How Many More Must Die Before Protections are Provided for the Developmentally Disabled?
Monday, October 22, 2012 • 8:31pm
Tara’s law, the bill that would provide protections for people with developmental disabilities who reside in foster homes from abuse, neglect, and exploitation finally received full approval by the State legislature. On Thursday, October 18, 2012, the State Assembly unanimously approved the bill by a margin of 79 to 0. The Senate version of the bill was previously passed unanimously, on June 28, 2012 by a margin of 40 to 0. With those numbers in favor of the bill, it is hardly imaginable that Governor Christie will not sign it.
While the aforementioned news is an accomplishment for legislators and advocates for people with developmental disabilities, the bill leaves the majority of developmentally disabled New Jerseyans without protections. Tara’s Law does not address the residents of group homes, nursing homes, supervised apartments or those in day training programs. Interestingly, the overwhelming number of parents and family members who have besieged the State Legislators in the past year have disabled loved ones who have suffered such abuse but do not reside in foster care. The pleas of the family members continue to go unheeded.
It has been estimated that just since the Senate passage of the bill there have been 500 additional cases of abuse and 100 deaths. Parents and advocates offered a one sentence amendment to the original Tara’s Law in May and June that would have provided protections to all New Jerseyans with developmental disabilities. Nevertheless, the legislators suggested that instead, a separate bill be created that will protect disabled
adults in all types of residential settings. Unfortunately, additional cases of abuse and additional deaths will occur before that happens.
Tara’s Law was originally created as a result of the case of 28 year-old Tara O’Leary, a developmentally disabled foster home resident who, as the result of abuse and neglect, lost more than 70 pounds, weighing only 43 pounds when she died. The passage of Tara’s Law was a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, how many more deaths must occur before protections are provided for all developmentally disabled individuals in
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