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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Adult Fostering

I have been reading about the town of Geel.

This is from Wikipedia:

"A model of psychiatric care

Geel is well known for the early adoption of deinstitutionalization in psychiatric care. This practice is based on the positive effects that placement in a host family gives the patient, most importantly access to family life that would otherwise have been denied. The legendary 7th-century Saint Dymphna, who had moved to the Geel area from Ireland, is usually credited for this type of care. The earliest Geel infirmary and the model where patients go into town, interact with the community during the day, and return to the hospital at night to sleep, date from the 13th century.

Originally, this practice was religiously motivated and organized by a chapter of canons, attached to the church of Saint Dymphna. By the 18th century, however, the placement of patients was mostly done directly, without the intervention of the canons. The number of patients grew in proportion to the growing city’s reputation abroad and the economic benefits flowing to the city provided further motivation to the inhabitants. Attracted by the gentle care of patients, Vincent van Gogh’s father considered sending his famous son to Geel in 1879. The high point came in 1938, with a total of 3,736 placed patients, compared with only 700 a hundred years earlier.

This novel type of psychiatric care was evaluated by various other institutions around the world (see for instance Eastern State Hospital in Virginia), but often seen as too revolutionary to implement. It is only in the early 20th century that the idea of deinstitutionalization was adopted more widely elsewhere. Today, a modern psychiatric centre stands on the place of the old infirmary, and close to 500 patients are still placed with inhabitants."

I have been investigating ideas regarding the homeless.  Specifically, I have befriended the only homeless person in my city, a woman about my age.  I think that this could have been my fate, but for the grace of God.

I have noticed certain blocks to helping someone.  First of all, they don't all feel they need any help, even while asking for help in indirect and direct ways.  Secondly, because of some kind of thought process, they have put many limitations on the kind of interactions they are willing to have with people, and these seem to limit the types of help they have access to.

Specifically, in a strange way it is like they are anorexic with regard to housing.  The homeless person I met has many ideas about why it would be a bad thing to accept help or to live in any type of home other than with someone she knows.  She would rather sleep outside in the cold than in a small apartment if it isn't on the ground floor with a door going directly outside.  She is very afraid of being caught inside with a fire.  She is also afraid of filling out any kind of paperwork, even though she can read and write.

This person had a bad outcome of a surgery, during which she was dead for about five minutes on the operating table.  She was employed up until this time, but lost her job after the surgery.  I am not sure, but she seems unable to learn anything new, or at least without great effort, since that time.  She seems fine with doing things that she had already learned prior to the surgery, as far as I can tell.  She has been homeless for about 13 years.  And she lives almost a feral life, while trying very hard to dress like she is working at a job.  I offered her a part time job I had available, but she turned it down, even as she was already doing some of the work. 

It is like she still thinks she has a home and lives there, but somehow the actual home is missing.  She claims to own part of a house and a broken down car, but has lost access to them, for various vague reasons.

I was able to help her quite a bit by just treating her the same as I would treat anyone else, and she did quite well as long as she was living with my family.  She even helped a great deal with household chores.  However, any time I tried to get her to get Food Stamps to help out with the food bill, she refused and got angry.  Its like she cannot fathom needing anything like that, and cannot learn to use anything with regard to her "new" situation.

Eventually, we had to move and my new landlord won't allow her to stay with us.  I could take her in again, if I could get her on public services.  I looked into this on her behalf and she would qualify for many services immediately as a long-term homeless person.  I could not afford to do this long term without the benefits she is turning down.

I tried to set up other kinds of informal help for her, but no one else has responded to my inquiries.  For example, of 42 churches in my city, none returned my calls about her.  Everyone seems to think that the existing services are where she should go, and there are no alternatives that I could think of that she would accept.

The calls alone were a lot of work, I called the mayor, an alderman and several agencies.

I have concluded that someone like this needs to have adult foster care, like the Town of Geel provides.

I would like to start this kind of service in my area.  I am wondering what kind of form it would take.  It would have to involve being able to take someone into their home and help them live as a member of a family.  I think this kind of situation is easier for a homeless person to trust than to go to an agency and fill out tons of paperwork.  I have a feeling that they don't have a clear "paper" identity and might even have a past that they want to hide.

However, homelessness is not a  good option no mater what someone's past is.  I wonder if we can, as a society, "forgive" a homeless person for "forgetting" their entire past, or for simply loosing track of it.

The key component for this situation would be to find a way to pay the family doing the foster care, and not have to make the homeless person consent to anything accept be willing to stay at the home freely, without restraint.  Someone would have to monitor the situation regularly to make sure the money was being spent on the person's room and board, and not taken for other things.  And if the person were to walk away again, the funds could be withheld until they settled elsewhere.  In other words, the funds would stay with the person, not the place, but would go to whatever place the person ends up.  As long as it is reasonably safe (not a drug house, or whatever.)

So the family could look after the person, finding them if they get lost for instance, but would not be able to rely on the homeless person's benefits over much, or they might feel they had to keep the person there for consistency of funds.

The family would have to have their own financial stability, with or without the homeless person there.

This would only work if the homeless person were not addicted to something.  Addiction brings with it a host of other problems, like theft, lying, and manipulation.

There are many disabled people who seem interested in this type of living arrangement.  It is one of many types of arrangements that could be available to them.  Currently, there are "group homes" which are run by an agency with paid staff workers.  I have heard some scary things about those.  Not all are bad, though.  And there is Supported Independent Living,  but this doesn't always work out because there is no sense of "family."  And some might say this is lonely.

I care for disabled people, and I mentor several adults with disabilities as a volunteer.  More than once I have been asked if I could let someone live with me.  I think that people could do this if there was an option for adult fostering.

I will write some more about this in the future as I gather more information.  If anyone would like to help with this, I would love to hear what other people are doing.