A young Virginia woman with Down syndrome seeks to legally overturn her parents' decision to put her into a facility. The intense legal battle has been waging on since August 2012.
Margaret Jean Hatch, also known as Jenny, insists she wants to live independently, with friends of her choosing.
However, Hatch suffers from Down syndrome, which can potentially inhibit her ability to do so according to her relatives. Therefore, Hatch's parents – her mother Julia Ross and her stepfather, Richard Ross – have decided to place the 29-year-old into yet another facility against her wishes.
Though Hatch is described as having good survival skills, she has a tendency to shower affection on friends and strangers alike. The concern is her inability to discern an inappropriate or dangerous situation from another may pose a threat. Or at the very least Hatch may be taken advantage of.
For example, Hatch lacks the rudimentary math skills needed to calculate how much change she should receive when she makes a purchase, reports the Daily Mail.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. A large proportion of individuals with Down syndrome have a severe degree of disability.
Down syndrome is typically associated with a delay in cognitive ability and physical growth, and seen in a particular set of facial characteristics.
The average IQ of young adults with Down syndrome is around 50, whereas young adults without the condition typically have an IQ of 100.
Hatch, who has an IQ of 52, says she wants to move in with her friends and carry on with the life she was living, working at a thrift shop and riding her bike. She enjoys hanging out at the Republican headquarters near her job, participating in Special Olympics, attending church, and watching Rachel Ray.
But her concerned parents want their daughter to live in a facility under supervision. However, Hatch has run away from group homes before and has exhibited defiant behavior.
While in court Hatch announced, abruptly cutting off the proceedings, "I don't need guardianship. I don't want it." Under the judge's order, Hatch was removed from the courtroom, according to the Daily Press.
As for living alternatives:
Her father, Richard Hatch, who lives in North Carolina with his wife and three children, told Hatch's case manager he could not give his daughter the level of care she needs.
When Hatch's mother, Julia Ross, was asked if her daughter could move back into the family home if they had assistance the woman replied with, "No, ma'am. Jenny [Hatch] told me that she does not want to have anything to do with me." The case manager relayed this in court records.
Friends of the young woman have a place for her to stay, but the Ross' feel the environment is too free and without adequate supervision. They feel the girl needs observation as she's been known to (according to her mother) lie, cause confusion, behaves inappropriately with men, contacts neighbors relentlessly, and is obsessed with others who are nice to her.
The case reflects how the rights of adults with disabilities are tested when it comes to their desire to live independently.
Hatch's case has grabbed the attention of both advocacy groups and residents in the Hampton Roads area. They have turned the phrase "Justice for Jenny" into a mantra. For many, the legal fight is about not just who Hatch is, a person with Down syndrome, but also who she represents: anyone born with a disability or who ends up with one, reports the Washington Post.
Do you think individuals with disabilities should be given an opportunity to live independently? Or should the court heed to a parent's concerns over their disabled adult child?
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