New Castle couple struggles finding day care for mildly disabled daughter
The evening before 2-year-old Hadley Hughes was supposed to attend preschool, her parents Gretchen and John Hughes of New Castle received an unexpected phone call.
“She was forcefully asking me to withdraw Hadley from the program,” Gretchen Hughes described of the conversation with the preschool’s administrator.
“It felt like she was saying to me, ‘Why would I take a kid with special needs when I could take a kid with no special needs for the same amount of money?’”
Hadley, who turns 3 in September, has a mild case of cerebral palsy.
“Cerebral palsy is kind of an umbrella statement and it catches a lot of kids,” Gretchen said of the group of disorders, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remains the most common motor disability in childhood.
The CDC describes a severe case of cerebral palsy as a person in need of special equipment in order to walk. In some instances, an individual with severe cerebral palsy may not be able to walk at all. In other cases, like an individual with mild cerebral palsy, he or she may not require any special assistance to walk.
With her “miniature shopping cart” that looks more like a children’s toy than a walking device, Hadley Hughes walks well.
“She’ll take this to school,” father John Hughes said as he picked up Hadley’s cart. “And with that she can go wherever the other kids go.”
Added Gretchen, “She can get up and down our stairs without our help.”
The Hugheses were financially and contractually obligated to the preschool in early June. They received the call recently, at 6:30 p.m. the night before when Hadley was scheduled to show up at 7:45 a.m. the next day.
“I felt like this was discriminatory,” John Hughes said of the experience. “I became concerned that Hadley wouldn’t be treated right.”
Following the back and forth with the administrator, both Gretchen and John agreed — they did not want their daughter going there.
This was the third instance in which Hadley was declined admittance. As a result, it left Gretchen, an operating room registered nurse at Valley View Hospital, and her husband John, an AP chemistry teacher at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, scrambling.
The Hugheses had planned on paying $800 a month for Hadley to attend preschool three days a week.
“That’s a lot, for a lot of families. I know that’s a lot of money to us,” Hughes said of the cost of child care regionally.
The Hugheses say they are not interested in pointing fingers, but instead hoped to raise awareness about the need for additional resources in the area for parents, and especially of children with disabilities of any kind.
“If you have a child who is delayed or disabled, there is really not a lot of information,” Gretchen explained. “It’s taken me a lot of digging to find what we have found.”
So far, every nanny who took the time to actually meet Hadley said that they would take care of her, she said.
“It’s only people who are unwilling,” John said of those who declined Hadley.
“… Or, unwilling to even meet us as soon as you mention cerebral palsy,” added Gretchen.
They wonder, too, how Hadley would feel if she truly knew why she was not attending preschool.
“What if she was older and she felt rejected,” John said of his daughter. “Not everyone is going to be an athlete, and that’s OK. But Hadley had something to bring to that preschool.”
One of Hadley’s favorite activities these days includes reading. And, just like any other child, her father said she would very much benefit from a school environment, particularly at her age.
“You kind of lose hope in the area about options,” John said. “But definitely don’t give up … because if you back down, the problem is never going to get solved.”
Visibly upset, Gretchen also asked that other families in similar circumstances never give up. “Keep fighting,” she said.
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