RE: the JFAC hearings

Last week, Idaho's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee held their first ever public hearing to discuss funding for public education. This week they're meeting again, for the second time in history, to discuss cutting funding to Medicaid programs for the disabled and mentally ill. One of our state lawmakers suggested that we need to return to the days of the 1950s and 1960s when volunteers cared for the less fortunate. (ps, back in the 40s and 50s, we sent most of our disabled to "hospitals.")

What follows below I cannot claim as my own. This is a letter that will be read at the JFAC hearing tomorrow (if time allows) during the public testimony. It was written by my passionate and wonderfully eloquent bride. If you want to know how the slash and hack efforts of the State of Idaho will affect the disabled and under-privileged, read on.

Dear Legislators and Governor Otter,

I am writing today to share about my family. I want you to know who they are because the decisions you make affect their everyday life and their future. I have been an Idaho resident most of my life. I was born in Moscow and have lived here the majority of my 27 years. I have always been proud of where I came from. I have chosen to raise my family here, go to school here, and get involved in our community in North Idaho. My husband and I have been foster parents in Kootenai County for almost 4 years. We have had 10 children in our home and have adopted two of them. I have worked with Foster and Adoptive parents as a support person for over two years. We have three children and each one has different special needs. I am going to introduce them to you. You hold their futures in your hands.

Christian is six years old. He was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s. He is in kindergarten and he loves school. He is extremely smart and excels in math. His special interests are dinosaurs, animals, and art. He wants to be a Scientist that helps animals when he grows up. Christian can achieve his dreams without a doubt, but not if he does not learn how to cope with the challenges that Asperger’s brings. He currently receives IBI therapy and counseling services. He is making great progress. I am learning so much about how to parent him and help him become a contributing member of our society. Without these interventions I would not have the skills, knowledge, or supports that I need to help him grow into the person he is capable of being. He uses almost all of his 22 hours allotted by Medicaid for IBI. This therapy is essential to him excelling and growing as a person to reach his goals. If this program was cut or drastically reduced I fear that Christian will not be able to achieve his dreams. All the research on the Autism Spectrum points to intervention early, consistently, and at high volumes being pivotal to the successes of children on the spectrum. Without it they will not reach their potential and overcome their obstacles. You can make the difference in his life by keeping the funding in place for IBI and Mental Health supports for children like him.

Chloe was sheltered from her family at birth because she was positive for meth. She came to us at six weeks old and overcame many challenges with the help of the Infant Toddler Program. Now she is a vivacious, beautiful, and articulate 3 ½ year old little girl. She wants to be a Doctor when she grows up so she can make her brother all better. She does have special needs though. Chloe suffers from sensory integration issues, and also some attachment and severe ADHD issues. She has 5 hours a week of PSR and counseling. She has made amazing gains with these interventions. They have been critical for her. Without continued counseling and other mental health supports Chloe is at risk genetically, of becoming an addict and suffering from much bigger issues. It is essential that she be able to access the necessary mental health services like counseling and PSR as needed for years to come in order for her to become a successful adult. Chloe’s birth family and parents couldn’t be there for her, and have caused her great pain in her life. Thankfully the State of Idaho DHW and our family stood in the gap for her, and helped her to be successful so far. Will the state turn its back on her now? She has made it over so many hurdles and just needs the supports in place to stay happy and healthy and achieve her dreams. Will you choose to cut the funding of the Counseling and PSR services essential to her being successful in life?

Josiah is 2 ½. He is also on the autism spectrum and will most likely struggle with ADHD like his sister. We aren’t sure of who he will be and what he will be capable of because right now Josiah functions at the level of a 1 year old. He had been in intervention since birth and continues to need multiple supports including attachment therapy and other therapies. He will be getting IBI when he is three and will need as many hours as he can get because he has so far to go. Like Chloe, Josiah’s mother was on drugs during pregnancy and he was taken away at birth. He has overcome major medical issues and some of his global developmental issues but still has a long journey ahead. Without the supports of IBI and/or Developmental Therapy, Josiah could end up in an institution. He would not be able to achieve the potential we see in him. We have saved him from the heartache and the pain of growing up in an abusive and neglectful home. But we cannot choose to end the support there. You must stand up for him and other children like him. They need these imperative supports to achieve their potential, and become contributing members of society. Please stand up for them.

My husband and I have seen Developmental Disabilities Agencies and Mental Health Agencies give hope, make change, and be an essential support to children with special needs and their families. In place of cutting, or drastically reducing the budgets for the programs, please consider raising taxes on specific items instead. Please picture these children and the thousands like them in our state that need all of us. They could be doctors, or scientists, they could help bring change to the world someday. Even children severely affected by different diagnosis’ impact those around them positively, and can contribute to society in some way. You never know what they are capable of. However, they cannot reach their potential if they don’t receive the supports and the services they need, in quantities that will impact their lives long term. Be an advocate for these children. Please keep funding going for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities for children. Don’t turn your backs on them in the name of balancing a budget. We can do better as a state to support these special children. It is our responsibility to do our best, to make wise choices, to keep them safe. We are responsible to make sure they will have every opportunity to be successful, independent, adults, who benefit society. We all need to do our part, please partner with us in our efforts. Thank you for your time today.

Sincerely, Rebekah Casey


Five for Friday

I have a problem. Or rather, my coworkers have a problem.
Every morning, with reliable and predictable lack of precision, there will be at least one vehicle (if not more) parked in what I call "pretend spots" when I will pull into my office's parking lot. This isn't an issue of the parking lot being full and the employee is late so they steer into a fire lane and call it good. This is people parking in nonexistent parking spots while the parking lot is half empty because the fire lanes are closer to the entrance. This failure in parking is the first thing to greet me as I prepare my day, and as a "rule person" that means I generally start my day on a sour note. If I take the effort to find a real parking spot every day, why can't the people I work with extend the same courtesy?

But here's my dilemma. I have an abnormally exaggerated sense of justice - I have a strange urge to see everyone get what they deserve.* Every time I see a car parked in the fire lane, I want to ram it at the fastest speed my car can obtain. I never follow through on this impulse and there are five reasons why.

1. I don't want to hurt Steve. Who's Steve? Steve is my car. Yes, I know what you're thinking, I named my car Steve. Why that name? Because it is practically a clone of the car my friend Steve drove when I lived in Boise. It's a good car, and I don't want to damage it.

2. Collateral damage. With my luck, my car and the offender's car would not be the only two vehicles to suffer loss. Inevitably, there would be another car on the other side, one that is graciously parked in a designated parking spot, that would get caught (or crushed) in the crossfire.

3. The fear of getting caught. This fear kept me out of trouble as a teenager. During those years, my fear of getting caught prevented me from participating in some very bad things and steered me away from other not as bad but still slightly mischievous activities. In some respects, I haven't grown out of that phase.

4. Those fire lanes exist for a reason. True story. Parking lots are designed with fire lanes to give emergency vehicles room to safely navigate their way in and out in situations where their services are needed. If a fire engine clips your car because you were parked in a fire lane, they are not responsible for the damages to your car. You are. There is a part of me (a small part because it's not good for business) that hopes we have an emergency that requires assistance from the fire department. And in this make believe scenario, I hope that the fire crews hit every car parked in a fire lane on their way out of our lot.

5. I'm passive-aggressive. As much as I would receive an immense sense of satisfaction if one of the parking violators get their car damaged or towed, it is far more entertaining for me to mock them. And trust me, my office mate and I have laughed a lot this winter at all the parking fails we've observed.

* You don't need to remind me. I know this obsession is not healthy. I'm working on it.


A few things

Got in some exercise, wrote for a while, and listened to some good music. All things considered, I'd call that a good evening. Now if only I didn't have to work in the morning.

But in the meantime, here are a few things that have been rattling around in my head.

I'm beginning to think (and the more I ponder this, the more I believe it to be true) that the pervasive issues in our country are only a shadow of bigger evils. The crappy economy, rampant racism, bitter and divided politics, under-funded and broken public education system, American obesity... They're all problems in their own right, but I believe they are only symptoms of something much worse: greed and an obsession with self.

Why is it that the people who think they're the best liars are often the worst?

What is driving the need within Christian culture to sanitize the Bible? I understand that when telling the story of David and Goliath to your children, you'd want to leave out the part where David chopped the head off the dead giant's corpse. But between adults, why do we try to scrub away the ugly parts of scripture? The Bible is filled with violence, sex, and people who constantly make mistakes. Why do so many within the church try to present it as if it's a fairy tale?

If you're not listening to Anberlin, you should.

If our experience with Christian's kindergarten had not previously ruined my faith in public education, Tom (Superintendent of Public Instruction in Idaho) Luna's new plan for Idaho's schools would have utterly destroyed that trust. His plan includes less teachers and larger class sizes, pay cuts for teachers, and continued slashes to the state's education budget.


Five for Friday

There's only one New Year's resolution. I've hinted at it previously, and if you care to keep track of my progress, you can follow the WIP meter in the right hand sidebar.

That doesn't mean that I'm not looking forward to the future. My goals, however, don't fit into the next year. When I make plans, I go big. Here are five things I want to do in the next five years.

1. An Alaskan cruise. Bekah and I are planning on doing this for our tenth anniversary. Now it's just a matter of saving up the money (and figuring out who will take the kids while we're away).

2. Attend a Wild at Heart Boot Camp. I've read the book, and loved it. The boot camp/retreat is a deeper experience in the book's themes. What better way is there to celebrate being in my mid 30s than an adventure retreat?

3. Road trip with my son. Nowhere too far. Somewhere that's close enough to drive there and back. Somewhere like the petrified forest in Vantage, driving south to explorer Palouse Falls, or touring the Silver Mines in Wallace. He's six now, so he's getting to be the age that he'll not only enjoy - but also remember - having an adventure with his dad.

4. Start first day of school breakfasts. This was a tradition with my wife and her dad when Bekah was a kid. It's one of her fondest memories from growing up and she wants me to carry on the tradition with our kids. Zu and Christian will be in school next year and JJ will be following soon thereafter. Now, if I can only convince them to go somewhere better than McDonalds.

5. Institute the family vacation. As long as we've been a family, Bekah and I have always used our vacation time for specific purposes other than vacationing. We've been camp counselors, we've traveled for my grandparents anniversary and to Seattle to visit my folks. Our recent trip to Oklahoma City was a miniature family reunion and a last chance to see Grandpa before he passed. In the past eight years, we've never gone anywhere for the sole purpose to get away. I'd like to start doing that with some regularity.


I did it!

As I mentioned the other day, I've been blogging the month of December. 31 posts in 31 days. What does that mean? That means I did it!
I am a successful participant in NaBloPoMo. I won't be repeating this feat in January.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, I have a new post up at one of my other (frequently ignored) blogs. It's a fitting post for the first day of the year.

Speaking of which, welcome to 2011. Happy New Year.