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Woman with Down syndrome wins over parents on guardianship case

By Valerie Benguiat     Aug 5, 2013 in World
A 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome will be allowed to live with friends, as is her wish, instead of living in a group home, after prevailing over her parents on a guardianship case.
A year ago, Margaret Jean “Jenny” Hatch from Virginia was taken from her life working at a thrift shop and living with her friends Kelly Morris and Jim Talbert, to be placed in a series of group homes.
After a year of legal battles and running away from group homes, Jenny heard the verdict she wanted. The Newport News Circuit Court stated that Jenny: needed a guardian to help her make decisions but that he (the Judge) had also taken into account her preferences. He designated Morris and Talbert her temporary guardians for the next year, with the goal of ultimately helping her achieve more independence.
Kelly and Jim had given Jenny a job and a home to recover after she had a bike accident a year ago. Ever since, they offered to take Jenny in their home, and they stand by their commitment.
This case sets legal precedent for people with disabilities, according to the Washington Post: It was about an individual’s right to choose how to live and the government’s progress in providing the help needed to integrate even those with the most profound needs into the community.
Jenny has an IQ of about 50, and according to her parents, she needs supervision that friends cannot guarantee. Jenny has inappropriate and potentially dangerous conducts. Her mother, Julia Ross, stated that Jenny: lies, causes confusion, is inappropriate behaving with men, contacts neighbors relentlessly, and is obsessed with others who are nice to her.
Jenny’s parents cannot or will not take her in. Her father is allegedly unable to provide the care that she needs, as reported by the Washington Post, and her mother “does not want Jenny to come home because they just don’t get along”.
Jenny was taken into a group home in order to qualify for Medicaid waiver, which would entitle her to in-home and community-based services. Jenny was soon released from the group home and allowed to move back in with her friends. Two days later, her parents filed for guardianship.
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