Speaking out for People with
 Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Change is the Only Constant

EP Magazine
December 2013
By Ralph Kennedy


About the author: Ralph M. Kennedy is Marla’s Dad and the Executive Director of Tennessee Family Solutions.

As the founders of a non-profit agency serving adults with severe intellectual and multiple other disabilities, my wife, Tracy, and I realize just how much a few determined people can help make change happen for our loved ones, and how important it is to realize the generosity of this great nation and its citizens in every state in the union.

How Marla Changed Our World

Marla Jane Kennedy (Tracy was told that her name means “bittersweet gift of God”) is the youngest of the three girls that Tracy and I raised and, in Marla’s case, are still raising. Born in 1976, at birth, Marla gave every indication of being another perfect angel. But, at four months of age, the seizures began. We have never found a definitive answer for their onset or their continuation for 37 years. At first, keeping Marla at home was our only consideration.
But soon, these troubling circumstances required us to realistically consider the survival of our family unit, and getting Marla the educational benefits our little family community tried, but failed, to deliver.

Over the years Marla was served in multiple of community settings, including group homes and foster care. It was a very mixed bag and it seemed we were always begging good staff to stay, and advocating to have the not so good staff removed.

At one point, Marla was found wandering along a four-lane highway while her staff allegedly took a one-and-a-half hour shower.

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