About a girl

Published 9:32 am Friday, November 21, 2008

When the annual call goes out asking for funds to support the United Way of Freeborn County, people ask: Where the money is going?

Deann DeBoer knows that some of that money helps her keep her daughter Rosie at home.

DeBoer, a 42-year-old Albert Lean, lives with her developmentally disabled daughter, Rosie, 13, and works part-time as a lunchroom monitor at Southwest Middle School. She also works part-time entertaining children at The Arc of Freeborn County. Without assistance from government and charitable agencies, DeBoer said it would be impossible for her keep Rosie at home.

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“We have a good life together, but it gets tough sometimes. There are times I’ve sat down with her and cried,” DeBoer said. “Some days I don’t think I can do it anymore, but Rosie needs constant care. I have to go on.”

The Arc, 407 E. William St., is one of the local agencies supported by the United Way of Freeborn County. It gives DeBoer a place to bring her daughter while she works, too. People who have offspring with mental disabilities can bring their children and young adults there to hang out with friends with similar situations. They play, socialize and learn. The Arc also provides social and educational support for the parents.

Rosie was born with birth defects and began having severe epileptic seizures at age 2. She was born with a cleft palate and has had 25 medical operations, including two brain surgeries. She was declared 100 percent disabled by Social Security at 3. Still suffering from grand mal seizures and regressing learning skills — it is harder to count to 10 than it once was — Rosie’s condition compelled her mother to seek help.

Filling out the paperwork necessary to get the help she needs for Rosie is an ongoing challenge that her mother finds daunting. State aid workers help DeBoer work through the process.

“Jill Peterson at the Department of Human Services has been a great help to me. She’s a great person and helps me get assistance when I need it,” DeBoer said.

Her yard needed a fence so Rosie could be safe when she was outside. A three-wheeled tricycle added some mobility for Rosie, who has difficulty maintaining her balance. These things were made available through the Department of Human Services, which gets in touch with contractors who provide the necessary equipment and materials.

People who qualify for medical assistance have an easier time of it, said Jill Peterson.

“Once you get medical assistance, the doors open a little easier. The problem now is that we have a long waiting list of people trying to get medical assistance,” Peterson said.

Fred Stein supervises a staff of five workers at Human Services who help disabled and vulnerable adults obtain food stamps and assistance payments. Those in need of aid go through an interview process to determine where they can go to get help. The department currently has 120 cases of developmentally disabled people being helped. Vulnerable adults can get help from the Adult Protection Unit, which acts on reports of adults who seem unable or unwilling to look after themselves.

“We try to make face-to-face contact with them. Sometimes their relatives are far away and have lost contact with them. We weigh the reports on their merits and make sure that due process is followed,” Stein said.

DeBoer said her daughter would have to be institutionalized if not for the help she gets from agencies supported by United Way and from the state Department of Human Services.

“I love her dearly and I want to keep her with me,” she said.

Helping the kids at her part-time job at The Arc means she can have her daughter with her while she’s there. The Arc has become central to the DeBoer’s lives.

“Arc provides a great place to interact with other parents whose kids have similar problems. We learn from each other and we help and support each other,” DeBoer said.