Honoring the Life & Legacy of Our Founder
Dr. L Jeanette Tatum
August 5, 1933 - March 26, 2021
Industry Pioneer and Founder of the First Orange County Adult Day Health Care Center That Services Severely Medically Impacted Adults with Developmental Disabilities
A true crusader for those with disabilities, Dr. J founded Helping Hands for Better Living in 1996, the first Adult Day Health Care Center in Orange County that specializes in serving severely medically impacted adults with developmental disabilities. In addition to her family, members of the Helping Hands for Better Living community look forward to carrying on the light and love she exemplified through her hard work and dedication to those with special needs.
Forever an educator, Dr. J never stopped her dedication and purpose towards dignifying the life of those with disabilities. She founded Helping Hands for Better Living Adult Day Health Care Center as a result of her passion. Her crusade continues through her daughter, Dr. Vanessa Tatum, and staff to this day
After working as a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District for many years, Dr. J became a successful realtor and real estate broker. Her love of learning led her to complete certification as a Mediator by the Los Angeles Bar Association, as well as complete her studies and receive a doctoral degree in Clinical Hypnotherapy.
Dr. J’s love of the Lord led to in-depth studies in the ministry, becoming an ordained and licensed minister. After retirement she volunteered at Fairview State Developmental Center in the Teaching Annex, at which time, she relates, the Lord directed her to embark upon a third career and business “Helping Hands for Better Living Adult Day Health Care and Community Based Adult Service Center.”
Helping Hands for Better Living (HHFBL) provides comprehensive medical, nursing, education, and therapy services to adults that possess developmental disabilities. As President and C.E.O. of HHFBL, Dr. J has positively impacted the lives of over a thousand individuals. Program participants, their families, and caregivers, the staff/consultants, and employees, as well as our community and neighbors, have all experienced her love of the Lord and great wisdom.
Despite declining health over the past three years, she continued to work and be involved in all aspects of Helping Hands for Better Living and to continue to share the Word, until her death. Likewise, Dr. J’s wise counsel in all aspects of life and “afterlife”, continues to be a blessing to her family and friends.
Although physically absent from us, Dr. J’s words, love, and deeds will live on.
Dr. J’s Special Education Contributions
After the enactment of The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, now known as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), Dr. L Jeanette Tatum (Dr. J) accepted the calling as one of the first special education teachers to join the mission and cause to ensure that children with disabilities were granted the right to an education equal to that of their neuro-typical peers.
Dr. J began her special education teaching career in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in 1977. She taught children with disabilities each year with the goal of eventually mainstreaming them into environments with typical peers. Each year, Dr. J developed a personalized learning plan for each student that was designed to identify, remove, and remedy any barriers that were inhibiting their individual learning outcomes within their educational environment.
In addition to evident physical disabilities, analysis was gathered through hearing and vision testing, basic needs assessments like food and nutrition, and considerations for social emotional insecurities such as abuse and neglect, which all contribute to maldevelopment in some form or another. Dr. J’s personalized learning approach back in 1977 is the genesis of what we now know as an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan).
Dr. J valued each student’s individual contributions to the school environment and recognized that their unique conditions were to be respected and considered above everything else that was expected of them. This is very important because, until then, these children were categorized as marginalized and were often discarded on a societal level.
Not only was Dr. J ahead of one’s time in her development of the individualized learning plan, she also brought forth the importance of recognizing that every person has a meaning and purpose in this life, despite their physical or mental condition. True joy is more than often overlooked and Dr. J found it in every way and every day within the people she served.
Forever an educator, Dr. J never stopped her dedication and purpose towards dignifying the life of those with disabilities. She founded Helping Hands for Better Living Adult Day Health Care Center as a result of her passion. Her crusade continues through her daughter, Dr. Vanessa Tatum, and staff to this day.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
"I say to you Our Father has a mansion for those that honor him as she did. By devoting her life to others that are less fortunate in this world. We are saddened to know that she is gone and we will always remember her for all the wonderful things that she did. We are proud and honored to know Dr. J."
Jose Catano and Family
Helping Hands for Better Living Family
"Some lives leave seeds that continue to bloom...and some leave us a whole garden.
With sympathy and gratitude to have been touched by such a spirit."
Kathleen Kolenda, M.A.
VP of Adult Day Services
Easterseals Southern California