Look at her fly! That’s what immediately comes to mind when you watch Olimpia Laca smile at photos of her daughter, Maria, holding one of her favorite animals, a bird. The photos are incredible – yes – but their family’s story is even more inspiring. The truth is, it wasn’t long ago that Olimpia was afraid of what the future held for her daughter. But now, she has hope. And as for Maria, she has independence, living outside of her parents’ home in a group home.
“She (Maria) wanted to move out for a long time because she really wanted to be independent. She wanted to be like everyone else her age,” Olimpia said. “ I knew she needed help, and it was hard for me to trust someone to be able to help her. I had to realize that I won’t be here forever.”
Olimpia came to BDI desperately looking for assistance with SSI. After reporting to Social Security that Maria, who has cerebral palsy, had moved into a group home, the agency responded by lowering Maria’s SSI: a threat to all they’d worked for and ultimately a threat to Maria’s independence. The first piece of advice BDI staff gave her was to open an ABLE account, which is a state-run savings account for individuals with disabilities. In the following weeks, Olimpiawould work with BDI staff to submit and revise applications.
“I was afraid to do any of this,” she said. “From the big things to the little things, the BDI team was patient with me. I’m thankful for BDI. I was lost. And without the staff, I’d still be lost. What would’ve taken me forever, took BDI a few months to help me fix.”
Proudly, BDI and Olimpia were able to get the SSI issue resolved at the top of 2021 after many appeals. For Olimpia, she not only felt relief but great expectations for her daughter. Her advice to other parents like her who fear letting their children fly or take the next step is simple: “we all have to live our lives.”
“Maria stayed with us for 33 years. And for 33 years, she wasn’t out of our sight. She was always with us” Olimpia said. “Do it. It’s good for them. But it’s also good for the parents.”
With their SSI troubles now in the past, Olimpia is excited about her daughter’s future. Even in the short time that Maria has been off on her own, Olimpia shares that she’s witnessed Maria grow and mature beyond what she would have imagined.
“She has her own life. She’s going to be my baby forever, but now she has space to do her own thing” she said. “It hasn’t been easy but she’s happy.”