I recently read an article in the Washington Post, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-08-17/local/41419836_1_jenny-hatch-virginia-woman-guardianship-case which discussed a young woman named Jenny Hatch and her amazing fight to choose how and where she lives.
Jenny is a 29-year old woman with Down Syndrome and an IQ of about 50. Jenny was the subject of an unusually long guardianship case, in which Jenny’s mother and step-father sought appointment as Jenny’s guardians, with the right to decide where Jenny would live and who could visit her, among other things. During the pendency of the case, Jenny resided in a series of group homes – which is ultimately where her mother and step-father wanted her to reside permanently. Jenny did not like living in the group homes . . . according to Jenny, she was treated like a child, and her cellphone, computer and other items were taken from her. Before being placed in the group homes, Jenny had lived with friends, Kelly Morris and Jim Talbert, while working at a thrift shop that they owned. Jenny was happy, and she asked the Court to allow her to return to the life which she previously lived. Despite vigorous opposition from Jenny’s mother and step-father, the Court ultimately appointed Ms. Morris and Mr. Talbert as Jenny’s temporary guardians for the coming year, and Judge David F. Pugh stated that with appropriate support, Jenny should be able to “adapt and succeed independently.”
The case is being heralded as a landmark decision for individuals with disabilities. Denille Francis, a board member for the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads states, “Fifty years from now, the disability community will be talking about the Jenny Hatch case.” We can only hope that Jenny’s words resonate with not only the disability community, but the general population as well. As Jenny so aptly declared, “I deserve my rights.”