All parents know the gut-wrenching, heart-pounding fear that can wake us in the middle of the night. That fear for our children, regardless of age, that can make it hard to breathe; the fear that makes us wake up, fists clenched and ready to fight for our children. This is the terror that is invading the homes of hundreds of thousands of parents at this very moment. This is the fear for which there is no logical need, but that has been caused by WIOA. This is the very real fear for the futures of our children.
Are we overreacting? Ask yourself how distressed, how terrified, you would feel if the future of your children were suddenly jeopardized, if you felt helpless to secure their livelihood and happiness? This is what we are facing. Already over 100 other young adults will not get to experience the prided of transitioning to a safe work place. They will not be allowed to have the choice, the chance, to learn real-life job skills. They will not be given the chance to go from the security of high school to the security of working in a place that will guide them, teach h them, and care for them the way BCI Sheltered Workshop did for my daughter. Instead, they face a future of either going to recreational camps or daycare. A few may be lucky enough to work at a part-time job, but not many.
Why do I doubt that they will all find wonderful part-time jobs where they make minimum wage: Easy, we live in a world focused on idealistic goals that don’t match the realist demand for profits. Realistically, I know that a few companies will pay my daughter $8 because she will not be able to produce enough product as quickly as profits will demand. They will not pay here when she is easily confused, when she has to be shown the same skills 20, 30 or even 50 times before she perform them routinely. Yet let’s say I’m wrong, let’s say some generous business is charitable enough to hire someone they know will lose them money. I, however, would not let her work there. I would not risk her safety simply because she would make more money.
In Tiffany’s case, as wonderful as she is, she is easily lost. So even if she got a job cleaning tables at a fast food place, who would call me to me she suddenly hadn’t make it to work? Will the over-worked manager think, “Hmm, I wonder if Tiffany is ok, she’s not here” and pick up the phone to let me know? Or would Tiffany, who know no strangers, be sitting on the front porch three hours later, not realizing she had missed her ride? Given this, I would have to quit my teaching job of 22 years in order to stay home so Tiffany could work at an $8.00 an hour part-time job. Assuming I do this, how do you think she would be treated by the other employees? How would some customers treat her? Would you worry, if she were your child that someone was touching her inappropriately, or making lewd jokes that she didn’t understand? Given this, would YOU choose to let your daughter work in this environment? Or, would you choose to have her work where she is happy, where she has friends, where she is safe?
Sadly, the idealistic yet unrealistic aspirations of a few have taken away this choice. They have threatened the safety and happiness of my child and of thousands of others like her. I am fighting – begging – that you take away this terror; that you make a choice that us the right to choose our own future for our children. Wouldn’t you want the same?