Mom Struggles to Find Housing for Autistic Teen Son After Residential Program Shuts Down

Tiffany Williams is the mother of a teenage son with autism. Her child’s disorder causes his behavior to be unpredictable and uncontrollable, and she eventually ended up putting him in a residential facility that was better able to handle his erratic behavior and give him more structure and a more consistent schedule.

It’s hard to decide to place your teenage or adult child in a group home or residential facility, but it’s even harder when that facility suddenly and unexpectedly closes. When Great Circle sent Tiffany a letter saying that her son’s residential treatment program would be shutting down in 30 days, she was left scrambling to find new accommodations for her son and his special needs.

Photo: Adobe Stock/leslie sanders

“My son, he’s very severe, and his behavior is so unpredictable that it’s very difficult to control him,” she says. “Well, I panicked.”

In recent months, Great Circle has dealt with abuse allegations and the arrests of three of their employees. They were forced to suspend new admissions while the investigation was pending, and, most recently, FBI agents raided the premises.

“Decisions like this are never easy, but our priority must always be to most effectively meet the needs of every client we serve,” says Paula Fleming, Great Circle president and CEO. “This change in our Webster Groves residential program will allow us to fully focus on the other important work we do in St. Louis and around the state.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/Alliance

After all this negative publicity, the facility naturally had to make some big changes. However, these changes will likely be jarring for some of the people who live in the facility.

Tiffany says her son has been living at this same facility for about three years. Like many people with autism, he struggles with change, so it may be difficult for him to transfer to a different program and a new housing situation.

And that’s only if his mother is able to find the right place for him in time. Things could be much worse if no suitable home can be found for him and he has to live in a less suitable situation for a period of time before transferring again.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Irina Polonina

“I have a bit concern—I wanted him to stay in residential care because they have a nursing staff; he has seizures very bad,” says Tiffany.

Now Tiffany and other parents like her are looking for new residential programs in the area with just a few weeks’ notice. Of course, such programs are few and far between, and it’s likely that many families will have to move their loved ones farther away or settle for residential programs that do not meet their needs as well.

Great Circle says they’re currently working with local partners to place their clients in other facilities.

We can only hope that the transition goes smoothly and that families like Tiffany and her son are able to come up with solutions that work for them.

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