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Families protest group home in Connecticut neighborhood

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According to NBC News, the Klingberg Family Centersis planning to open a group home for troubled adolescent boys in Bristol, Connecticut. Initially the company was looking at a property on Southdown Drive, but decided that the house did not meet their needs. They have now chosen 63 Maxine Avenue in Bristol as suitable site for the group home.

Unfortunately the project has not only met with resistance from residents in the neighborhood, but from the town leaders as well. Mayor Art Ward was quoted by NBC News as saying,

“The law basically allows them to just to in fact, come into the town, what I call under the guise of midnight madness. Go to sleep, its midnight, you wake up in the morning, and it's happening.”

Democratic state representative Frank Nicastro stated,

“This is not the kind of home that should be used. It's wrong, and our laws need to be looked at."

The cold fact is that the neighborhood of Maxine Avenue and leaders in town of Bristol are committing one of the few forms of bigotry still tolerated in the United States, discrimination against people with disabilities. One of the residents of Maxine Avenue, Amy Jakobeit, was quoted as saying,

“As a mother of two young children, I don't feel safe knowing there could be teenage boys who have these types of emotional, sexual disorders and other types of behavioral problems."

After reading Ms. Jakobeit statement, several questions leap to mind. First of all, how does Ms. Jakobeit know the diagnoses of the boys? Was she given this confidential information in spite of HIPPA confidentiality laws? There is no reason to think that because these young boys have emotional problems they automatically have sexually deviant behavior or that they would be any danger to other children in the neighborhood.

The second question to consider is how does anyone know who is actually living in their neighborhood? No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors in other people’s homes. In fact, it is possible to check the state sex offender registry to find out where convicted sex offenders live. Most people would be shocked to discover that there is at least one or two living nearby.

Another thing to remember is that one doesn’t need a group home in the neighborhood to have a delinquent in your midst. Who has had an egg thrown at his or her house, a mailbox damaged, or a car keyed without a group home anywhere in sight?

At least in the case of a group home for adolescents with emotional problems, they are supervised in a structured setting. They have staff with them at all times who monitor their movements and behavior. The boys in that house are not going to be the ones ringing doorbells and running away or “TP-ing” the trees. If people are going to consider children with emotional problems to be akin to the devil living in the neighborhood, wouldn’t it be better to live near the closely supervised devil you know?

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