“I saw this new initiative as a good match. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to rewrite the book and create something that other states could copy. It was an important opportunity to find a way to address this huge, urgent need.”
Just what is this need? “When you’re a parent of a special needs kid, you stumble into this massive hole in accessible services. One of the things your child probably needs most is therapy—for some kids, like those with autism, that may be the only thing that works—so what do you do when you can’t afford it? When you’re parenting special needs kids, there’s a lot of stress even if you can pay for everything. But when you can’t pay, families start to explode. So, Champions for Children is a wonderful opportunity to help families.”
Moen Stanley credits The Community Foundation with pulling together a remarkably cohesive group of people who were able to accomplish a lot because they worked so well as a team. “I’ve been on a lot of committees before, but never like this one. I was impressed with the synergy and the agreement between us all. It really was one of the most fulfilling experiences. Somehow, The Community Foundation—perhaps because it’s so well organized and so well connected—could gather this sizeable group of people who were able to gain great clarity about the best way to solve the problem.”
Her voice takes on added sparkle as she continues, “It was so exciting to be connected to others as part of an advisory committee in which we all had such shared spirit about an important challenge. It was really cool!”
Judith Moen Stanley’s passion stems from her own experience as the mother of a special needs child. “This issue is huge and society has never had the right answer. A century ago, these kids were institutionalized, which was horribly medieval and an enormous cost, not only in money but also in depriving society of valuable members. Today, we’re trying to care for our children at home, but we face societal pressures, educational issues, integration challenges, difficulty finding the right therapy or getting a wheelchair. You have all these things coming at you, plus there’s this immense financial pressure.”
“Everyone—in government, in agencies—is budget conscious, and that has to be the case. So, let’s get creative in thinking about how to reach parents who feel overwhelmed, who feel in a constant state of crisis. If these families are functioning better, society functions better. And society benefits when special needs kids are functioning members rather than being treated as throw-away people.”
“The work of this committee is not going to end all problems, but it’s a good start. We have an 800# hotline for parents who need help and connections to services and a website providing information. It’s not a complete answer, but it’s moving us in the right direction.” And that’s…huge.