The Department for People with Disabilities (DPD), Catholic Charities Diocese of Paterson, received a call that a 25-year-old woman with Down Syndrome, Margaret, was in a living situation that was not quite ideal. She had been sheltered in her home since graduating high school at the age of 21, spending most of her time in her bedroom. Her parents had significant health and financial issues: dad had been in a rehabilitation center for months and mom was just trying to cope, living mostly on cauliflower soup and milk. One day things got worse: Mom was not feeling well, so she, Margaret, and a family friend from St. Jude’s got into a cab to seek medical assistance. On the way to the doctor, mom passed away in the car.
That same day, DPD arranged a meeting at the Gruenert Employment Center to respond to Margaret’s situation. Quite a team assembled: two case managers, a court-appointed guardian, the director and associate director of Wallace House, the regional administrator for New Jersey’s Division of Developmental Disabilities, a nurse from Catholic Charities, the director and special needs director of Gruenert Center, and a loving couple from St. Jude’s Parish in Hopatcong. After several hours of discussion, and after DPD’s wonderful maintenance staff put together a bedroom, Margaret was on her way to her new Catholic Charities home at Wallace House in Sparta, New Jersey.
Margaret has a long way to go, and the staff at DPD will work tirelessly to give her a good life, but it will not be easy for Margaret or the staff in the beginning. Margaret needs to get used to her new home, change her sleeping pattern since she is used to sleeping all day and being up all night, get a physical and dental exam which she hasn’t had in years, get used to the routine of a group setting and new people, and start work at Gruenert Center; the list goes on.
As the state officials left, the DPD staff were left alone to ponder the challenges that they knew faced them and Margaret going forward, but no one seemed daunted. One of the staff pointed to the logo in the conference room, which read: “DPD. Providing Help. Creating Hope.” It didn’t need to be said.