Pauls Valley Democrat
If there’s one undeniable connection between parents or guardians of clients in community and institutional care, it’s that the most involved of those responsible for overseeing services often see the best care delivered.
Three such individuals living right here in Pauls Valley are Alan Willard, Timothy Ledbetter and John Paul, clients who not only made a successful transition from the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center, but are continuing proof that diligence is the only way they’ve been able to prosper at all.
Each of them have come from unique situations with a journey full of a separate set of difficulties, but only through having someone watching out for them has it created a shared environment none of them would trade for anything.
“If you’ve never been exposed to that population then you don’t have the knowledge base, what you don’t know about you’re afraid of,” said Janice Nevins, guardian for John Paul who grew up at SORC, but has been in community care of some kind for about a decade now.
John Paul is wheelchair bound for the most part, but has actually seen improvement in everything from his mood to how much movement he can accomplish since being in the community.
He’s able to get the physical therapy attention he needs and like the other two has opened up more to people in a less crowded environment.
For Ledbetter, whose needs are watched over by his grandmother Caroline, his story is proof that no matter how rough transition can be, the quality of life only gets better if someone is willing to be hands on.
She can attest that it’s not always easy to find the right agency for care, going through three that were abusive to him directly or by theft and only by encouragement from her nephew did she find motivation to keep trying.
However, finding the right fit here has made it worth all the trials overcome and these days Ledbetter is the most musically minded of the group. He spends quite a bit of time playing either the drum as well as guitar, enjoys listening to his favorite artist, Michael Jackson, and since his speech therapy was restored after it was cut off at SORC, he will even try and get everyone he meets to join him in singing hymns like Amazing Grace.
“We went in through Garvin County the last two years and it’s been wonderful… They’re not all bad, check into their background to see if they’ve had any prior troubles,” said Ledbetter, adding how it doesn’t take much effort to check in on at least a weekly basis.
“When you’re working with a person one on one, you get to know their needs.”
As far as Alan, who is blind and whose guardian is his sister-in-law Jennifer, transition was much easier, though like all of them took some time to get used to each time he had a change in environment.
The latest daily living support home with the other two clients was a bit different than his previous with a foster family, but they all enjoy the interaction and even work off and on through the Garvin County Community Living Center’s vocational program.
“It was a little strange for Alan for the first two weeks, but once he got used to being in a house it was OK,” said Jennifer Willard, who noted many of them don’t like change in any part of their daily routine and that Alan had lived at SORC from the 1970s until about 2000.
“Now he’s happier and smiles a lot more than what he used to... Now that he’s around these other guys he seems to be doing much better.”
In the end, Nevins said a big need she sees as families of these clients get older and pass away or cannot care for their loved ones is for more people to consider getting involved in something like the volunteer guardianship program through Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services Developmental Disability Services Division. She said it makes it easier for these clients to be cared for if they have an advocate there on a regular basis even if it is just someone to go meetings or give an OK if they see a doctor.
“I am a general guardian of the person… If I feel like there are problems or issues I can ask for another agency or other placement,” said Nevins who also oversees services for two other clients. “If I sense or know those people aren’t being care for I can move the client to another house. That’s why it’s necessary for people to have guardians when they live in the community because it’s kind of a court appointed advocate... though I love his roommates as much as my guy I’m able to look at households less unbiased than families … I love them all.”