Frontline Initiative Working with Families

A home for my mother's baby


Leslie Merriman is the Executive Assistant at Welcome House, Inc. in Ohio.

My very first memory of Lindsay was seeing my parents crying after they’d gotten home from a doctor appointment. I was seven and Lindsay would have been around one. That’s when they found out she had a disability. From then on, life was different. Not bad, just different. 

I spent the next years of my life explaining Lindsay to my friends and sticking up for her around strangers. People were cruel. I learned to determine my relationships with others by their reactions to my sister. If people were kind to her, I liked them. If they appeared cautious and put off, I distanced myself from them. 

Lindsay is the reason I have spent the past 22 years working for an agency that supports people with developmental disabilities. They also support my sister. I convinced my parents to allow Linds to move into a group home. It was hard on them at first. My mom did a lot of crying. But having her live in a house with her peer group did wonders. She thrived. She accomplished more then my parents ever thought she could and more importantly — she was happy. When Lindsay would spend the night back with my parents, they’d find her the next morning packed with her bag ready to leave for home, her home. I know it hurt my mom’s feelings but I reassured her that this was exactly the way she should want Lindsay to be. Still, I think my mom was secretly hoping Lindsay would beg to stay home with her!

My father passed away 4 years ago. At 86, my mom is pretty amazing. She still drives and still worries about her 55-year-old daughter, Lindsay. With all her aging issues, I’ve taken on more responsibility for Lindsay. I’ve become her medical power of attorney, so I get the calls when something happens and then report to my mom. At first this bothered my mother, but now I believe she is thankful to be out of that role.  

My mother would often get upset when Lindsay came for a visit and her hair wasn’t cut or her clothes weren’t quite right. Now I make sure she looks her best when visiting. Lindsay knows she might have to change her clothes for these visits. But more often than not she’s learned what to wear. I sometimes get disappointed that her Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) don’t pay more attention to that area. But I have to pick my battles and defend group home life to my mom, telling her that the most important thing is that Lindsay is safe and happy. Having worked ten years in direct care, I understand the job.

One time when I went to pick up Lindsay, I observed her DSP playfully teasing with her, chasing A home for my mother’s baby her down the hallway. Linds was laughing, the DSP was laughing. It brought tears to my eyes. It’s what I want for Lindsay. I know it’s what my mom wants for her, too. A place where she feels comfortable and safe. A place where she feels loved. A place that’s home.