Step by Step on keeping your disabled adult child safe
What Is a Support Network?
You may not outlive your adult child who has a disability. As most parents of children who have a disability realize, often the question that plagues them from the time their child is born is, what will happen to my child when I’m gone.
While it’s tempting to take care of every aspect of your adult child’s life, it’s not in their best interest. I’ve heard of too many situations where a parent passes away in their 70s or 80s and they leave behind an adult child. The adult child has a disability and no one looking out for their best interests. They are at the mercy of government systems and I think we can all agree that is not what we want for our children.
By creating a group of people who look out and help your child, you can be at rest. You will know there are people who love and care for your child. You can rest knowing they’ll make sure that they are taken care of the way you would want.
When & Why?
There is never a bad age to establish a support network. No matter the age of the adult child who has a disability, it’s time. Establishing a group of people around your child who are not paid to be there is important.
Because if someone is not an employee, they don’t have a vested interest in your child’s life and they’re there because they want to be. With some exceptions, if there are a group of people actively involved in your child’s life, your child will be safer.
I’m more comfortable if there are people in my daughter’s life who may pick up on things that appear off. They may notice things like a change in behaviour. They can watch for your child being financially taken advantage of. It is simply another set of eyes looking out for your child.
Who Should Be in Your Adult Child’s Life?
It is best you start with the people who are already in your child’s life. You can make a list of people or you can start with a list of skills or resources. For example, is your friend an accountant? Do you know someone who owns a restaurant and may be looking for help? A leader in your church or faith community to take them under their wing?
Once you have a list of people that have something to offer your child, contact them. Explain that it is a low commitment, takes a village to raise a child approach.
If they sound interested, even if they aren’t willing to commit now, invite them to an informal meeting to discuss.
Make the meeting a circle where everyone attends, including your adult child who has a disability. Explain your vision and ask for input into your child’s needs.
Make sure you record people’s thoughts and make note of their willingness to make a commitment. Remember, people may have good ideas that they aren’t suitable, but you may be able to find someone later.
Things to consider and areas to discuss include your child’s mental, emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual needs. Before meeting, give some thoughts to the type of things you would like in each of these areas.
For example, do you want your child to participate in a physical activity three times a week? Five times? What type of activity? Discuss this with your adult child as well. What does an ideal world look like?
If you have a faith community, do you want your child to attend events? What type of events? How often?
This is an opportunity for you to dream about your child’s future and consider all the possibilities. Remember, these are not written in stone and can – and probably should – be changed, tweaked and updated over time. Involve the whole family and ask friends as they may have a unique perspective to share.
Makin’ It Work
Getting people to commit is only the first step in this process. Unfortunately, people are people and they all have lives. You may find that people do not automatically take it upon themselves to do what they said they would.
One of the things to consider is setting up a private Facebook group and invite those involved in your adult child’s life. Pin an announcement to the topic of the group that has the areas each person has made a commitment and what that commitment is.
This group is valuable in a number of ways. One is that it reminds people of the promises they made. It’s also a way for the group to communicate amongst themselves. For example, if someone agreed to take your child to a fitness class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and something comes up. They can’t make it next Thursday. Rather than coming to you and saying they can’t, they post the information to the Facebook group and ask if anyone is available to step in. While you are the one who sets up the group and you may need to work to get people to use it, at some point you should be able to fade back and let the rest of the group take over.
I hope these ideas have helped, let me know in the comment section if you have tried anything similar and how it worked for you. Any tips and ideas are always appreciated!