August 25, 2023

“An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

This has been a busy week for me, both professionally and personally. Yesterday, I dropped my oldest son, David, off at the University of Hartford for his freshman year of college. While this experience is new to me, I have prepared myself for the uncertainty that lies ahead. 

Luckily, I have many friends and colleagues who are walking down the same road and who can give me advice on managing the flood of emotions. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by people who can support me and travel this road with me.

As the parent of a child with disabilities, my inclination has always been to protect my son and shield him; however, I have also prepared him to be independent, to advocate, to think ahead, and to consider his safety and his surroundings. I know he will experience his share of failure and rejection, but I pray that he is resilient enough to fight back and learn from all that happens. In the end, I know he will find success.

What strikes me most at this moment is that I hear and see the lessons that JFCS has taught him in his actions and his movements. Years before I became the Executive Director, JFCS has been a part of David’s life. JFCS was teaching in the school system and present in his classrooms – educating about substance use, suicide, mental health, and the importance of healthy relationships. JFCS was a sounding board for me as I searched for resources and created my own care plan to prepare my son for this very time in his life.

I hear these lessons in David’s conversations and his actions, and I have a deep appreciation for all that our JFCS Community Outreach and Prevention Programs have done for him. I know he is safer and healthier because of JFCS. I thank all those people who have supported these programs, especially Gregg Wolfe in loving memory of his son Justin Wolfe, the Raymond and Gertrude R. Saltzman Foundation, and the Camden County Board of Commissioners.

I know that David’s disabilities put him at greater risk of falling prey to the dangers of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. These are the dangers that keep me – and so many other parents – up at night. 

So, what calms my nerves and puts me at ease? Knowing that I am not alone, and neither is my son. Whatever happens next in David’s life, he has been given the foundation to work through it and succeed. As parents, he knows that we will be here for him unconditionally. As a community and as a society, we will stand by our children to help them succeed.

Mental health and disabilities are getting more attention than ever before in the history of this country. While our struggle to ensure capacity and accessibility for mental health services continue, I know that together we will make sure that our community has what it needs to thrive.

Wishing you love and peace this Shabbat.

All my best,