Civic Responsibility for All: Jury Duty

Civic Responsibility for All:  Jury Duty

When our son Aaron turned 18, he started getting pink government envelopes in the mail, and I was not thrilled.

Jury Duty summons…

In principal I support our constitutional right to a jury trial by our peers. However, I thought Aaron would not be able to serve and he would be excused.

The first time he was summoned I went through all the paperwork to get him excused (it required a couple of doctors’ notes and a description from me as to why we felt he could not serve) – it was a pain!  Over the years, Aaron has received several other summons and his number has not been called; one time his number was called and we showed up at the court house but were dismissed by noon.

This fall, he got summoned again and yes, his number was required to show up.  We dutifully made arrangements to appear.

Aaron didn’t remember our past experience two years ago, but I told him, “don’t worry, they won’t seat you.” Of course I had to keep explaining words, like why it is called a summons or a call, what does it mean to ‘seat’ you, etc.

We had my husband drive us so we didn’t have to deal with parking in Denver County. I accompanied him to sign in and told the clerk that he had a cognitive disability, I was his assistant and asked if they would like us to leave?

Nope.  We went into the big waiting room and watched the video with the rest of the potential jurors.  And then you wait.

Aaron was a bit anxious and I kept assuring him most likely we would just sit enjoying our coffee and in an hour or so they would dismiss us so we could go have lunch.  If his number was called the plan was to tell the court clerk that he has a cognitive disability and surely they would dismiss him.  A half hour later sure enough his number was called and I prompted him to raise his hand and say ‘Here’ like the other people whose numbers had been called.

We went out into the hallway with the rest of the potential jurors and listened to the court clerk explain what would happen next: go upstairs to courtroom number D, line up, remove our hats, be quiet & respectful, and sit in the order in which we were placed.

As we waited for our turn in the elevator I explained to the clerk that Aaron had a cognitive, as well as, a physical disability, I had guardianship and was his assistant for the day. I said he was willing to serve but would need my help and she said she would notify the judge. I figured we would never even make it into the court room.

Imagine my surprise when we were all up there and they lined him up, with me behind Aaron!

The clerk informed me that I would sit in the chair at the end of the jury box and that Aaron would sit in his wheelchair right next to me! (By the way, the jury box is NOT wheelchair accessible).

He was pretty nervous but was taking his potential responsibility very seriously. I tried to explain to him that we would still probably be excused but I would assist him with whatever was necessary.  He said it felt like he was going to jail. I can understand that, but did my best to keep him calm.  We were seated and the judge gave explanations, introduced the lawyers and defendant then explained different reasons people might not feel they could in good conscience serve.

When asked if we had been involved in a similar situation to the charges involved (this was a criminal trial, not a civil one) one person answered yes and was dismissed. Then a woman went up to the bench white noise began so we could not hear what was being said as lawyers from both sides discussed with her and the judge. Then she was excused and left. Next a man who works in the jail as a deputy was excused. They asked if anyone had ever testified in a trial, criminal or civil proceeding so I leaned over to Aaron and told him he needed to raise his hand to tell that he had spoken at his guardianship hearing. The judge asked him if his guardian was there with him and he said yes, his mom and pointed to me. So she asked my name, confirmed that I had guardianship and asked me to come forward with the counsels.

I was very impressed at how respectful they all were. They asked me if Aaron could understand what was being presented and listen to the witnesses. I said that if I were to translate into very simple terms that yes, he would be able to get the gist of what was going on, but that it would take time and I would have to be able to speak with him as the trial was progressing. They asked if I could be fair and non-prejudiced as I did that. I said yes, I thought that I could. He votes every year and I take the time to read through the blue book with him, giving plain English, simple translations of the various candidates and issues being voted on.   The fact that he doesn’t always vote the same way as I do I think is testimony to my being fair and unbiased in those explanation.

The defense attorney asked if he could participate in jury deliberations without my participation. I said I didn’t think he would be able to grasp the possible discussions that would take place and if there was a particularly strong minded juror he could either be persuaded or bullied or he could dig his heals in and be oppositional. But that if we explained to him the significance of the deliberation process he would try his hardest to understand and come to a conclusion based upon what he heard.

I did say I thought the time needed for him to process information and his cognitive disabilities would make it a very difficult situation. Because he couldn’t do the private jury deliberations without my assistance both the defense and the prosecutor felt that was sufficient cause to excuse him.  The judge agreed and everyone thanked our son and myself for being responsible and offering our service.

It was really quite an amazing experience.  I was glad that two others had been excused before him so Aaron didn’t feel like he was being singled out for his disability.  Ultimately he was very glad not to have to serve and we went off to a lovely lunch and I walked away marveling at how far we have come as a society that he would get

that far into the process before being dismissed.

Never miss a chance to let our sons and daughters rise to the occasion!  We talked at length about our rights, our responsibilities, and our privileges as citizens and our chances to serve.  I was so delighted that Aaron and I had this experience in civic responsibility!

Want to know what it is like to serve on a jury?  Watch this video!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNqt5NStkTY

How would you support your son or daughter if they are called to Jury Duty?  Share your ideas with us by emailing:  Parents@P2P-CO.groups.io

 

 

 

 

This is the second in a 3 part series on Civic Responsibility. Renee Walbert has recently retired from her position as a long time coordinator at Parent to Parent. She is a caregiver for her adult son, Aaron Walbert and is the mom of two other adult children and “Oma” of one. Renee continues to be actively involved in Parent to Parent of Colorado through our Online Parent Support Groups.

All services at Parent to Parent are provided free to families. However, we rely on donations of generous supporters like you to keep our programs going strong! Donate today at coloradogives.org/P2PCO

Thankful for the Quiet Moments

Thankful for the Quiet Moments

On the first day of November I always start to think about what I am thankful for – social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) is a good reminder for this as many people post daily thankful posts throughout the month. This is the first year in many that I have not been doing daily posts.   As I read what my friends and family are thankful for I am struggling with a myriad of emotions.

You see, 18 months ago I struggled to say “you better call my parents” as I was being rushed away for emergency surgery bleeding to death. I woke up intubated and in restraints somehow managing to communicate that I needed a way to ask if my baby was alive. I had no idea what had happened — just that the day before I had given birth to a darling baby boy.

The days and months after as my body healed, my spirit struggled to keep up. I experienced such severe post-traumatic stress and post-partum anxiety that I could no longer live life as I had.

Life up to this point hadn’t been easy, we had a 9-year old on the autism spectrum and I had been a single mom for many years, but I was able to hold it together juggling all the balls of life. I knew how to put on my favorite red lipstick and smile as I forged through.

Now, though, I no longer had the energy for lipstick or even a shower. I could not manage to go to work as I could not manage to even wash laundry. I struggled to take care of my family or myself. I felt like we lost everything – my uterus, my job, our dream home, my sense of self.

My husband and I have spent a long time putting pieces back together, pieces that no longer fit perfectly because their edges have been frayed.

In the quiet moments (far and few between with a 9 year old and a toddler) I sit and think about how far each member of my family has come since this day that turned our lives upside down and I am thankful that we had this experience.

Pain and tragedy breaks you to pieces, but what can come from that is so beautiful.

I used to make cute little Facebook posts about being thankful for our warm beds, my wonderful job, and such. Those things no longer seem as important (though I am still incredibly grateful to have them). Now I am grateful that my children, husband and I take one more breathe, that we have one more moment together.  

As we sit at our tables this Thanksgiving Day, that table may not look the way we want it to be – we may be facing extreme loss, we may be exhausted, we may just not be the best cooks.  No matter what it looks like as you tackle life while being the parent of a child with a disability know this…chances are you have way more to be thankful for than what other people share.

 

What I have learned the past year and a half is this:  Be thankful for the simple moments in life – those moments when you take a breath, when your little one (or big one) smiles at you or grasps your hand… be thankful for those quiet moments that melt your heart.

 

Cassidy Dellemonache lives in Fort Collins with her partner in crime Gabe, their oldest twice exceptional son Leyton (10) and little one Anthony (19 mo). She regularly refers to her house as a circus tent and her family discusses their roles within the circus. She participates in various advocacy efforts in the community, is a member of the Parent 2 Parent staff team, and works with Gabe to run their family agency Tandem Employment Services – connecting businesses with employees, ensuring that all people can be employed & stay employed.

 

In the Spirit of THANKS and GIVING…All of us at Parent to Parent are thankful to YOU for supporting our work with over 4000 families across Colorado.  With your help, last year we provided support and resources to 19,000 individuals.  In this season of gratitude, please consider a donation to keep our work going strong.  It’s fast and easy to give at: coloradogives.org/P2PCO

 

What are YOU Thankful for?  Share your thoughts and ideas with us in our Online Parent Support Group by emailing:  Parents@P2P-CO.groups.io

Not a P2P Member?  It’s free and easy to JOIN US!

 

 

REV UP! It’s Time to Vote!

REV UP: Register, Educate, Vote, Use your Power

It’s Time to Vote!

Many people associate the changing of seasons, sweaters, pumpkin spice everything and football season with the fall – but sometimes we forget about the connection to civic responsibility. November is quickly approaching and so is Election Day, a day when we can all participate in the right and privilege of voting!

Eligible voters with disabilities and their family members make up an estimated 25% of the electorate across our country!   As family members of people with disabilities we need to be motivated to take action on disability issues, and do what we can to support our adult children to know the issues and express their opinions by voting.   Our voting rate during mid-term elections is significantly lower than during a presidential election year—which means that the 40% of people who DO vote are making decisions for all of us! What would it look like if each and every person impacted by a disability voted this year?  

In Colorado, everyone has the right to vote and a variety of accommodations are available to ensure that this happens.  At first glance, a ballot can look overwhelming but there are resources available that can help you and your family members work through it!   The Colorado Cross Disability Coalition has a voter guide developed for people with disabilities and their families with an explanation of the major offices and issues. Rev Up publishes an issues guide that helps voters, advocates, and candidates be better informed about issues that matter to people with disabilities.

One of our P2P Moms shared what voting looks like in her family with two adult children with disabilities.  “We get together for a family dinner and afterwards everyone has their ballots.  We read through a voter guide and talk about the candidates and issues and answer any questions.  Then everyone votes their ballot as they see best – we don’t all agree on how to vote because we have a variety of viewpoints in our family.  But we all do agree on the importance of supporting each other to vote!”

Need some additional motivation?  Check out these videos for information on why mid-term elections are so influential and some motivation for young people to vote!

Let’s prove that we are paying attention, let’s prove that we care about issues that impact people with disabilities!  Let’s shake things up, by speaking out with our vote!  The results could be historic if all 25% of us expressed our opinions and preferences this November!

The Rev Up Campaign aims to increase the political participation of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues.  REV Up stands for Register! Educate! Vote!  Use Your Power!

 

For additional resources about voting:

 

This is the first in a 3 part series of blogs on Civic Responsibility written by our Parent to Parent staff. Watch for more great information coming soon! Share how you and your family participate in voting in our Online Parent Support Group by emailing: Parents@P2P-CO.groups.io

 

 

Ability Connection Colorado Fall 2018 Newsletter

Don’t Miss the Latest Ability Connection Colorado Fall Newsletter

Get caught up on all of the latest news and information from Ability Connection Colorado including:

   • Program updates for Education, Employment and Support
   • Wine in the Pines Special Event news
   • The latest happenings at ACCO
   • Colorado Gives Day

Download or view the PDF by clicking HERE.

ACCO FY 2017 Annual Report and Head Start Report

Read Ability Connection Colorado’s Annual Report to the Community for FY 2017! We are very excited about the accomplishments of our organization this past year. Find more information, including:

  • Inclusion Matters – Imagine a world where each individual is valued, respected and honored for their unique abilities.
  • Early Education highlights
  • Employment highlights
  • Support highlights
    Special Event highlights
  • Financial Information

Read the full report here: FY 2017 ACCO Annaul Report_web.pdf

Additional annual reports for ACCO’s HeadStart / Early HeadStart programs:
FY17HS-EHS_AnnualReport.pdf
FY17HS-EHS_AnnualReportSpanishVersion.pdf

What’s Your Plan? Part 5: It’s Tax Filing Season!

Editor’s Introduction:  We’ve all heard the phrase, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.  Variations of this quote have been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Alan Lakein, as well as others.  With the New Year upon us, we often start to think of planning, setting goals and accomplishing new things.  To start off our Parenting with Altitude blogs this year, we’ve asked several parents and professionals to tell us about their planning efforts in respect to financial planning and resources for their family.  We’ll be publishing this series of blogs over the next several weeks with the hope that you’ll find some ideas and inspiration for planning for your family, specifically for your son or daughter with a disability or special health care need.  For many working families, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a benefit that goes unclaimed.  Read more about how the EITC might fit into your financial planning.

What’s Your Plan?  Part 5:  It’s Tax Filing Season!

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax credit that has been around for more than 40 years and was created to benefit workers with modest incomes. For example, a married couple with 3 children making $53,000 per year may qualify for the EITC.  A single parent with 2 children making $45,000 may also qualify.  The EITC survived the recent tax reform bill and continues to receive bipartisan support. This refundable tax credit for working families is worth up to about $6,300; the state of Colorado offers a 10 percent match of the federal EITC as well.

You may be eligible to claim the EITC!  Many people who have children with disabilities qualify for the EITC. Generally, you may claim a relative of any age as a qualifying child if the relative is totally and permanently disabled and fits all the other EITC requirements.  In addition, families may also be able to claim other child or dependent care expenses credits when caring for a family member with a disability.  We always recommend consulting your tax professional or  the IRS website  If you have additional questions about your eligibility, you can call the Internal Revenue Service toll free number—1-800-829-1040.

Why haven’t I heard about the EITC before?  Many people may be missing out on claiming this valuable credit because they just don’t know about it.  In Colorado, one in four eligible families doesn’t claim the EITC. The criteria for claiming the EITC is somewhat complicated and many other people who could benefit from it may be missing out because they make below the threshold for filing taxes. But, you won’t know if you qualify, if you don’t file.

What’s the benefit?  The biggest benefit of the EITC is that even if a taxpayer doesn’t owe any tax, it gives money back.  It is one of the most valuable credits in the tax code, helping families receive thousands of dollars each year to bridge the gap between their income and expenses. Most families use their refund to cover unexpected expenses like medical bills, transportation or increased housing costs. Families who have sons and daughters with special needs may use the refund for equipment, therapy, or other expenses.

To estimate how much you can receive visit—http://www.piton.org/eitc  or use the EITC calculator.

Where can I find tax help?  Tax Help Colorado operates 29 free tax sites throughout Colorado where you can ask questions about tax credits available to you and have your taxes prepared by an IRS-certified preparer. To qualify for free tax help, you must make $54,000 or less a year. To locate a free tax site near you, call 2-1-1 or visit TaxHelpCO.org for a statewide list of all places providing free tax preparation.  Check out this flier to learn more about free tax help, what to bring to a tax site, and how to access free online filing.

Kelly Wagoner is the Public Information Campaign Manager at The Piton Foundation which is part of Gary Community Investments—a private, operating foundation established in 1976 by Denver oilman Sam Gary. We are committed to improving the lives of Colorado’s low-income children and their families by increasing access to quality early childhood and youth development opportunities and fostering healthy family and community environments.

How are you planning for your son or daughter?  You can share your ideas with us at:  p2p-co@yahoogroups.com  Be sure to visit The Resource Storeroom for more information on Financial Resources and Planning.  Two other helpful resources include:  The Arc Future Planning and Wright’s Law Future Planning  We also love the resources at Lifecoursetools – these are great visual planning resources to use with your son or daughter to create “a good life” with financial planning included.

 

What’s Your Plan? Part 4: Working At Home

Editor’s Introduction:  We’ve all heard the phrase, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.  Variations of this quote have been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Alan Lakein, as well as others.  With the New Year upon us, we often start to think of planning, setting goals and accomplishing new things.  To start off our Parenting with Altitude blogs this year, we’ve asked several parents to tell us about their planning efforts in respect to financial planning and resources for their family.  We’ll be publishing this series of blogs over the next several weeks with the hope that you’ll find some ideas and inspiration for planning for your family, specifically for your son or daughter with a disability or special health care need.  Because working maybe an important part of your financial planning, today we offer a post on working from home!

Working from Home: Will It Work for YOU?

Working from home has become the latest trend and we are talking globally here. Every day, more and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home at least once or twice a week. And even more companies are looking to outsource, looking for employees who can work from home and, sometimes, from a different country. We can see these “work from home” job offers increasing every single day on the different job boards and people are really starting to get into this new groove because, let’s face it, staying at home has to be better than going to the office every day. However, this is not true for everyone. Working from home has its pros and cons, but, in the end, it depends on each person.

Let’s begin listing some of the pros: no commuting, that alone should convince you to stay home, no traffic, no public transportation, no people on top of you during rush hour, just bliss while you walk from your room to the office space; flexibility of hours and in managing that time, most of these jobs do not necessarily have a rigid schedule you need to follow, so you are able to manage your own time, especially if you are a freelancer; less stress, since most people working from home are their own bosses, or their bosses are nowhere near them, stress can be reduced to a minimum; less distractions hence more productivity, no useless meetings, no coworkers telling you about their 13 cats or children, no running around the whole office looking for a photocopier that actually works, no wasting time with small talk, just you and your family; more family time, since you are already at home, there is a really good chance you can spend more time with your family, or your dogs, while working from home, you just need to be organized and know how to manage your time in a productive way.

Even though you are now probably ready to pack up your desk and go home, you need to know that working from home also has its disadvantages: isolation, even though some people prefer being alone, others would rather have some company during the day, but if you have a family, this is not really a problem; distractions, we might have more distractions in an office, but that does not mean there are not any at home, browsing social media becomes your biggest enemy while working from home; separating work from home, this is probably one of the worst disadvantages of working from home, you need to be able to organize your day in a way you get to spend enough time working and enough time with your family or friends, try to have a separate space for working, do not stay in your bedroom, find a good nook in the house to do so; working endlessly, since you have no one controlling your hours but yourself, you might feel the need to work at all times, that is why you need to be very organized with your time and prioritizing your responsibilities.

If you’re a working parent and a parent who has a child with special needs, you experience untold challenges in balancing responsibilities. Studies show that 40 percent of these moms had switched jobs, reduced hours or refused promotions because of their intense parenting responsibilities.  Long days in the office = less time at home. That arrangement doesn’t always make sense for a parent, so many of them prefer to look for jobs that keep them closer to home, especially if they have younger children or children with disabilities or special health care needs.

Here are a few tips on how you can manage taking care of your child and working from home:

Time Constraints: You may have daytime hours available or you may only be able to work nights. You need to honestly look at the time you have available and commit to finding work that fits into your busy life.

Chaos: Keep in mind, some of the most readily available work from home jobs are in customer service. Chaos is an everyday occurrence with children, so before looking for work, know that, life in general, may limit your ability to work a number of popular at-home jobs.

Remain Open-Minded: Remain open minded about remote working possibilities. You’re going to have limitations when it comes to working from home as a parent and you may very well land on something that works perfectly into your busy schedule.

It may not be easy to go from the job search to actually managing life as a stay-at-home, work-at-home, mother or father. If you’re determined, you can make this work and gain valuable family time while still earning a living.  Now you are ready to consider your options and decide whether you are a good candidate to work from home or not. Welcome to the future!

Vanessa Fardi is a team leader at NEUVOO. NEUVOO is a free job search aggregator that indexes jobs directly from companies’ career websites, placement agencies and job boards. You can reach Vanessa at vaness@neuvoo.com

How are you planning for your son or daughter?  You can share your ideas with us at:  p2p-co@yahoogroups.com  Be sure to visit The Resource Storeroom for more information on Financial Resources and Planning.  Two other helpful resources include:  The Arc Future Planning and Wright’s Law Future Planning  We also love the resources at Lifecoursetools – these are great visual planning resources to use with your son or daughter to create “a good life” with financial planning included. For more ideas on working from home and balancing parenting responsibilities, we like Achieving Balance As A Work At Home Parent

We’re looking for a new Team Member at Parent to Parent of Colorado to work on a grant funded project!  Much of the work can be complete at home!  For a full job description or any questions, please email us at infop2p@abilityconnectioncolorado.org

 

 

What’s Your Plan? Part 3: Working Together

Editor’s Introduction:  We’ve all heard the phrase, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.  Variations of this quote have been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Alan Lakein, as well as others.  With the New Year upon us, we often start to think of planning, setting goals and accomplishing new things.  To start off our Parenting with Altitude blogs this year, we’ve asked several parents to tell us about their planning efforts in respect to financial planning and resources for their family.  We’ll be publishing this series of blogs over the next several weeks with the hope that you’ll find some ideas and inspiration for planning for your family, specifically for your son or daughter with a disability or special health care need. 

What’s Your Plan?  Part 3:  Working Together

Like all of us, as parents of a child with special needs, we worry about what will happen to our children when we are gone. My daughter, Izzy, who has significant disabilities will always require care, and will never be able to live independently.  This was the main reason why I setup a special needs trust for my daughter.  The trust allows for money to be held in an account for the use of my daughter without affecting her ability to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Luckily, both my ex-wife and I were on the same page when it came to preparing for our daughters future.

I chose to work with an attorney/financial advisor who specializes in these kind of trusts.  In addition to a special needs trust, I also set up a living trust.  An added difficulty was that I was going through a divorce at the time.  However, as parents, we were able to work together to come up with a plan to support our daughter’s future.  For myself, there was the decision of whether to set up a living trust or a will.  A will can be cheaper and easier on you, but the living trust is easier on your heirs.  All of my assets will go into the living trust when I die.  Those assets will be easier and quicker to access, since they will not have to go through probate.  This can be a difference of only a couple of weeks for the living trust as opposed to possibly months for a will.

How much will all this cost?  To set up two living trusts, one for me and one for Izzy’s mom, and a special needs trust for Izzy, the grand total was $3800.  There were three meetings with the attorney.

  • The first was to meet and get to know a little about each other.
  • The second was to go over our preferences and desires.
  • The final meeting was a review of all the documents.

To prepare for the second meeting, there are certain things you should consider:

  • If I become disabled and cannot make my own decisions, who will have Medical Power of Attorney over me?
  • After I pass, who will care for my daughter?
  • Who will be the executer of my living trust?
  • How will I fund the trust?

Funding can come from many sources.  You can fund a trust at any time, but for Izzy’s mom and I, we have decided to wait to fund it.  When we both pass, the assets of our living trusts will go into the special needs trust.  Those assets will include personal property, retirement accounts and most importantly insurance policies.  Relatives can also contribute, but we have told them not to list Izzy, individually, but instead us or her special needs trust.  To make things simple, we were given a sheet of paper with how to designate beneficiaries. Depending on the type of asset, you may want the beneficiary to be your living trust or a particular person.

Once the special needs trust is funded, what do you do with it?  The money can be used for anything that Izzy needs outside of what must be paid for with SSI.  One of my main concerns has always been if she needs to be put into a care facility, I want there to be options for her.  This trust will provide that.  We have also stipulated that whoever is taking care of her, can take a monthly stipend.  We have set a predefined amount for this stipend.

Finally, what happens when Izzy passes?  Whatever money is left in the special needs trust can be designated however the parents wish.  For us, the money will go to whomever was taking care of Izzy at her passing.  However, trust law continues to change and in some cases there may be a requirement to pay back Medicaid.  This is where working with an attorney who is knowledgeable about special needs trusts is important.

Trusts are fluid documents, everything is not set in stone.  I can make changes as situations change.  Some of those changes will, however, mean meeting with a lawyer.

I do feel much safer now that we have a plan in place and Izzy will be taken care of when I am gone.  Working together with Izzy’s mother and the attorney, it was a painless process and well worth the money. 

Pat Hart lives in Denver with his 16 year old daughter, Izzy. Izzy is a happy girl, who loves being around people. She is undiagnosed, with significant developmental disabilities. Pat was a chemical engineer before becoming a full time stay-at-home dad when Izzy was born. He also serves as Izzy’s CNA and in his free time, can usually be found out riding his bike. Pat is an active member of Parent to Parent and previously served on our P2P-CO Advisory Board.

 

How are you planning for your son or daughter?  You can share your ideas with us at:  p2p-co@yahoogroups.com    For more information on special needs trusts, read What’s Your Plan?  Part 2:  Options for Planning.  Be sure to visit The Resource Storeroom for more information on Financial Resources and Planning.  Two other helpful resources include:  The Arc Future Planning and Wright’s Law Future Planning  We also love the resources at Lifecoursetools – these are great visual planning resources to use with your son or daughter to create “a good life” with financial planning included.

Are you an individual, business or organization that would like to partner with P2P-CO?  

Learn more about our Friends of P2P-CO Program! 

 

 

 

What’s Your Plan? Part 2: Options for Planning

Editor’s Introduction:  We’ve all heard the phrase, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.  Variations of this quote have been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Alan Lakein, as well as others.  With the New Year upon us, we often start to think of planning, setting goals and accomplishing new things.  To start off our Parenting with Altitude blogs this year, we’ve asked several parents to tell us about their planning efforts in respect to financial planning and resources for their family.  We’ll be publishing this series of blogs over the next several weeks with the hope that you’ll find some ideas and inspiration for planning for your family, specifically for your son or daughter with a disability or special health care need. 

What’s Your Plan?  Part 2:  Options for Planning

Supporting a person with special needs can be a 24/7 job, and many caregivers lay awake at night worrying about what will happen to their son with Down syndrome or sister with Cerebral Palsy if they become unable to provide that support. Discussing your own vulnerability or mortality is never an enjoyable subject, but it is a necessary conversation for all families to have to ensure loved ones are protected and provided for in the future. This is never more crucial than with respect to a family member with special needs. Estate planning for families with special needs, also known as special needs planning, determines in advance how your loved one will be cared for without you (in addition to more typical issues such as the distribution of property).

Public benefit programs like Medicaid are often a lifeline for an individual with special needs, and a key factor determining whether that person can live a decent, fulfilling, and productive life. Thus, one of the most important aspects of special needs planning is maintaining public benefits eligibility. This is typically accomplished with a Special Needs Trust (SNT). A SNT is a legal document created for an individual with special needs in which a Trustee manages assets for the individual to ensure he or she can remain eligible for public benefits.

 

If you provide financially for your loved one with special needs or plan to leave a financial gift for him or her after your death, a SNT is an essential piece of your estate plan. The assets in a SNT do not count against the Medicaid/SSI resource cap because the individual with special needs does not have direct access to them. Only the SNT Trustee can access the assets, and he or she alone decides when to make distributions from the SNT. This allows assets to be set aside for supplemental expenses not covered by public benefit programs, such as education expenses, vacations, hobbies, or certain medical expenses.

 

There are several different types of SNTs.   An individual first-party SNT, also called a self-settled SNT, is used when the individual with special needs has received or will receive substantial assets that would ordinarily disqualify him or her from public benefit programs, such as a person injury settlement. An individual third-party SNT is used when a third party wishes to provide for an individual with special needs, such as an inheritance from a family member. Finally, there are pooled trusts, in which a nonprofit organization sets up and administers a master SNT for multiple individuals with special needs, combining their assets and investing them together.

In some circumstances, families should also consider drafting a Letter of Intent spelling out the family’s wishes for the SNT funds. A Letter of Intent can also outline the individual’s functional abilities, routines, activities, and medical information. This document is essential if the individual with special needs cannot advocate for him or herself.

Every situation is different. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work for families with special needs, and therefore meeting with an estate planning attorney who understands special needs planning is an important first step in securing your family’s future. Probate Power, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition’s new estate planning legal program, focuses almost exclusively on special needs planning and can help address your family’s questions and concerns.

Chris Brock, Probate Power’s Managing Attorney, understands firsthand the issues that come with living with a disability. A paraplegic since college, he now devotes his law practice to ensuring families with special needs carefully plan for the future. Please visit our website  for more information. Contact Chris at cdbrock@ccdconline.org or (720) 279-8233 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.

How are you planning for your son or daughter?  You can share your ideas with us at:  p2p-co@yahoogroups.com

Be sure to visit The Resource Storeroom for more information on Financial Resources and Planning.  Two other helpful resources include:  The Arc Future Planning and Wright’s Law Future Planning  We also love the resources at Lifecoursetools – these are great visual planning resources to use with your son or daughter to create “a good life” with financial planning included.

Are you an individual, business or organization that would like to partner with P2P-CO?  Learn more about our Friends of P2P-CO Program!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Your Plan? Part 1: Getting Started

Editor’s Introduction:  We’ve all heard the phrase, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.  Variations of this quote have been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Alan Lakein, as well as others.  With the 2018 upon us, we often start to think of planning, setting goals and accomplishing new things.  To start off our Parenting with Altitude blogs this year, we’ve asked several parents to tell us about their planning efforts in respect to financial planning and resources for their family.  We’ll be publishing this series of blogs over the next several weeks with the hope that you’ll find some ideas and inspiration for planning for your family, specifically for your son or daughter with a disability or special health care need. 

What’s Your Plan?  Part 1:  Getting Started

Planning begins with our values.  Values are from our parents, traditions, cultures, education, friends and life experiences.  As children, we don’t realize we are learning values, but we are.  In addition to my family’s “no whining” policy, my parents demonstrated the value of discipline to achieve goals.

My folks were deceased when my son, Eli, was born, but their values guided me to set and achieve goals for myself as his Mom and the life outcomes I wanted for him.  At age 3, Eli was on the path to 36 diagnoses, was spectacularly self-injurious and fitfully slept 4 hours daily. Physicians used the word “terminal”.  My goal was to keep him alive while experiencing the most quality life possible.

That goal drove the 1992 Autism treatment and Early Intervention statutes, the CES And CWA Waivers, the HIMAT law, and more than a dozen other statutes and bills I worked on as a single working parent caring for a “worst case scenario” child. I didn’t whine. I set and, as circumstances changed, reset goals and somehow mustered the discipline to work towards achievement. That was the behavior my parents expected of me.

When Eli was 3, an estate planning attorney, Stanton Rosenbaum, also a parent, encouraged me to plan. He asked who would care for Eli if I became incapacitated. My answer was, “no one”, meaning, my goal of keeping Eli alive and experiencing quality of life depended solely on me.

Overwhelmed, constantly exhausted and anxious, I bought insurance (Life, Long-Term Care, Disability). Stanton set up a Supplemental Needs Trust to hold assets and protect Eli’s access to benefits, and suggested I write a Letter of Intent.  The Letter of Intent is dually purposed. It is not just instructions for others. It is how we live in the here and now to achieve our desired goals.

At age 3, Eli’s geneticist said, “I don’t think Eli is going to die.” I held onto that “life preserver” as I described my vision for Eli’s future. The Letter of Intent had goals for fulfilling lives for both of us. Eli’s letter influenced his IEP and therapy goals. I asked, “What is needed now to attain independent living skills at 21?” He was only 3, but I recognized it might take 18 years of tiny steps to achieve some independence activities.

I updated Eli’s Letter of Intent when he was 18. I was so surprised when I re-read his age 3 letter and realized we had already achieved many of our future outcomes.

Now that he is an adult, I often update Eli’s Letter of Intent. He, like everyone, changes. It is now more “in my face” that others may need to step up to make decisions in his best interests. The letter describes how best to support Eli and what he expects.

Eli expects people to be promise-keepers, respect him and be nice to him. He has his own work goals and is disciplined towards achievement. He sews for the Autism Community Store and volunteers at the Arthritis Foundation and Talking Books Library.  Eli wants to be with patient, compassionate people with realistic expectations.

I have met thousands of parents over nearly 30 years. Every family is unique with their own terrors and triumphs, behaviors and beliefs, visions and values. P2P parents are motivated to do their best for their families. Planning is an opportunity to put our motivations into actions. As Scott Page states in his book, It’s Never Too Late, “we all have an expiration date…we have three choices on how to handle that reality—we can deny it, we can ignore it, or we can plan for it.”

Planning is the process of forethought of what we want to occur, now and in the future. Planning reflects your goals and values.

 

Betty Lehman is a long time member of Parent to Parent of Colorado. As the Executive Director of the Autism Society of Colorado, she led many legislative and policy initiatives to benefit children and adults diagnosed with autism in our state. Betty is now the owner of Lehman Disability Planning. You can reach her at www.lehmandp.com

 

So, What’s Your Plan?  How are you getting started with planning for your son or daughter?  You can share your ideas with us by emailing:    p2p-co@yahoogroups.com

Be sure to visit The Resource Storeroom for more information on Financial Resources and Planning.  Two other helpful resources include:  The Arc Future Planning and Wright’s Law Future Planning  We also love the resources at Lifecoursetools – these are great visual planning resources to use with your son or daughter to create “a good life” with financial planning included.

 

 

‘Tis the Season….For Taking Care of Ourselves!

‘Tis the Season…For Taking Care of Ourselves!

Whether it’s religious, cultural, or community, December is the month of gatherings and celebrations.  Although it is a joyful time, our stress levels can go soaring!  Lately, I’ve been contemplating:  Why is it so hard for us to take care of ourselves when we are so good at taking care of others?

We know that caregivers need to find some balance but where in the midst of all the season’s busyness do we take care of ourselves?  I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but I will share with you a tip that my husband and I both use. We are both caregivers for our multiple kids with disabilities, have busy jobs outside that, and other commitments. We have to be pretty intentional to take time for self-care.  Our solution?

Take A Mini-Vacation!

What do I mean by that? Well, I mean be intentional about self-time, whether that’s 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 2 hours or more.  When you are intentional about those precious minutes or hours, you tell yourself, ‘I’m on vacation’.

That means for this period of time, you will be NOT checking your email, NOT available for homework questions, NOT taking a call/text/message from your boss, your spouse, your teenager or your mother!  (Exception:  A family member is having an emergency.  For us an emergency is defined as life or limb – lots of blood spewing, a bone poking out, or someone turning blue—in other words, if you need an ambulance, ok. Otherwise, no, I’m not available right now)

This requires some discipline. Don’t feel bad if it takes a while to re-educate those in your circle to what you being temporarily unavailable means.  Stick with it and you’ll feel less and less guilty, and they will start to get it.

So, what can you do on your mini-vacation? Truly it is up to you and your imagination, but here are some things that I’ve done:

Got 10 Minutes?

  • Spa time: Go into the bathroom, close the door, and turn on the hot water to start steaming up the room. Light a candle if you want. Don’t bring your phone in, but put on music the old fashioned way so you’re not tempted to answer a call. Choose your favorite scrub or lotion or whatever pamper me product you want and generously use it on yourself! I make my own exfoliate with coconut oil, Kosher salt, and lavender.
  • Virtual trip: Did you know that many Libraries allow you to check out unlimited subscriptions to magazines electronically? Zinio is the app for iPhones. With 10 minutes, whether you like to ski, knit, cook, hike, horseback ride or sharp shoot, you can probably find a digital magazine and temporarily ‘vacation’ in your hobby.

Got 30 minutes?

  • Boil the water and brew a cuppa. Relax and sip. Sit down in a chair and read an actual book. Or day dream. Or meditate. Or….
  • Step outside, if someone is there to watch the kids or they’re in school, or you’re on your lunch break at work, and walk. Near trees or water if you can, but anywhere will do. Pay attention to your surroundings and look for beauty or unusual objects. Breathe deep, focus on your breath, your footsteps and the things you are observing. Some folks call this mindfulness, some call it walking meditation. I call it a 30 minute vacation.

Got 2 hours?  This one is like pure luxury!  How often do we get 2 hours? Not very often. But be intentional when you do.

  • For me, I have taken one evening a week to sing with a choir. It’s time that I suppose you could say is volunteering since it’s a church choir and we sing most Sundays. But it’s a time that gives me great joy. I love to sing and it’s time that is completely separate from my working and parenting world.
  • Meeting a friend for lunch or coffee is fun. Choose wisely so that this time is truly a break…not more caregiving!
  • Spending time alone has the benefit of readjusting my internal barometer to face the next family or work challenge to come. Massage, nails done, hair, all nice things but most of the time the budget says no. But when the budget says yes? Then splurge on you this time.
  • Go to a museum, the zoo, an art gallery—all by yourself. Some libraries offer free passes to these venues, and if you are in the metro area, there are free days. Sometimes it’s just relaxing to go by myself to one of those places, and see the things that I want to see. Or go to your local library to look at their public art or check out a book on something you enjoy. Love Art but can’t actually leave or travel that far? You can do a virtual tour of many museums around the world online.
  • Plan a quiet elegant meal for yourself, or for you and your significant other. When my children were little, and very medically fragile, finding babysitters just didn’t happen very often. So periodically my husband and I would cook a regular meal for the kids and prep a fancy meal for ourselves for later. We would try to put the kids to bed early.  Then we’d cook together the fancy meal. We happen to like to cook together but you could get take out with the same effect. I put up a card table in whichever room was the neatest with the fewest toys (some years that was the living room, some years our bedroom) put on a table cloth, set it with china and a candle, add some music and voila–mini vacation.

Whatever gives you joy, rest, and energy, try to be intentional about some time to do that during this busy season.  Try to find at least 10 minutes a day for yourself, 30 minutes a week just for you, and if you can swing it, sometime over these next few weeks grab those 120 minutes and savor some time to take care of yourself.  We know that taking care of ourselves helps us to be better caretakers for others and gives us the strength to last through this journey of parenting our sons and daughters.

 

Another great way to take care of yourself?  Stay connected to other parents who understand!  It’s free and easy to join Parent to Parent of Colorado!  Our community of 4000 parents across Colorado supports each other on the journey of parenting our sons and daughters with disabilities and special health care needs. 

You’ll get access to our Online Parent Support Group, connected to a trained Support Parent for one-on-one support (upon request) and you’ll find hundreds of resources on our P2P-CO website!

 

Renee Walbert is a mom to three adult children and an Oma to one beautiful granddaughter. She is also a deacon, community advocate, singer, policy guru, blogger, and a coordinator at Parent to Parent of Colorado. Renee coordinates the writers for our Parenting with Altitude blog and welcomes your submission of a blog for publication!

 

Editor’s Note:  As we move through this journey of parenting our sons and daughters, we are thankful for those parents who have come before us and those who walk beside us!  The efforts of Parent to Parent of Colorado are sustained by your involvement and donations from our community. 

Please help us Celebrate 20 years of supporting parents by making your contribution to https://www.coloradogives.org/P2PCO

 

 

801 Yosemite Street   |   Denver, CO 80230   |   303.691.9339   |   info@abilityconnectioncolorado.org