment.

"Just a safe place she could get support and not be treated like a 10-year-old or 12-year-old," Resseguies said.

Many families of adult children with disabilities say their children want the same thing, but Nick Cappoletti, executive director of Advocates Inc., says the problem is getting a support system in place that allows it.

"We’re not advocating group homes, we’re not advocating institutional care," Cappoletti explained. "We’re talking about providing people with real supports, individualized supports in their own homes, in their communities, to allow them to live wherever they want to live.”

He says right now the system works against these families.

“There’s many families who have kept children at home, cared for them, who are now starting to age and saying because I kept my children at home, I’m suddenly not able to get the level of supports that my child needs to live independently, and continue that life when I die,” Cappoletti said.

Cappoletti believes the answer lies in finding safe housing and a funding stream that will pay for supports for these independent adults. He says New York could help on a couple of fronts.

“We need the housing stocks for the apartments available and we need funding supports, so we can provide direct support staff that these people need to continue to live full and inclusive lives in their community," Cappoletti explained.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, chairwoman of the Assembly’s Mental Hygiene Committee, promised a group of parents and advocates in the Syracuse area this week that she would fight for such funding. She says it’s all part of the changing way society should be dealing with families who have disabled children.

“We’re talking beyond group homes," Gunther said. "We’re talking about individuals that have the same choice that you and I have."