#Nogrouphome

Listen to this post: 
This family portrait:

A professional family portrait of Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, her husband, and  their children. They all wear dark t-shirts and blue jeans. Smiles range from serene to exuberant.[Image description: A professional family portrait of Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, her husband, and their children. They all wear dark t-shirts and blue jeans. Smiles range from serene to exuberant.]

It would be interesting to ask people what they see when they look at this picture.

I think I see happiness and togetherness. A range of ages. Black and/or African-American family. Color coordinated outfits for family portrait day. I see a comfortable looking, maybe old Craftsman home with a comfy sofa.

Is that what you see?

You know what else I see when I look at this picture? Autism and pride, HIV-positive and pride, ADHD and pride, refugee children and pride, intellectual disability and pride. Educated, employed, engaged in social justice.

Now that you’ve looked at them, read about them, learned a tiny bit about them, here’s something else I want you to understand about this family. I take the words directly off their YouCaring.com fundraiser page at: youcaring.com/NoGroupHome .

“Our world was shattered approximately a month and a half ago when we discovered that two of our children, ages 11 and 13 years, were going to be forcibly removed from our home and placed into a “more structured” “therapeutic” 8-bed agency group home facility.

The reasons? Here is what we have been told:

1. We do not have the legal right to determine where they should live since we are not their legal parents (only our two youngest children are biological).

2. Since the children are older and have various developmental and mental health diagnoses, it has been stated that a group home is a “better” place for them to be because it is assumed that their “high needs” cannot be “adequately met” in a family.

Despite being with our family for years, we have not been permitted to formally adopt all of our children due to unique laws surrounding refugee youth. As we are currently powerless to stop this from happening, we have opted to seek recourse within the legal system to keep our family together. We love our children and we are a cohesive family. Disabilities are not a deterrent to us; we are willing AND equipped to meet ALL of our children’s needs. They need a family, a permanent and stable home – NOT a group home….Our children have explicitly stated that they DO NOT want to move, and we believe that they deserve to remain with the people who love and want them (us).”

Isn’t the U.S. the “one man-one woman” and “family values” country? Here you have a married man and woman raising children. I’m failing to see how putting some of their kids into a therapeutic group home reinforces family values. It doesn’t. It rips a family apart. It presumes incompetence on the parents’ part, whether because of their ethnicities or their disabilities or some other factors. I feel like their personal experiences with their ethnicities and disabilities make them ideal parents of their biological and non-biological children. Who knows better about making adaptations, accommodations, and fighting for rights than people who do it?

I ask that if your heart or mind are touched by this story, please share their link: youcaring.com/NoGroupHome and please consider donating to their legal fund to fight to keep their family together.

Learn more about Morénike Giwa Onaiwu’s work at these sites:

1. Her blogspot blog, “Who Needs Normalcy” .

2. A biography of her on the Autism Women’s Network.

3. Her Advocacy Without Borders blogspot blog.

Please note that, as always, comments and discussion are welcome and graciously invited; however, I will not publish comments that use classist, racist, white supremacist, or ableist rationales to argue that these children would be better off away from the family.