TJC Story Blog

July 2021

Amy & Greg Wagner

Accessing health services in rural areas is hard. It has been especially hard for Amy and Greg Wagner of Canon County. Mrs. Amy Wagner gained custody of her son, William Bradley Clark, when he was 1 month old. Bradley is now 5 years old and “a born leader.” He loves being outside on his four-wheeler and playing with his dog, Diva.

Sadly, Mrs. Wagner has been unable to work since gaining custody of Bradley due to his high needs and a lack of support from TennCare and the Department of Children’s Services (DCS). He goes through periods of self-harm leading to trips to the hospital. Mrs. Wagner constantly picks him up from school because he gets put out. She also cannot find a daycare that will take him in due to his behavioral issues. Additionally, TennCare approved Bradley for speech and occupational therapy at Vanderbilt. Mrs. Wagner could not transport him to these appointments three times a week on her own; she needed a home health aide. Bradley is intellectually and developmentally delayed and has some behavioral concerns. Mrs. Wagner believes he is at risk for institutionalization. The family has been proactive. They have notified their TennCare case manager of this and even wrote a letter to TennCare explaining they needed more assistance taking care of Bradley due to his health issues.

Their TennCare case manager recommended they apply for ECF CHOICES. They applied twice for ECF CHOICES. The first time, they were denied during the in-home assessment after the person doing the assessment told them children under 14 did not qualify for ECF CHOICES. This information was incorrect. Mrs. Wagner reapplied. This time they were told Bradley did not meet the criteria to be placed on the emergency list for ECF CHOICES and that there were no open slots at the time.

The Wagners needed some type of in-home assistance such as respite care, home health, or personal care services. To get a home health aide or personal care services, Mrs. Wagner would have had to get her doctor to write an order and then have the home agency come to her house to do an assessment. Mrs. Wagner decided to pursue respite care through a Pacesetters grant instead. It was easier. She says, “They are doing what ECF CHOICES is supposed to do but on a smaller scale. People do not know how much family can help you. Respite care and paying family to help are two things that TennCare should cover because family members want to help and should be paid to help.”

Mrs. Wagner loves Bradley, and he calls her mom. But she was afraid that without ECF CHOICES and some type of caregiving assistance, she might have had to put him back in DCS custody. The state gave him to her and disappeared. She says, at one point, it seemed like the only way to get Bradley the extra help he needed was to give him back to the state. She does not think that would have been the best thing for Bradley. Mrs. Wagner says, “There’s something missing that these children in the system need. The children who don’t have people fighting for them. I fight for Bradley, but not all children have that. It is so difficult to work with the system. They need an advocate for the children in the system to help make sure these children are cared for. There are children who aren’t getting ECF CHOICES or Katie Beckett.”

It is unfair that her family had to be put in this situation and jump through hoops for Bradley to get the care he is entitled to.