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Woman With Disability Battles Mother Over Independent Living

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In a hotly-contested case, a court is set to decide whether a 28-year-old with Down syndrome or her mom should determine if the young woman lives in a group home or with her friends.

Margaret “Jenny” Hatch has been living in a group home since last summer after being placed into guardianship against her will. The Virginia woman had previously lived semi-independently, for a time with her friends, Jim Talbert and Kelly Morris.

Hatch says she wants to return to Talbert and Morris’ home, but on Thursday a judge transferred the woman’s guardianship from a nonprofit organization to her mother and stepfather.

“No!” Hatch reportedly proclaimed as the temporary guardianship decision was announced in court. Under the wishes of her parents — from whom court documents indicate she may be estranged — Hatch is now expected to remain at the group home, with a May trial date set in the case.

Local Down syndrome advocates say they hope to see Hatch able to live in the least restrictive environment possible, reports the Newport News, Va. Daily Press. To read more click here.

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Comments (9 Responses)

  1. SaraChaya says:

    Why is Jenny not permitted to give a voice? Where are the ‘expert’ to testify that she can or cannot understand what living condition is best for her? Why is her GAL not adviocating for her rather than rolling over and playing rug for the so-called parents?

  2. Brian Bishoff says:

    What a backwards thinking judge. It would also help if her parents would accept that she is an adult. I sympathize with this woman who just wants the same rights the rest of us have, to live where and with whom we please.

  3. Emilie says:

    Plenty of adults choose to not have a close relationship with their parents, Jenny should have the same right! Guardianship is granted way too often in this country. There is a change.org petition that tells more of Jenny’s story

  4. Annee says:

    There is much missing from this story. Judges are pretty reluctant to return adult children to parent care so there must be a pretty compelling reason. Were her “friends” taking advantage of her? If a person cannot live unsupervised, then parents are the best choice.

  5. Richard Hatch says:

    It is very interesting to see how many people “jump on the bandwagon” and sign petitions based on a one-sided story, filled with untruths and manipulation! Jenny is a wonderful daughter and well loved by her family and siblings. The decision to put her in a group home was a very hard and well thought out decision, based on what is best for Jenny, long term. An unselfish love. Jenny is very happy, it is only when she is being manipulated by these so-called “friends” that she gets upset. There is much more to the story then they are telling, and they often delete anyone from their Facebook that disagrees are tries to voice an opinion that is not theirs. We the family have taken the highroad and trust the legal system. Please be patient, after the final court dates this story will be published in many publications. Richard Hatch

  6. Donna says:

    Thanks Mr. Hatch for telling us the other side of the story about Jenny.

  7. Jim Talbert says:

    I can not speak for the mother or step father or the biological father that lives so far away. We speak only for Jenny who always strived to be independent. This was the one thing that she was most proud of. She had told me once “i am very independent for someone with down syndrome” She strived to do the best at work where she was employed for five years! She would ride her bike to and from always wearing her helmet for safety. She independently went to the church of her choosing. She participated in the chior. She loved to volunteer to work on political campaigns which she had done for years and was adored. She visited freinds of her choosing, ate lunch where she desired. Donated her change into different charity Jars because “they were less fortunate than me” she would say. Does this seem like anyone who should have there independence stripped away or their Civil Rights violated? Jenny’s very life has been turned upside down where she now has no say. We love Jenny and Jenny has been a part of our lives for a long time. We have asked why this is being done and why not try to find a better solution for Jenny. All of the efforts in the disability world to ensure the the particapation and the desires of an individual recieving services such as Choice Protocool, Person Centered Planning, A Life Like Yours, Least Restrictive Environment, are these just words? If all of the efforts to keep Jenny in a group home were used to help Jenny live independently with Dignity and self worth, one can only imagine how happy she would be. Isn’t that what we all want out of life? Why treat Jenny any differently? Why indeed.

  8. IDEA LAW says:

    Dear Mr. Talbert,

    Has it occurred to you that you are getting involved with a very complicated system of which you obviously know nothing about? One of the most significant worries than any parent of an adult with disabilities has is the long term care for their child once they have passed away.

    Although “kicking Jenny out” while she was injured may seem like a cruel thing to you, it is most likely that this was done to push Jenny to the head of the list by rendering her homeless and in need of care. Are you willing to take care of Jenny for the rest of her life if future medical issues come up? Have you created a long term health plan and care plan for Jenny in the event that something should happen to you and your wife?

    People are killed in accidents every day. Things go wrong. Have you any idea the position you have put this woman in, if this type of thing were to happen? She’s be adrift and have to do this process all over again without the support of those who love her.

    It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and judge parents who have to make these hard decision. It’s cruel and wrong to emotionally manipulate Jenny. Some hard choices are made by parents who have years of experience watching their kids fall through crack after crack in the legal and protective systems.

    You’ve turned a very serious issue into a “feel good story” “let’s all stand up for Jenny!!” Except I can guarantee you that if Jenny had more serious health issues down the line that required hundreds of thousands of dollars in her care, none of the facebook pals would take care of it.

    I feel so bad for the way this young woman has been manipulated by people who have absolutely no idea what damage they are doing right now.

  9. Anti-discrimination law says:

    Dear IDEA Law,

    Has it occurred to you how arrogant your statement is? You somehow have the ability to make a judgment as to the depth of knowledge Mr. Talbert possesses concerning your “very complicated system”? He knows first hand what the significant worries are of a parent to an individual with a disability. What do you know about it?

    Parents have to make these “hard decisions” because of people like you who are so arrogant to believe that they know what is best. It’s hard because things do go wrong within your very complicated system that you convince parents to put their loved ones in. It’s hard for a parent to justify placing their loved ones in a system which is complicated, corrupt, negligent, money hungry, non-transparent, etc., one that sees them as a patient, a resident, and a disabled person. It is a very serious issue. Your system is far, far from a “feel good story”. There is absolutely nothing about it that feels good!

    I assume that since you portray yourself as an expert in these matters and are well aware of the cracks that kids are “falling through” in the legal and protective systems, that you are well on your way to solving these issues within the complicated system?

    No where in your self righteous rhetoric did you address Jenny as a human being. Only the object of your system and what everyone else feels is best for her. So yes lets all stand up for Jenny! Although unlike you I can make no guarantees, I do feel however, fairly certain that it would be you that would not step up to take care of Jenny’s needs.

    So in conclusion feel bad for yourself and the damage that your way of thinking is doing to not only Jenny but to all people with a disability.

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