The other social safety net

Dorothea Mordan
4 min readNov 4, 2023

Once upon a time the first person was identified as different. Maybe it was autism, maybe it was some other behavior that was unaccepted, maybe it was rooted in a neurological idiosyncrasy yet to be understood.

For centuries as humans struggled to survive, many people were left behind or otherwise shunned. For the most part, our society today tries to include everyone in the quest for a long and better life. We have made great leaps in medical knowledge, food production, housing and the economic means of distribution to get these things to as many people as possible. But with all of our modern innovation people still get left behind. Many people can relate to having a family member or friend who first falls through the cracks of our economic system and then our social safety net.

My husband and I raised a child with “unspecified learning delays”, a child who, until recently — in relation to human history — would have been hidden, out of the sight of genteel society. A few years before the pandemic we joined with two other families in Frederick County to form a non profit organization, Kitsune, Inc, to address the need for solutions for independent living for adults with developmental disabilities, but without intellectual disabilities. In short, the people who do not get services when they age out of the public school system. In Maryland a person with a measurable IQ of over 69 is ineligible for many long term support services after aging out of the public school system and/or reaching the age of majority. These are the young adults who “fall off the cliff” of support after high school.

As we three households raised our children we came to understand that they would have difficulty maintaining a safe home of their own. We brainstormed ideas on how to recreate the back up that we provided to our kids, what we envisioned they would need to live independently. We kept coming up against the same speed bump. Our social safety net provides several pieces of support, but there is nothing that fills the gaps between services. The gaps that we fill for our family and friends when we take a call in the middle of the night — a car breaks down, help is needed to interpret everyday things such as bus schedules, or other small but confusing details of life.