This is a case about freedom, personal decisions and whether someone who is deemed less bright than Einstein has the right to make those personal decisions themselves.
All of us who have been parents understand to some degree the lawsuit involving guardianship decided last week by Circuit Court Judge David F. Pugh in Newport News, Va. We think we know what is best for our children — even when they aren’t children anymore.
Maybe you have even experienced the same dilemma with an aging parent. You are concerned for their safety, their well-being, and you know what is best for them.
Jenny Hatch is 29. When she was in a bicycle accident, her friends Jim Talbert and Kelly Morris, who came to know Jenny when they hired her to work in their thrift store, took her in. The three formed a sort of family.
But Jenny’s mother and stepfather, Julia and Richard Ross, weren’t happy with the arrangement. Believing they knew what was best for Jenny, they sought legal guardianship so they could make decisions for her.
If Jenny didn’t have a disability, no court would have taken such an idea seriously. But she does have a disability — and that made all the difference.
Jenny Hatch has Down syndrome. She is described as vibrant, loving and, let’s not forget, 29 years old.
Her parents believe she should live in a group home and managed to place her in several of them over the past year while the case was pending.
Each time, she ran away, back to her friends Talbert and Morris, who wanted her to live with them, and with whom she wanted to live.
The case, which took a year to resolve and attracted disability-rights leaders from around the country, brings the issue of guardianship front and center, where we all should be taking a good, hard look.
Having legal guardianship over someone means that you make decisions for them. You decide where they will live, if and where they can work, what they will eat and with whom they will associate.
These are the decisions we make for children, because we believe they are not yet able to make these decisions for themselves.
Indeed, that was Jenny Hatch’s lament regarding the group homes where the Rosses wanted her to live: She was treated like a child.
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Every grown-up should get chance to make own decisions