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Jenny Hatch: Legal Kidnapping

Over the past couple months the blogosphere has been alive with chatter about Jenny Hatch, a young woman with Down Syndrome who is not having her personal wishes respected.  She would like to live with her friends, Kelly Morris and Jim Talbert.  However Jenny’s family and the support services involved have prevented this.  They even prevent Jenny from visiting her home community and friends.  Morris and Talbert believe she has been legally kidnapped and according to her lawyer, in violation of her human rights.  These kinds of things are a reality in the disability field.  Sometimes when the law, families, and support circles are at odds bad things happen and the wishes of people supported get overlooked.

The photo came off the blog ‘The Informal Matriarch’ Click Photo for link.

Jenny is 28 and up until a few months ago held down a part time job, oversaw her own banking, and was semi-independent; requiring minimal support in her day to day life.  She was actively involved in her community, volunteering her time with local political campaigns, church activities, and socializing with friends.

That all ended when Jenny’s mother decided she could no longer care for her.  Jenny tragically had to be hospitalized after a bike accident for spinal surgery.  Morris and Talbert, who are also her employers at the local thrift store for the past five years, decided to take her into their home and provide the several months of necessary care post-op.

Aging parents of children with disabilities are forced into circumstances where they can no longer provide support services at home every day.  This is an understandable and natural process.  What I am confused about is how such a parent can be comfortable allowing the recovery of their child from a major surgery to friends but not the continued care?  The Hatch’s have been quiet as to why they now believe Morris and Talbert to be unfit guardians.  There continues to be an ominous radio silence as to why the couple can’t provide a home and support to Jenny.  A distant family member hacked Jenny’s private Facebook page without her permission and has been messaging people who like and post on the page that ‘outside people’ should not push in.  Employers for 5 years and intimate care givers from March to May of this year hardly seem like ‘outside people’ but an intimate part of Jenny’s support circle.

Morris and Talbert have started a Justice for Jenny Facebook page that has up-to-date information regarding the case.  The couple say they are eager for answers and only worry that Jenny will believe they have forgotten her.  They are not allowed to visit her and the estimated court date is March 2013.  Robert Brown, Jenny’s attorney, is petitioning the court to allow Jenny to live with them until a jury trial determines Jenny’s competency to make her own decisions.

Jenny currently lives in a group home outside her home community.  She continues to be vocal about wanting to live with her friends.  She supports a petition on her behalf that also fully shares the views and observations of Kelly Morris and Jim Talbert here.  Respected advocate Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg wrote a moving appeal on her blog Disability and Representation:  Changing the Cultural Conversation here. For those interested in hearing Jenny speak in her own words, a local TV station interviewed her at her group home here.


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