Many handicapped children and adults sit behind the walls of their parents' homes unaware of what lies ahead, including where they will end up after their mom and dad die or grow too old to care for them.
It's a concern shared by many parents of developmentally disabled children, including John Cole and Jo Knott of Clay County.
"One of our biggest fears is what's going to happen to our special children when we are no longer capable of taking care of them," said Cole, a Fleming Island father of a 23-year-old disabled son.
Knott, who has a 24-year-old profoundly disabled daughter, said the lack of residential facilities for the handicapped forces many parents to hope for something most dread to think about.
"We are the only parents who pray that we live one day longer than our children," the Orange Park woman said. "That sounds sad. But we don't want to leave them."
Some day such fears may be replaced by the comforting knowledge that loving and well-managed group homes for the disabled will be widespread -- in Clay County as well as many other counties in Florida.
"That would give us peace of mind," Knott said.
If so, it will be because of people like her and Cone, founders of the Baptist Association for Special Children and Adults Inc., a non-profit organization created to provide activities and opportunities for disabled people of all ages.
Cone and Knott recently celebrated the culmination of a long campaign to establish a group home for disabled adults in Clay County, thanks to the financial backing of two county housing agencies and several private donations.
The Clay County Housing Finance Authority gave the association a $130,000 grant several months ago and the Clay County Commission approved a $140,000 grant Dec. 12 from the county's State Housing Initiatives Partnership.
The $270,000 will provide most of the $299,000 needed to buy a huge two-story house off Doctors Lake Drive. The 5,500-square-foot house has 11 bedrooms and five bathrooms for six disabled adult women and two married couples who will live there as "house parents."
Federal law excludes group homes for the handicapped from special zoning requirements as long as no more than six special-needs residents occupy the dwelling.
Tom Price, SHIP coordinator, said the $140,000 grant was the largest single appropriation ever awarded by the agency. He said he couldn't think of a more deserving applicant.
"This is my favorite thing, helping special needs people," Price said. "There's not many places for these handicapped people to go to be taken care of. To me, this is exciting. …