Jerry and Judy Horton shared the following story.

Several years ago a rancher I’ll call Steven received notification that he was eligible to receive “waiver” funds and leave Down Home Ranch.  He’d been on the list to receive these funds for several years. He lived at the Ranch under Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) assistance of close to $45,000 a year, but the “waiver” funding was considered superior because it gave the individual choice—he could accept the funding and then choose any provider in Texas that had a vacancy.

The catch: Steven had to decide within 30 days whether or not to receive this long-awaited funding.  (Yet more irony: this “waiver” funding by law has to come in at 80% less than the funding a resident currently receives to live at the Ranch, yet it’s held out to parents as the gold-standard!)

Steven had to decide for himself.  His parents could not decide for him.  We had to, by law, hold a formal meeting and officially inform Steven that he had the right to leave the ranch and live in a small group home somewhere in Texas (assuming his parents could find a good one) or in a foster situation with a private family or individual.

Our case manager Casey tried her best to explain Steven’s options simply and non-threateningly.  However, the instant she read the required options could choose from, including “foster home,” Steven exploded into tears, jumped out of his chair, and ran to the door.

“No, I don’t want to leave the Ranch!” he cried.  “I don’t want to!”

His mom and I stopped him and held him as he sobbed.

You see, Steven had come to camp at the Ranch for years.  He’d always planned to live there.  Just as his siblings dreamed of the day they’d leave home and go to UT or Texas Tech and be on their own, Steven saw his future at the place he’d come to love, with the people he’d come to love.

In the end, the family declined Steven’s slot (moving his name to the bottom of the waiver list).  Today he continues to live happily at Down Home Ranch.

Steven’s story is the human face of the issues currently facing Down Home Ranch and similar facilities.  For more, go to and read about Illinois’ experience.

Yes, reading about arcane policies might sound like a bore.  But if you care about someone with an intellectual disability, and wish to preserve their choice in where they live, you might want to bone up on this issue.

And yes, $45,000 might sound like a lot of money, more than adequate to care for an individual with an intellectual disability, yet what it actually pays for is shelter, staff, food and little else.

Like many other non-profits, we fund raise to insure Ranchers like Steven have a good quality of life—the things that happen in their lives between 9-5 each day.  So, January is always looked forward to by Steven and his pals at Down Home Ranch because they get a five-day Gulf of Mexico cruse—a reward for a year of hard work running the Ranch.

Excessive? No, not at all.  Just a little vacation to recharge the batteries. Lots of staff and parents come along each year. Give Casey a yell (512-856-0128) if you’d like to join the fun.