Take a deep breath and hold it for ten seconds. Imagine doing that over and over again, 31,536,000 times, not knowing where your children were. That’s ten years—or as long as my daughter was separated from her two disabled sons after their non-custodial father abducted them. But when she went to the police, they barely provided the basic due diligence. It was the first time the government would fail her. It would not be the last.
Eventually, ten years of ungiven Christmas and birthday presents took up room in my closet before my daughter found her sons. But even then, the state agency was slow to allow her to contact them. The state workers’ evaluations were short and perfunctory. Without going into all of the details, the whole story was just one government services failure after another.
By the time my daughter reunited with her sons, she had completed her college degree with $62,000 of student loans and a near straight-A average, yet could not find a job in her chosen field—social work. Today, her sons receive SSDI checks to help them get by, but there are no day programs for people with their abilities, or programs to keep them occupied or contributing to society while their mom is working. Trust me, with a degree in social work, my daughter would know how to look for the support systems. They just aren’t there.
So the state of Texas has created a situation in which a social worker with a degree and $62,000 of school loan debt can’t find a job in the field she was trained in, while her disabled sons can’t find the services they need, and have no real path towards being moderately independent. Something just doesn’t add up.
Part of the reason is because funding for social services for the disabled, particularly the mentally disabled, is abysmal. Would politicians notice how insufficient these funds are if it were their own relatives who were being failed?
When politicians and bureaucrats pass laws while knowing nothing about the people they impact, they create these impossible situations. If more politicians knew more people with disabilities, or families who have been repeatedly failed by government agencies, they might spend more resources on independent living programs or making systems work better.
How many parents are unable to figure out the bureaucracy because of the government workers’ apathy or a lack of resources? I wish I knew why the state of Texas refuses to fund services with miles-long waiting lists. Do you need to find a group home for disabled adults? Good luck; you’ll apply and be something like 57,304th in line for placement in an adult care facility.
I can’t help but think that with what the government spent to have Secret Service protection on golf courses the last four years, we could have built more than several group home treatment centers. If we spent less on bombs and weapons, we might have more money left over to invest in qualified social workers needing a job. Surely my grandsons need some sort of independent living training and vocational training programs more than we need to learn if there is microbial life on Mars.
My daughter is doing the best she can, but she is physically, emotionally, and financially exhausted. I do my best to send money to help cover medical expenses, but there are always more bills to pay. Currently, she’s battling cancer while looking for a second job, and I’m doing part-time work, but I’m a 72-year-old widow living on Social Security with a fast-shrinking 401(k). Her story breaks my heart, but what makes it worse is knowing how many other parents and grandparents may be in similar situations.
I know there will never be a perfect system, but I wish there were a way to ensure people who are literally working themselves to death get some relief and people in need of social services actually get served. Am I supposed to think it’s good news that if she passes away, the calculation that the state uses to assess the boys’ needs will move them up because they no longer have an alternative care provider? My heart aches for them every single day, and I have no idea how to help other than send them withdrawals from my 401(k).
I don’t mind paying taxes at all. It’s part of how we fund a society, support our democracy, and pay our political leaders. I just wish they would lead.
Edgerton Essays feature the perspectives of working-class Americans on the challenges facing their communities and families and the debates central to the nation’s politics. If you or someone you know might be interested in contributing to the series, click here for more information.
The goal of these essays is to help inform policymakers and pundits about what matters most and why to the vast majority of Americans who have no day-to-day connection to our political debates.
People want to be heard, especially people who are rarely heard. And most Americans are rarely heard.
The problem is not that government is doing too much or too little, but rather that it is utterly failing in those key tasks that must rightfully be its focus.