Robert and Jessica St. Clair never imagined their daughter Lily would live in someone else’s home. But they also never imagined that Lily would need more care and support than they could give, and that someone else’s home was exactly where she needed to be to live her best life.
Lily, who is 11 years old, has Down syndrome and autism. She is completely nonverbal. A couple years ago, the St. Clairs found themselves struggling. They were trying their hardest to give Lily the care she needed, and at the same time, care for her two younger siblings and work full-time jobs. They looked for outside help and nothing seemed to fit.
“As she got older, it got harder and harder to find qualified people that would be helpful as opposed to just making the situation worse,” said Jessica.
About a year ago, the family began exploring new options and found the Sponsored Residential program at DePaul. In March, they met Joyce Morrison, a compassionate caregiver who had just decided to open her home. In their hearts, they felt that Joyce was the right person and so, in May of 2020, Lily moved into Joyce’s home.
“It was very hard,” said Jessica. “I missed her horribly at first.”
Joyce had spent years working in group home settings caring for adults. She never imagined that she would care for a child, but there was something special about Lily.
“Lily is a happy person,” said Joyce. “She goes to bed with a smile and she wakes up with a smile.”
In the months since, Joyce and Lily have formed a special bond. Joyce walks her to the bus stop in the mornings and they take car rides together in the evenings. They attend church, and Lily loves listening to the music.
“I tell you what … she keeps me young,” said Joyce.
While it was hard for the St. Clairs to let go of Lily at first, they have adjusted and come to understand that this is what was needed. Lily now has more independence and freedom and comfort.
“It’s about adding much-needed support to the family, not removing anything,” said Jessica.
Robert and Jessica talk to Lily and Joyce on the phone multiple times a week, and Lily stays with them overnight once a month. In a happy coincidence, Joyce lives on the same street as Lily’s grandparents. For that reason and so many others, the St. Clairs feel confident and at peace with their decision, and Lily and Joyce look forward to many more days together.