For some parents with children with autism, it is feasible to keep their children in their home well into adulthood. It is fantastic when that happens but it is not the story for all families.
It is not the story for our family.
In some cases, the situation calls for the child to go into a group home. It is not an easy decision, but it is sometimes needed. How do parents who have children in group homes feel about this?
I have not done research into the experiences of other parents, I can only speak of what we went through. Here are five things that we felt during and after the process of having two of our children move into group homes:
1. Desperation. This decision does not come up without a lot of pain beforehand. This does not emerge out of hope of becoming early empty nesters. The situation has to get very bad before parents send their children to a group home.
2. Guilt. Even though logically it seems clear that the child can be better cared for in a group home, the heart does not embrace the decision so easily. Parents can feel like they have betrayed their child. Dropping the child off at the group home for the first time is a heart wrenching experience.
3. Relief. After months or years of dealing with crisis after crisis, there is a sense of relief. Things are not getting broken. Children are not running away or getting physical with other siblings. For the first time in a long time there is a sense of peace.
4. Guilt Again. At first that relief is very nice. But then parents can feel guilty that they are appreciating the relief. Are the parents just being selfish by having the child outside the home? It takes awhile to overcome these feelings.
5. Healing. It is a terrible situation to have to send a (or more than one) child into group home. But over time something good emerges. It is possible to just enjoy your child. There is no resentment about the damage being done to the home or the family. The visits become a wonderful time of enjoying each other. Even if there are some difficult behaviours, they can be endured because they will go back to the group home. Our experience is that we get the best behaviour from our children during their visits.