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A recent letter suggested the Utah State Developmental Center should be shut down. I am the parent of a severely multiple-handicapped child. My son lived at home for 16 years until I could no longer care for his physical and medical needs and still raise five other children. I then made what was the most painful decision I've ever made. Who could I entrust to help me take care of my son? I chose the Utah State Development Center.

This was not the end of difficult choices regarding my son. I'm still very involved in his life. I still have the legal and parental right to make decisions regarding his well-being. The fact that a group of people with handicapped children of their own, or the state government, says that my son would be better placed in a group home disturbs me. We are all different, and we all have different needs. I would not think of trying to tell another parent where their child should be placed. I would give this right to the person who knows this child best (parent/guardian and medical staff).To say that no person should be placed in an institution is a wonderfully idealistic statement, but it will not work for everyone. Having been closely involved with the USDC for the past four years, I am well aware of the positive and negative aspects of this institution. I have found the majority of the staff to be loving and compassionate. My son gets help there that he could not access anywhere else.

He is medically fragile. A group home would not meet his needs. My son is totally dependent. Those caring for him require a working knowledge of several medical skills. If he were in a group home, his caregivers would have to take him to the emergency room 10 to 12 times each month for seizure intervention alone. At the USDC my son has immediate access to occupational, physical and medical personnel.

Yes, tragic things happen in institutions. They also happen in group homes and even in our own homes. I'm not suggesting that we ignore these problems. Let's examine these tragic incidences fairly, investigate them no matter where they occur and take the appropriate actions.

Cindy Clifton