Letter from Latham parent: “She finally has the life she deserves”

Whether you have been part of our Latham community for years or you are just learning about us, this letter from a Latham parent may move you to tears. Jonah Steinhart, whose daughter is a student at Latham, details his family’s journey to safety – and to the life his daughter deserves. An excerpt follows (including a link to the full letter):

Dear Friend:

After the intercom alert, the squeak of shoes, and the man’s anguished screams, the psych ward fell silent. I lay in a chair-bed combo in a small exam room, my eyes fixed on the door. The handle had no lock, and the slit of a window afforded a clear sightline out of the room – and into it.

This was an adult crisis ward for all of Marin County, California. They took everyone, from the suicidal to the schizophrenic, the homeowner to the homeless. It was a risky place to spend the night.

Especially because beside me lay my 9-year-old daughter Annika.

But I fought to stay that terrifying night. I had no choice. There was nowhere else for us to go, because Annika has Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). My wife Heidi and I were desperate to force our insurance company to approve her for the Pittsburgh Children’s Institute’s PWS inpatient program. From there, we hoped the Children’s Institute would help us force our school district to become the first in California to place a student at Latham Centers.

We could not take Annika home, since she had been attacking her younger siblings and running away. There was only one child psych ward in the San Francisco Bay Area that would take a child so young, and it had no beds available. Thus, the absurdity of the adult ward.

What do you do when there seems to be no place in this world for your child? When you feel completely adrift, desperate for your child to have just one friend, just one employee at her school who understands PWS, just a modicum of a life? Some of us bury ourselves in crippling self-pity.

Some of us, eventually, fight. And what a fight it is.

Our risky plan worked; the insurance company approved Annika for Pittsburgh, which recommended Latham, which caused our school district to cave after a four-year fight. Annika finally had a home at Latham, and our family finally had peace.

We cannot imagine our lives without Latham… (edited for space – please click here to read the entire letter).

…Annika’s submission for this year’s Latham t-shirt contest has the tagline “Latham is safe.” She is right on so many levels. Because of the people at Latham, Annika’s present and future are safe. She finally has the life she deserves. Latham shows us all what love looks like.


Jonah Steinhart

Please give to Latham Centers’ Annual Appeal . Your support of Latham Centers helps to attract and retain the best people. And without the best people, Latham cannot serve the exponentially complex special needs of those with PWS. The sustained success of Latham Centers is due in large part to the generosity of friends, family members, and community partners. Gifts of every size are meaningful and appreciated! Please donate here.


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