Bill Hazel, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Services: Give Jenny Justice and Bring Her Home!
Jenny Hatch is a high-functioning 28-year-old woman with Down Syndrome who has been placed under temporary guardianship and sent to a series of group homes, away from the community she knows and loves, and against her will. She has expressed a clear desire to live with her friends and employers, Jim Talbert and Kelly Morris, who would love nothing more than to have Jenny live under their roof.
Before her nightmare began, Jenny was fully integrated into her local community. She attended the local Methodist Church, worked on two political campaigns, held a part-time job at Jim and Kelly’s thrift store, and was known and loved by a great many people. She has now been removed from her friends, kept from work she loves, denied the freedoms and opportunities offered by her community, and segregated from all that she knows, many miles away from her home.
Jenny wants and deserves what any human being wants and deserves: to be able to live where she chooses, to be able to communicate freely, to be supported in her choices, and to be heard. Jenny’s civil rights have been violated. Her freedom of choice has been stripped from her with no respect for her dignity as an adult and as a human being. We demand that Jenny’s civil rights be restored, and that she have the freedom to live where she wants, with the people she loves, and with the services that the law guarantees in the least restrictive setting possible.
In April of 2008, Jenny began working at the Village Thrift Store in Newport News, Virginia. Over the course of four years, she became close friends with her employers, Jim Talbert and Kelly Morris, and she developed good relationships with all of her co-workers and with many customers. She integrated herself fully into her local community, attended the local Methodist Church, worked on two political campaigns, and was known and loved by a great many people.
In January of 2012, Jenny told Jim and Kelly that her mother and stepfather had asked her to leave the home she shared with them. She briefly went to live with someone who was never home and where she did not feel safe. In March of 2012, while riding her bicycle, Jenny was hit by a car. While in the hospital, she underwent back surgery, which required a stay of more than a week. As her discharge date neared, Jim and Kelly learned from hospital staff that her immediate family was not willing to take her in, and that Jenny had nowhere to go. At that point, Jim and Kelly took her into their home to care for her during her recovery. They began shortly thereafter to seek services for her that would enable her to stay in their home and in the community she loved.
The battle that ensued has resulted in a nightmare for Jenny and for those who love her.
The local Community Services Board (CSB) told Jim and Kelly that it would not provide a Medicaid waiver to help keep Jenny in the community unless she was homeless. To get the services to which Jenny was entitled by law, Jim and Kelly surrendered her to the CSB. They considered the surrender to be purely pro forma and fully trusted that Jenny would return to their home with services in place. Instead, the CSB placed Jenny in a group home. Jenny was traumatized. She reported being hit by a resident and was moved to a second group home. On numerous occasions, she communicated her desire to leave and to return to Jim and Kelly’s home. In response, the facility staff abrogated Jenny’s civil rights by taking away her cell phone and her computer, and by denying her access to the facility phone.
When Jim and Kelly were finally able to communicate with Jenny, they gave her a number to an attorney who was able to rescue her from the facility. Shortly after coming back to Jim and Kelly’s home, Jenny was summoned to a guardianship hearing initiated by her stepfather. Although a continuance was granted, Jewish Family Services was assigned temporary guardianship and Jenny was hauled off by court order to yet another group home, against her will, where she has been denied all contact with Jim and Kelly. She remains in limbo, her freedom of choice now in danger of being fully abolished.
Please help Jenny’s nightmare end by demanding that her civil rights be restored and her voice heard. Thank you.
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