3 min Read

Freeing Teresa

From DDA’s Encouraging Abilities Podcast – Freeing Teresa

A book by Franke James, Bill James, and Teresa Heartchild

“Franke James immediately objected when she heard that her siblings were planning to put their younger, disabled sister into a nursing home. She was told that Teresa, who has Down syndrome, had been declared “incapable” by a social worker. With the stroke of a pen, Teresa had lost her right to decide where she would live. Two of Franke’s siblings acting as Teresa’s “guardians,” insisted they had all the power. Franke refused to believe this. She got a team together and they helped Teresa get properly discharged from the nursing home. That’s when all hell broke loose. And so the two sisters stood together against their siblings, the medical system, and the police to defend Teresa’s right to be free.”

The above paragraph is the synopsis of the book Freeing Teresa, written by Franke James, her husband Bill, and Franke’s sister Teresa. The true story tells of how Franke’s siblings wanted to put their sister Teresa into a nursing home after their dad could no longer care for her. Franke knew Teresa’s rights were not taken into account. The result, apart from Teresa not being in a nursing home, is a fractured family that is likely beyond repair.

DDA’s communications manager, Evan Kelly, caught up with Franke and Bill to talk about their new book, the first of three. The following is a snippet from DDA’s podcast.

Evan: This is a heavy topic, Franke, where does this all begin for you?

Franke James: It’s a dilemma that many families will face if they have someone with a developmental disability and their caregiver can no longer care for them. In my dad’s case, he thought he could care for Teresa, but my siblings did not. Their response was the group homes were all full and a nursing home was a solution. I thought Teresa is only 49 she didn’t need a nursing home! I tried to get them to see Terea’s possibilities. Unfortunately, my siblings could only come up with a nursing home and I opposed it every step of the way. I stepped forward and said Teresa would live with us. Within days, they had put her in a home. On November 20th, 2013, we signed her out and brought her home.

Evan: From the get-go, Teresa didn’t want to be in a nursing home.

Franke: No she didn’t. Nursing homes are really unsuitable for people with Down syndrome. What would she do all day?

Evan: Are staff even trained to deal with people like Teresa?

Franke: They’re not. I thought it was just a place to park Teresa and it was writing off her future and limiting what she could do with her life. She was described as needing 24/7 and that wasn’t true.

Bill: One of the problems is Power of Attorney. Franke’s siblings felt they had total control. Franke asked what Franke’s dad and Teresa wanted to do. They need not desire or intend to be in a long-term care home. The sibling felt that didn’t matter and they could put her in a home without her consent.

Franke: Her rights were taken away in September 2013.

Bill: I’m sure that they thought and still think they were doing the right thing.


Franke and her husband Bill moved with Teresa to B.C. several years ago where Teresa spends her days creating art, writing books, and being part of the community, enjoying life and not in a nursing home.

The rest of the podcast can be heard here: https://shorturl.at/coqG9