A few months ago, Jessica said she wanted a job. Rene, her support coordinator, began the process for her. He contacted Vocational Rehab, and after a bunch of mishaps, we got the paperwork completed and started the process. Today, after numerous trips to Voc Rehab, I picked up Jessica at her group home and took her to a scheduled interview at Goodwill Industries. This was supposed to be the 1st of many visits before she could be placed in any sort of job. I decided I would help her since she wanted it. Husband didn’t think it would go very far. I said, “I’m alright with that. After all, I’m retired. I can take the time off to do it & if this is something she wants, I’ll help her. “ We went to the 2 hour interview. When we got there, the job placement specialist, V.S., appeared annoyed when Jessica wandered around and became distracted. She insisted if Jessica WERE placed in a job, she’d have to conform. V.S. had the nerve to tell me Jessica would be better suited to Goodwill’s “Work Activities Center ,” a different department, separate from Goodwill and one which required a separate application process altogether. Really? I’m patient but not this patient. She’s a job coach? She pissed me off. I told her about the plan to have Jessica placed in “Phase 2” (which Rene said would be our ultimate goal) The plan- to work with a job coach at the WOW center. Lady dismissed this possibility and argued with me, so I didn’t pursue it. During the 2 hour “interview,” V.S. explained all applicants are required to submit to a drug test. “Goodwill applicants must submit to a drug test within 24 hours of receiving this order.” I asked ” What if I do it another time?” “ Answer? “You will start the process all over again.’ Seriously? We went straight to the lab instead of the WOW center. At the drug testing lab, we waited for 30 minutes to be seen. Jessica did not produce enough urine in the cup (probably because she didn’t know how to pee into the container and was unable to fill it with urine.) and I wasn’t allowed to assist her. We tried a second time. This time she drank tons of water, I gave her a soda,& we waited another 45 minutes before the technician allowed us to try again. Again, she was unable to fill the container. At this point, I was told to “come back and try tomorrow, ” I was so distraught, frustrated and upset, I started to cry. On the way out, I turned on a clueless Jessica,. I swear I could’ve screamed bloody murder, I couldn’t believe how thwarted I felt. The whole process appeared to be a waste of time Jessica’s reply? “Forget it. I dont need no job.” It ended there in the parking lot, but I thought it shouldn’t be this hard to help a disabled person . I understand Jessica has enormous limitations but this was a terrible experience. The hardest part ? It emphasized and stood as a reminder of everything Jessica cannot do or will never do, including peeing in a cup! The support coordinator asked me to tell him what happened – so I emailed him a rehash of the entire thing. At least I got someone’s attention. He called as soon as he read it.
Published by Cathy Shields
Hi, I'm Cathy, a retired Kindergarten teacher, and a writer. I live in South Florida. I've been married to the same man for over 40 years. We have 3 daughters, 2 sons-in-law and 3 granddaughters, and a grandson. The oldest daughter lives in New Jersey, and the other two 2 are fraternal twins. Both twins live nearby, except one of them lives in a group home. Jessica is now 35 and intellectually disabled. I always struggled with that. I felt like she was less than perfect. But as it turned out, she was my greatest teacher. Over the last 10 years, I've been writing a book about her. It's now a completed, 84,000-word memoir. The cover photo is a picture of us on a family trip. Naturally, she threw up on the plane ride up to New Jersey. She was reluctant to hike, she was scared of lots of things. But I was determined to have her go on our family trip. I've always had to help her. Looking back, I never realized how much she would help me. So welcome to my blog. I will tell stories about her and the rest of my family as we continue our lives together. I once heard a famous author speak about where she gets her inspiration for her best selling novels. She said something about the spirit of her dead grandmother whispering in her ear. She keeps a photo of her beloved grandmother right next to the computer screen. After I heard that, I put Jessica's photo above my computer, with the caption "Write about me." So I did. My online and local writing groups are urging me to continue editing before I seek out an agent. So I'm listening. That's another thing Jessica taught me. How to be patient. Well, I have Jessica to thank for inspiring me to write a book about our journey. The working title is "Another Side of Normal." I believe the story is destined to be told. My book opens on the day Jessica moves into a group home. It tells the story of how I yearned for her to be normal. It was a struggle with denial, and the eventual acceptance that she would never be. My greatest conflict came from straddling the world between the normal and the world of the outliers, people like Jessica who might be hard to understand and often act odd or different. It isn't easy being the parent of a grown-up disabled child. But she made it interesting. Thanks for joining us! View all posts by Cathy Shields