A day in the life of a single mom raising a teenager and a child with autism. I believe that it's not what we receive, but what we give away that defines us. I want to give away all that I have learned and experienced in hopes that it will help families raising a child with autism or any disability. This is my candid journal where I open up my world and share my joys, knowledge, lessons, disappointments, challenges, frustrations, fears and successes - one day at a time.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Toil, abuse and endurance in the heartland. How is this NOT my son's future?
The 'Boys' in the Bunkhouse
Toil, abuse and endurance in the heartland, sad doesn't quite describe it. However, there seems to be a silver lining thanks to those who care. It's a critical reminder of what can happen to our children when nobody is watching.
This front page article by Dan Barry is the story of dozens of men with intellectual disabilities who were held as virtual slaves in squalid conditions in a small town in Iowa and forced to work at a chicken processing plant for over 30 years. They were paid a subminimum wage and this case is thought to have influenced President Obama in his recent decision to include people with disabilities in his executive order to raise the minimum wage of employees under federal contracts. The link includes a 35-minute documentary about the men. I've taken out the pictures, but they really are important to the story. Worth the read and view...
WATERLOO, IOWA — A man
stands at a bus stop. He wears bluejeans, cowboy boots, and a name tag pinned
like a badge to his red shirt. It says: Clayton Berg, dishwasher, county
58, with a laborer’s solid build, a preference to be called Gene and a
whisper-white scar on his right wrist. His backpack contains a jelly sandwich,
a Cherry Coke and a comforting pastry treat called a Duchess Honey Bun.
Route 1 bus receives him, then resumes its herky-jerky journey through the
northeastern Iowa city of Waterloo, population 68,000. He stares into the
panoramic blur of ordinary life that was once so foreign to him.
Berg comes from a different place.
more than 30 years, he and a few dozen other men with intellectual disabilities
— affecting their reasoning and learning — lived in a dot of a place called
Atalissa, about 100 miles south of here. Every morning before dawn, they were
sent to eviscerate turkeys at a processing plant, in return for food, lodging,
the occasional diversion and $65 a month. For more than 30 years.
supervisors never received specialized training; never tapped into Iowa’s
social service system; never gave the men the choices in life granted by
decades of advancement in disability civil rights. Increasingly neglected and
abused, the men remained in heartland servitude for most of their adult lives.
Dickensian story — told here through court records, internal documents and
extensive first-time interviews with several of the men — is little known
beyond Iowa. But five years after their rescue, it continues to resound in
halls of power. Last year the case led to the largest jury verdict in the
history of theEqual Employment Opportunity Commission: $240 million in damages
— an award later drastically reduced, yet still regarded as a watershed moment
for disability rights in the workplace. In both direct and subtle ways, it has
also influenced government initiatives, advocates say, including President
Obama’s recent executive order to increase the minimum wage for certain
the Atalissa case has been a catalyst for change, according to SenatorTom
Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, a longtime champion of people with disabilities, who
still struggles with what these vulnerable men endured in his home state.
to see what happened to them,” the senator says. “But, by gosh, something might
happen from them.”
dark tale of Mr. Berg and his work mates has spurred introspection in Atalissa
and beyond about society’s perception of those with disability. About what is
noticed, what is not and what remains in need of constant vigilance.
turkey plant case has really haunted all of us,” says Curt Decker, the
executive director of the National Disability Rights Network.
“This is what happens when we don’t pay attention.”
Waterloo bus does not go to Atalissa. But the man in cowboy boots, rocking to
its gentle sway, needs only to notice that telltale scar on his wrist, and he
is instantly returned.Gene Berg waiting for the Route 1 bus in Waterloo, Iowa, and on
his way to his job as a dishwasher at the Black Hawk Sheriff's Office. Nicole
Bengiveno/The New York Times
veteran social worker named Denise Gonzales drove past the winter-quiescent
fields of 2009 to some town called Atalissa. She had to see for herself what
subordinates were telling her.
pulled uphill to an old schoolhouse, its turquoise exterior garish amid the
sleeping acres of snow-dusted brown. She found an open door and stepped into a
wonderland nightmare, with walls painted playhouse colors, floors speckled with
roaches and the air rank with neglect.
the squalid building’s shadows emerged its residents, all men, extending hands
in welcome, their long fingernails caked with dried blood. A few hands looked
almost forked. “From pulling crop,” they explained, a term that she soon
learned referred to the yanking of craws from freshly killed turkeys.
more at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/03/09/us/the-boys-in-the-bunkhouse.html?_r=0