Oakland County mother says state of Michigan has failed daughter who has severe autism

Cyndi Sibley fights for daughter

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – An Oakland County mother said the state of Michigan abandoned her when she tried to depend on the system to help her daughter, who has severe autism.

Cyndi Sibley’s daughter, Jackie, is now 20 years old, and Sibley said she’s taking her anger and outrage to state lawmakers after officials abandoned her family.

Sibley said she simply wants the best care for Jackie. She said state facilities aren’t adequately prepared to take care of her daughter with her high level of autism.

The fight has been ongoing for more than a year, and it bubbled over Wednesday in Lansing.

“They’re planning on putting together a program, but there is nothing in place,” Sibley said. “There’s no experience there, and this has been an ongoing battle. They’re dragging their feet.”

She said state workers assigned to help her family couldn’t adequately control Jackie as a child.

“I was left alone to handle it because there was no help," Sibley said. “I mean, the kids who are on the spectrum -- there is a lot of services out there. It’s the ones that reach this point of severity that there’s a huge lack of any kind of services.”

Sibley said she was given a list of providers to contact.

“(I found) nothing,” Sibley said. “All 62 providers did not accept our daughter on this level.”

Now, Sibley said state officials claim they’re able to take care of Jackie. Sibley said she would rather bring her child to an out-of-state facility with a proven track record and then bring her back to Michigan with a proper treatment plan in place.

“Right now, they’re trying to throw together a program, which is impossible to do in this amount of time,” Sibley said. “There’s no experience with severely autistic adults. They need to be in a residential community settling, and they’re trying to institutionalize my daughter.”

“These kids don’t deserve to be institutionalized,” said Buffy Bettencourt, Jackie’s grandmother. “They’re smart. We don’t know what’s going on inside their head, but we love them regardless.”

A spokesperson with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released the following statement:

Ms. Sibley’s daughter has been offered an immediate placement at the Hawthorn Center in Michigan which includes behavioral intervention units and uniquely qualified clinicians with experience with significant intellectual and developmental deficits along with aggressive and self-harmful behaviors. MDHHS has also offered to send a board-certified child psychiatrist and a board-certified behavior analyst to her current placement in Maryland to appropriately assess and develop an individualized plan for treatment and services. MDHHS is working with the family to obtain the necessary authorizations for this assessment and placement.”

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