Autistic Teen left with nowhere to live after his Grandmother Dies

If you ask any special needs parent about their greatest fear surrounding their disabled child, I promise you it will always be the same.

Who will care for my child after I am gone?

That thought has haunted me many times.

And it’s a complicated question as well.

My son will need lifelong care.

He will be a man, not a small child.

I don’t know where he will be cognitively. Or if he’ll be able to bathe himself. Or buckle his own seatbelt. I don’t know if he will be able to communicate. Or if he will be aggressive.

I can’t ask just anybody. How do I find someone that wouldn’t consider him a burden?

I think about his brothers and pray they will help. But I don’t know. I can’t put that on them. At least not right now.

I can’t leave him with just anybody.

I want to figure out a way to live forever. So I can make sure he is loved, cared for, safe and treasured.

And then this story popped up in my newsfeed.

This is something that happens all the time, but we rarely hear about. Why? It’s not interesting news I guess. But it’s a heartbreaking reality for so many families.

Autistic teen left with nowhere to live after his grandmother passes away.

We know when parents pass, their kids may be placed in foster care if there aren’t any family members to take them.

But what if the child is 19 and has severe autism? It’s not as simple. He is legally an adult but in many ways, functions at a two-year-old level.

At 19 years old and only 55 pounds, Tristan has already lived a tough life. Now it’s even more difficult after his mom passed last year. Then after moving with his grandmother, she died last month.

So who will care for this disabled teenager? The answer may surprise you.

”It is horribly upsetting because I’ve known Tristan since the day he was born and I’ve watched him suffer and struggle,” says Vicki Shackelford, who was best friends with Tristan’s grandmother.

Tristan’s two younger siblings are now in CPS custody in foster care, but Tristan is considered an adult. So APS, Adult Protective Services, is working to find a place for him.

“She begged to have him placed before she passed, because she had stage four lung cancer,” Shackelford explained to Fox 26 news.

Tristan is non-verbal, autistic, and self mutilates.

“He will dig and scratch. His earlobes are gone because he’s ripped them off. He’s got scars all down his back,” she said.

The 19-year-old is living in the house with his grandmother’s husband, but he says he can’t take care of Tristan and unlike CPS, APS doesn’t take custody of adults.

“Our agency, we don’t have placement. We work with community partners to help us do the placement,” says Adriana Franco with Adult Protective Services.

APS can help find a group home or nursing home and for an adult with disabilities, it isn’t easy.

“No. It is not easy.  If they have a lot of what they consider a high level of need we have to find the appropriate facility,” Franco explains.

”He’s suffering and he deserves better,” says Shackelford.

As a last resort, Vicki Shackelford dropped Tristan off at the emergency room and left him there in hopes he will get the care he needs.

This happens all the time. We live in a country with a mental health crisis. There is no help available in so many areas.

“We bawled. We cried the whole way out. It was awful. I don’t know if there’s a sadder sight to see,” says Shackelford.

There are not a lot of options for Tristan, but APS is working to find a home for him where he can be properly cared for.

My heart is broke reading this story. This is a very real reality for so many families.

Hug your babies moms and dads. And do everything in your power to have a plan in place if something happens to you.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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