In late November, we urged you to help save the Kearsley Group Home and four other New Jersey group homes scheduled to close. Now we need your support more than ever as the potential closing date looms nearer.

From My Interview With

For a young man with autism, bipolar depression and handful of other medical conditions that require constant monitoring, 18-year-old Aidan Burke is always smiling, his mother says.

He’s willing to eat the healthy meals that are planned for him, enabling him to lose more than 100 pounds. And although he is non-verbal, Aidan is learning to communicate using a “talker,” a tablet-like device with pictures, his mother, Johanna Palestini Burke said.

These positive changes in her son’s life can be attributed to the patient staff at his group home in Sicklerville, where’s he has lived since 2018, and the skilled professionals at the Durand School in Woodbury, Palestini Burke said.

That’s what made the announcement six weeks ago that her son’s group home is closing so terrifying, she said.

Oaks Integrated Care intends to close five group homes in south Jersey serving 24 children and young adults with developmental disabilities, “due to staffing challenges faced by our agency,” Oaks spokeswoman Denise Soto wrote in an email.

Oaks had intended to close the homes by the end of this month, but will keep them open until everyone is placed, the company said.

Since the announcement was made almost two months ago, officials from Oaks and the state Department of Children and Families say they have been searching for a new provider to assume control of the properties, with no success yet. It’s more likely these residents will be sent to different facilities, which may also disrupt where they go to school if they are relocated far away.

Palestini Burke said she fears how her son will respond to new surroundings and staff. The Kearsley group home supervisor “loves him like he was his own son,” she said.

“Aidan will absolutely regress in all his behaviors and accomplishments he has made to date,” she said.

Aidan and Johanna Burke

How Can You Make a Difference?

Taking a few minutes to contact your local New Jersey State legislator and telling them to help keep the Oaks Integrated Care facilities open can have a considerable impact.