I couldn’t help but notice an article in the Chicago Tribune this past weekend called “Some parents leave Illinois to get disabled kids better services.” The story said that while there is no statistical study showing why families with disabilities might leave one state for another, anecdotal evidence suggests that many parents of children with disabilities here in the Chicago area plan to leave — or have already left — because of the lack of funding for human services here. The writers interviewed many Illinois parents, including the suburban mother of a teenager named Tim who struggles with various cognitive disorders.
Last year, a residential school in Quincy in western Illinois discharged emotionally disturbed students with Individual Care Grants because the state had not paid their bills. Rather than allow Tim to suffer a similar fate, the family is prepared to leave Barrington and establish residency in Wisconsin, where the pockets are perceived as deeper.
Deeper pockets in Wisconsin, and, coincidentally, less political corruption, too. Some people in Illinois joke about the corruption here, but it really isn’t funny. Corruption wastes resources and skews priorities. Despite Wisconsin’s battered economy, the state allocates more resources than Illinois does to people like our son Gus. The Tribune story reported that United Cerebral Palsy ranks Illinois 48th out of 50 for providing services, and the University of Colorado’s Coleman Institute of Cognitive Disorders puts Illinois near the bottom for funding autism spectrum disorders. The National Alliance on Mental Illness gives Illinois a “D.”
It’s been this way for a long, long time — in good economic times and bad. So when it came time for Gus to move away back in 2002, Mike and I felt extremely fortunate and grateful to find Gus a home in a facility hours away in Wisconsin, run by Bethesda Lutheran Communities, Inc. We would rather have Gus live closer to home, you know, drop by whenever we feel like it, take him out for ice cream, bring him home to visit now and then. Just like the families in this Tribune story, though, we feel more confident about services in Wisconsin, and we often talk about relocating their ourselves.
You can find out how your state is doing byvisiting the University of Colorado’s State of the the States in Developmental Disabilities project Web site. Mike and I found the information there extremely helpful when choosing a new home for Gus.