Fearing for the future

By on June 25, 2009

Families with special-needs children worried about possible state budget cuts
by Martha Quetsch
REGIONAL—Local families with developmentally disabled children will be among those whose lives will be drastically affected if the state slashes social services funding to reduce its budget deficit.

Maple Park resident Carrie Capes’ family is one of them.

Capes’ 9-year-old son, Max, was born with a genetic disorder making him hearing and cognitively impaired, and limiting his gross and fine motor skills.

“He needs to be watched very closely, all the time,” Capes said.

For the past two years, he has received special assistance from outside caregivers and therapists who visit regularly. Because of that help, the family has been able to keep their son at home instead of in an institution.

The Capes family currently is eligible to hire people to assist them for up to $1,152 per month, through a state social service program called the Children’s Home-Based Support Services Waiver.

That is one of the social services programs that could be suspended if Illinois lawmakers do not approve an income tax increase before the end of the month.

“The threat is that home support will be eliminated,” Capes said.

Cathy Hoyda, of Sugar Grove, also employs part-time caregivers for her special-needs son, Matthew, 15, through the waiver program. Without the program, the family will have to care for Matthew on its own, because it cannot afford to hire people to help without state aid.

“We would have to go back to the way we were before. It would just be me taking care of him all the time, me tired, me crabby,” said Hoyda.

Matthew has autism and a rare seizure disorder and must be watched around the clock. Matthew often becomes frustrated and aggressive because he cannot communicate his feelings verbally, Hoyda said.

Currently, Hoyda gets a break from caregiving from two college students with skills in special education that also make Matthew’s life easier.

“He does very well with them,” Hoyda said. “They know how to handle him and communicate with him.”

This type of care, which the family has been able to afford with a stipend of up to $1,000 per month from the state waiver program, has been invaluable, Hoyda said.

Losing financial assistance that allows for that special care will affect not only the parents of these families, but their non-special-needs children, too.

Capes is worried that without in-home help for her son, she will not be able to spend any quality time with her 11-year-old son, Reilly.

“Everything has to revolve around your special-needs child,” Capes said.

Hoyda has similar concerns about her daughter, Julie, 12.

“She already does not get enough attention,” Hoyda said.

Social-services funding threat

Without extra revenue from an income-tax increase, state funding to social services including child and adult care, developmental disability funding and drug- and alcohol-treatment program funding could be cut by 50 percent, causing some to be eliminated, according to Gov. Pat Quinn.

Quinn has proposed raising the state’s 3-percent flat-rate income tax to 4.5 percent for two years to address the state’s $9.2 billion projected budget deficit for the fiscal year starting June 30.

Facing possible cuts
• Mutual Ground, a battered women’s shelter in Aurora, Batavia, and Geneva, which provides shelter, advocacy, a hotline, sexual assault counseling and treatment. A loss of state funding would force Mutual Ground to close its shelter and its 24-hour emergency hotline.

• Kane County Child Advocacy Center, which investigates and prosecutes cases of sexual abuse and serious physical abuse against children

• Senior Services Associates, Inc., which aids in the investigation and prosecution of criminals who target senior citizens

• Gateway Foundation of Aurora, which provides counseling services for children and adolescents, in- and out-patient substance abuse counseling for adults and mental health counseling

• Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC), a treatment-based rehabilitation program and sentencing alternative to prison for substance-abusers with a limited criminal history

• Treatment Alternative Court (TAC), a mental-heath treatment program and sentencing alternative to prison

• Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, Kids Hope United, Aunt Martha’s, Evangelical Social Services

• Local police departments and their teen outreach programs, community service centers, veteran services and mental health services

• Nine local health departments of the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium (NIPHC) provide public health and human services programs such as Maternal and Child Health, Mental Health, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment, Family Case Management, Domestic Violence and Teen Pregnancy Prevention service to more than eight million people.

• Agencies such as World Relief—Aurora, Gateway Foundation, Hope for Tomorrow, Aunt Martha’s Youth Services, Prairie State Legal Services and the Association for Individual Development are all reporting that the pending cuts will significantly reduce services to the community.

• Hesed House, an agency serving homeless families and individuals, already has people sleeping in chairs every single night because it is out of beds.

• Association for Individual Development (AID) in Aurora serving people with developmental disabilities and mental health issues will have to cut offerings such as respite care, supported living services, psychiatric services, alcohol and substance abuse programs and early intervention to more 1,100 clients

PHOTO: Max Capes Courtesy Photo