April 5, 2016 - David is looking at college options with his Legal Aid Guardian Advocacy Project case manager.
But not too long ago, the youth was living in a medical foster home, suffering from childhood trauma that could have debilitated him for the rest of his life. Back then, just getting through the day was a challenge.
David, a former client of the Juvenile Advocacy Project, has overcome monumental obstacles with the help of his Legal Aid Guardian Advocacy Project staff – sometimes known as “Guardian Angels.”
His path to success was made possible by community resources, good guidance and his own determination.
In the beginning, David was a shy young boy, diagnosed with autism, who refused to make eye contact and communicated with one word answers or a simple shrug of the shoulders. He suffered from years of sexual abuse which occurred in the care of his mother and then again when residing with his father. These multiple victimizations led to him being placed in the care of his grandparents.
His life didn’t get any better. David was referred to the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Advocacy Project (JAP) following a physical altercation with his grandmother. Overwhelmed with fear, his grandparents did not allow David to return to their home. As a result, David was released to foster care.
This was no ordinary foster care -- it was a medical foster home with 24-hour nursing care to assist with his medical needs. As a result of David’s childhood trauma, he had begun to hold in his feces which led to fetal impaction and ultimately resulted in colostomy surgery. David’s medical foster home, which provided 24-hour nursing care, worked diligently with David until his medical condition improved and he no longer required the colostomy bag.
Shortly before David’s 18th birthday, his JAP attorney referred him to the Guardian Advocacy Project (GAP) because although David would now be an adult, he still lacked the skills needed to be independent. Immediately, his case manager with GAP was able to assist him in applying for community resources, such as services with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and Social Security Disability due to his intellectual disability.
David’s life started to get better.
After graduating from high school with a special diploma, David and his GAP case manager were able to enroll David into the Automotive Technology Program at South Tech Academy. David is now nearing the end of his studies and will graduate from the Automotive Technology Program in June 2016. He is interested in furthering his education in the auto mechanic industry.
Today, David is 22 and still struggles with peer relationships. Still, he has made significant progress in maintaining friendships and gaining independence.
In fact, a few short months ago, David made the decision to leave the medical group home that he resided in for nearly eight years so he could share a home with other individuals that are more closely related to his age and functioning level. Since his move, he has become more independent in making his own decisions and voicing his needs and wants.
And yes, David and his case manager are now applying to colleges.
Like many other clients, Legal Aid was able to provide a continuum of care for David, transitioning him from the Juvenile Advocacy Project to the Guardian Advocacy Project before his 18th birthday. If you would like to support our work with clients like David, please consider supporting our Guardian Advocacy Project here. You can help us access critical services necessary for our clients to live in the most unrestrictive environment possible while maximizing their independence.(David’s name was changed to protect his privacy. His story is based on a real life account of Legal Aid’s Guardian Advocacy Project.)