By CHRISTOPHER WALKER
There are more than 49 million people with disabilities in the United States, according to a news release from Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities .
Many of those with disabilities in Utah are placed in families and are taken care of by professional parents in the community, said Pat Boyle, director of Professional Parent Services.
When people with any type of disability live with a family, the family nurtures who they are — their desires and strengths — and supports that person in whatever they want to do, Boyle said.
Sharon Yearsley, a representative of the Division of Services for People with Disabilities, said it is important for people with disabilities to be able to contribute to the community and feel a part of it.
Boyle is a professional parent of a 26-year-old-woman. She said her “daughter” is not that much different than anyone else.
“She’d like life to revolve around her. Sometimes I’d like that too — all of us do,” she said.
Boyle said they are very selective in the parents they choose.
“First, we look to see if they are going to have all the time to provide nurturing and time, because it takes a lot of time to take care of a child with a disability,” she said.
Boyle said they go into the family’s home and interview them to see if they will be qualified to meet the needs of the child.
“We even have single parents in the program, if (they) fit the child’s needs,” she said.
The child then gets to visit the family.
“They get to see how that family functions. The family gets to find out about the child and get a feel for their personality,” Boyle said. “If it’s something that works for them, they live happily ever after.”
Janae Carter is a professional parent of a 20-year-old woman. She said her “daughter” has made a difference in her neighborhood.
“When Hsi Hsi first came, people were nervous and didn’t know how to act, but now people come up to her and tell her she looks pretty. She has a lot of friends and a lot of people who care about her,” she said.
Hsi Hsi’s new sister, Kim Carter, said she feels their family grew closer since she came.
“Not every family gets to have a child like that. She is a lot of fun. She doesn’t talk and you have to read her body language — and she speaks it very loudly,” Kim said.