Connecticut’s continued decimation of the Department of Developmental Services is unjust and morally wrong. As a clergywoman and person of faith, I would also point out that it tragically ignores the Biblical imperative to care for the least of these, our brothers and sisters, our daughters and sons who are too often overlooked and ignored by society.
A letter signed by over 90 interfaith clergy leaders from around the state was delivered to the governor and legislative leaders this week. In the face of repeated cuts to the DDS budget, it declared that “appropriate and just care of those with disabilities is a critical and yet an often hidden, unappreciated social justice and civil rights issue of our times.”
The letter implored our state leaders “to make just care for those with I/DD (intellectual and developmental disabilities) a priority in this year of difficult budget choices. These, God’s beloved children, have shouldered far too great a burden!”
Gov. Malloy, I applaud your welcome of refugees to our state and your support of those in our LGBT community. I applaud your fighting for a second chance for those who have been incarcerated. BUT, as the parent of a young adult with I/DD, I need you to also welcome and fight for my daughter, Sarah. I need you to give Sarah and her friends a first chance at a happy and productive life.
We should all be troubled by, and even ashamed of, the ongoing cuts to DDS. We should all have deep concerns and questions as our state coldly turns its back on those who are the most vulnerable among us, when what they need and deserve is the warm embrace of their community.
In my line of work, I frame this issue in the context of the Biblical imperative to care for the least among us. But even in the non-religious arena there is a moral obligation for a society to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
These are all our children! Should not care of these individuals be one of our core values? Do any of us want to be part of a society that says no we cannot… we will not…care for our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers who cannot care for themselves? I know I do not.
Currently over 2,000 individuals languish on residential waiting lists with no hope for services unless caregivers die, or worse, they are in abusive situations. Budget cuts have now resulted in additional waiting lists: approximately 100 people are waiting for day and employment supports and there is also a waiting list for much needed respite care as well.
In the current proposed budget, for the first time ever, our state is telling families of students with I/DD who are graduating from their local schools that they are on their own! There will be no help after your child turns 21. If it means that a parent must quit his or her job to stay home with that adult child, so be it. It is an unconscionable situation and I join other clergy and faith leaders in saying, “no more!”
Ultimately we are all judged by our acts, and the creation of a budget is one of our government’s most significant acts. We implore the governor and the legislature to pass a budget that makes just and humane care and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities a priority.
The Rev. Kathleen Peters is a retired minister of the United Church of Christ.