While visiting a nursing facility, our TBI advocate met Yvette, a woman in her late thirties who was on her bed in the middle of the day, facing the wall. Nursing staff indicated that she could not speak or do anything for herself. But when the advocate listened, she could hear Yvette’s soft voice responding to her questions.
Yvette was a young single mother who had left her children in someone else’s care when she went into the nursing facility. A neurological illness had compounded the effects of a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. After a couple of years, the Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS) split up the children and sent them to foster homes. Yvette became more and more isolated and even neglected in the facility.
The advocate met a woman who visited Yvette regularly, and they began to discuss possibilities with Yvette. The advocate obtained an augmentative communication device for Yvette and investigated Medicaid waivers that could allow her to live in the community. Yvette and the visitor made a decision: Yvette would live with the visitor.
The advocate also worked on Yvette having visitation with her children. It took dozens of telephone calls and several letters, and the visits were not easy. The children found it difficult to relate to their mother. It was simply difficult to get to know her again after so many years.
Just as the plans and preparations for a move started, DFACS sent a notice that all parental rights with the children would be severed. Yvette and her friend wanted both children reunited and living with them, but there were barriers. The lawyer working in the TBI project went to court with everyone, including Yvette. The court agreed to delay the termination of parental rights.
Yvette’s friend was approved as a caregiver under the Medicaid waiver program and attended foster parent training. The home was made accessible. Myriad problems arose with transfer of social security benefits, the approval of Medicaid waiver benefits, the moving of the children out of separate foster care, and more.
Today, Yvette lives in a real home with her children and her friend. She uses a regular wheelchair to get around. She speaks to her children with the augmentative communication device, and they read their homework to her. Wherever she goes, she has a big smile. Recently at the mall, she saw some employees from the nursing facility where she had once lived. They asked incredulously, “Yvette, is that you?” Indeed it is she, living a life she would have only considered in her dreams a few years earlier.