Home Care: Ontario is Falling Short

Windsor StarFebruary 11, 2009

Twenty years ago the provincial Liberals made a commitment to parents of disabled children: the government would provide the necessary resources so those children could live in their own homes, with their families, instead of being institutionalized.

While millions of dollars were promised over the years for across-the-board home care and community support funding -- more than $3 million was allocated to expand services in 2006 alone -- not enough of those dollars have found their way to services for children with disabilities. As a result, parents have routinely found themselves frustrated, financially strapped and overwhelmed by their lack of access to care.

Not only are they trying to deal with a child's disability, they are trying to cope with red tape and waiting lists when every chaotic moment is critical.

This comes as no surprise to those who live under this cloud day in and day out. But Ontario's ombudsman has just revealed to the rest of us the shocking truth about how principle and practice collided: Many exhausted parents are turning over their kids to the Children's Aid Society just so they can get the care they need.

In a recent 44-page report, Ombudsman Andre Marin talked about the anguish felt by parents of severely disabled children. He pointed out that dozens had put their children in government care, and another 196 who were on waiting lists were in danger of losing custody. Some of those parents had gone so far as to suggest their kids were at risk in their homes just so the CAS would take them.

Despite the continued promise to provide sufficient support, Marin was not hopeful the situation could be easily corrected.

"Unless something is done urgently, it will be happening not only in this day and age, but again tomorrow and a year after tomorrow," Marin lamented.

"The idea of having parents manufacture protection issues and then give up their kids to the state is abhorrent ... it's a very cruel way to treat parents," he said.

That could be the understatement of the year. The equally cruel irony is that while it costs families emotionally, it also costs the province financially. The government is pumping millions of dollars into inadequate at-home programs while still funding institutions.

The case that brought this oversight to light -- an Ottawa couple put their disabled baby girl into temporary custody to get much-needed round-the-clock care -- is not unique, says Irwin Elman, the provincial advocate for children and youth.

Indeed, many more parents are abandoning their kids because they believe it's the kindest, most responsible thing to do. That is a horrifying admission to have to make when we live in one of the richest countries in the world.

The mission statement set out by former health minister Elinor Caplan on behalf of the vulnerable in 1989 was the right thing to do. It steered the province in the right direction but, alas, we lost our way.

We implore this government to heed the words of Marin and solve the deplorable situation that forces parents of disabled children to, as he says, "act out of desperation." © Copyright (c) The Windsor Star

Reproduced from http://www.windsorstar.com/Health/Home+care/1276020/story.html

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