Thursday, March 14, 2013

please, be nice

Special ed has many forms. While most of us in the public school system start with our kiddos in kindergarten, Zoe is already receiving services under education law.


That’s because special ed law guarantees services from birth to age 21 for children who qualify.


North Carolina’s early intervention program – CDSA – is administered by Department of Health and Human Services, not the school system. Once a child hits age 3, services transition from early intervention to the local school system’s preschool program for children with disabilities.


Zoe’s services aren’t covered 100% by CDSA, though.


First, our insurance plan covers the first 30 therapy visits a year, which is the typical cap. Since Zoe has physical therapy and occupational therapy each week, that means we hit that cap at the end of March. After that, a percentage of her therapy costs are paid by early intervention, and a percentage is paid by us. Honestly, I don’t quite remember what portion is ours and what portion is theirs. It’s a sliding scale based on our income, determining how much of Zoe’s therapy costs are subsidized. I think we’ll pay about $150-200 a month, but I’m not sure about that.

(Can you tell that Lee is the bill-paying member of our marriage? Yep. Not me.) 


Why share this? First, I think it’s an important piece of knowledge to have for folks considering special needs adoption.

Second, though, I’m sharing this because we’ve had friends – even close friends – lambast anyone who receives income-based government services in Facebook posts, blogs, tweets, and so on.

Technically, early intervention is one of those programs.

Please, hold your tongue or think before you post your rant (or re-post someone else’s).

 When you state unequivocally that anyone receiving government services is not pulling their weight, it hurts.

When you think you’re talking about some nameless, faceless stranger, you’re not.


When you complain about having to pay for someone else’s services, it feels like you’re complaining about my daughter. It’s hard for me to be your friend when I feel like you’re saying that it would have been better for Zoe to remain in her country, where she - as an orphan - would have been transferred to an institution for her care. I know that sounds harsh, but we wouldn’t be able to be her parents and afford for her therapy needs without the portion subsidized by the government. Our budget is stretched enough with the additional $150-200 we’re now paying each month.


It’s popular in some of my circles of friends to judge the woman with food stamps who has her nails done and her iPhone out… without knowing if her iPhone was a gift, if her nails were done for free by a friend, or if she’s spent hours that day searching for a job and is beaten down by all the rejections, much less the condescending stares from the person behind her in line who will post about her on Facebook like he knows her full story. I’ve known pastors who were given a fancy car as a present and then embarrassed to drive it, lest people think the church is paying him way too much if he can afford that. And blogs and opinion pieces occasionally tackle the topic of how much of a financial drain people with disabilities are on the rest of us.

Enough already.

Please. 

Let’s go ahead and debate policies and discuss budget proposals and consider cost-cutting measures. Seriously. I don’t mind one bit if you disagree with me about education funding or any other topic, as long as we can talk without insulting anyone in the process.

Let’s stop pretending we know someone else’s story. Let’s stop attacking people. Let’s stop applying broad labels to diverse groups. Let’s stop shouting at each other online, as if it’s okay to forget manners when we’re communicating through the computer.

Please. Use your brain and your mouth to discuss issues… but use your heart too, so that you can express your views without being a jerk about it. 


P.S. – All the pictures in this post are of today’s therapy session with Zoe, in which she did some pretty spectacular commando crawling with only a little bit of help. Thanks for the tiny fraction of a penny from your taxes that helped make that happen. (Truly, I’m not being sarcastic; we are grateful. We love living in a country that offers services so that people with disabilities, people like Zoe, aren’t just hidden away in an institution like she might have been in her birth country.)

17 comments:

  1. *LOVE* We just came off of 3 years of WIC and Medicaid and were on the same end of the stick...strangers liked to assume all sorts of things. It made something already hard even harder. I am going to share this--it is very well written and speaks from the heart. Thank you. (I'm a friend of Lisa Watterson)

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    1. Lisa is a gem, isn't she? And I'm glad to hear you're in a place that isn't as hard, but also glad that WIC and Medicaid were there when your family needed them. Grace: I think we'd all be better people if we extended (and received) more of it.

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  2. LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE!!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!!
    Eli gets services here. But maybe when he stopped eating at 5 months I should have let him whither away since our insurance wouldn't cover any bit of the incredible feeding therapy program at our local children's hospital...?
    We also get a wide range of services for Ty, many of which we don't need or use. Some of which are completely invaluable to our family.
    As a recipient, I do have opinions on things that could be changed to make govt programs more effective/less wasteful. But it's honestly pretty tough as an end user to abuse the system (I truly couldn't do it if I wanted to, not that I want to or intend to). No one I know wants to hear that. They think I am the exception when it comes to govt programs/assistance.

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    1. Right. We aren't the exception to the norm either. Actually, there is no norm. Trying to paint all people who receive subsidized services as a homogeneous group... yeah, that doesn't work.

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  3. well said! I live in Canada but I am so very thankful for the government services we receive for my son- we could NEVER afford the therapy he needs on our salary. And when my husband was a pastor we were gifted a much newer van and people were definitely judgmental about it... so that really does happen!

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    1. I'll admit I was nervous about using the $500 stroller we were given by a company in exchange for a blog review. Friends and strangers had donated a total of $15,000+ to our adoption, and I didn't want them to feel like we just turned around and spent a large sum on a stroller.

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  4. Thank you! As a mama of two children with special needs - both internationally adopted -- this hits close to home. I share your feelings and am so glad you were brave enough to post this!!

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    1. You're welcome! I'll admit that I'm not all that brave... this has been sitting as a draft for a while, because I kept having second thoughts about posting it! :)

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  5. This is so great, thank you! My husband is currently in school and we have used some government programs to help us through while we make (quite literally) $0.00 a year. I have often felt stares when I used our WIC checks and wanted to say, "I promise I had these shoes, this purse, this phone BEFORE my husband went back to school." And I often wonder if those people with nice things who appear to be well-off and using government assistance, might have just recently lost their job or be in a situation similar to mine. We don't know the whole story ... such an important truth!

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    1. If I notice that someone is using WIC or another program, I make a point to make eye contact and smile. Same as if I see a mom whose child is having a meltdown. Because I don't know the whole story, but I do know that a smile can go a long way!

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  6. Thank you for posting this! We use the same services for Grayson and he is also on a Medicaid waiver program...which without it, we would need to be on a lot more government programs. There is no way we could pay the 20% after my insurance pays for all of his care. I get so hurt when others say these things. We are also very grateful that these programs exist to help these precious kiddos!

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    1. I've been trying to write this post for sooooooooo long, because it does hurt. So thankful for your little man that we was the wonderful care *and* the wonderful parents he needs!

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  7. You don't need my two cents but I want to thank you for this post! You have it right and it hits right between the eyes and pierces my heart to think how often I make superficial judgments. As a pastor's wife I have also been on the recieving end of such judgments many times over the years! The bottom line is that God calls us to live under grace rather than law and then living and basking in the light of grace - the grace will just ooze out of my (your) pores to all the people who intersect with my life in any given day! At least that's the good goal which none of us can accomplish without some real heavy lifting from heaven! :o)

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  8. O, forgot to say that I'm looking forward to the curtains tomorrow!

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  9. Love your post Shannon! Jason and I are so so thankful for the Early Intervention Services Josiah received through the CDSA. He had AWESOME therapists. Our fee was on a sliding scale too- some services being totally paid for and some that weren't at all. I can honestly say that without these services that so greatly helped Josiah, I don't think that he would be where he is today!

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  10. Oh, Shannon! You explained this so much better than I ever have. And that’s not a compliment I'm able to give very often :)

    Thank you, again, for putting yourself out there so others can better see reality. I realize people feel strongly about government and spending, and there are so many responsible discussions that can and should be had. But the idea that we "know" who the people who receive benefits are, is generally way off base. I’m sure there are people who are able to game the system, but no group wants to be judged by the worst of its members.

    And I'm glad you also brought in the extra "Facebook hot topic" of immigrants and government benefits- a subject near and dear to my own heart. Unfortunately "immigrant" will be another label little Zoe will have to grow up under and deal with the implications of for the rest of her life.

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