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Government Response to Cameron Case

April 28, 2005 permalink

On March 21 the London Free Press reported on the case of Alex Glinka and Cynthia Cameron, who were required to relinquish custody of their son Jesse in order to get him needed residential treatment. The case brought on much press coverage and a discussion in the Provincial Legislature.

The announcement by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin on April 25 of a special investigation into the policy requiring parents to give up custody in exchange for treatment was welcomed by CAS reform groups -- for example, a letter by John Dunn (pdf).

Today the Globe and Mail printed an article that may show the government's intention on this issue. With the phrase "according to a copy of the directive obtained by The Globe and Mail", the article surely is the product of material supplied by the Ontario government. It starts with the usual political tactic of blaming your predecessor, John Baird. In short order, it suggests that additional funding will solve the problem. Really? In cases where Children's Aid offers to treat a child in exchange for custody, they already have enough funding. Maybe they need a policy change instead. Still, over the next weeks or months, we can expect an announcement of more funding for Children's Aid, further strengthening their hand at the expense of parents.



Ontario Tories cut funding for disabled kids, paper shows

Thursday, April 28, 2005

TORONTO -- The roots of a controversy dogging the Ontario government over its treatment of severely disabled children date back to 2001, when its predecessors at Queen's Park pulled the plug on funding for support services.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services sent a directive to the province's children's aid societies in January, 2001, ordering the agencies not to enter into any new special-needs agreements with parents of disabled children.

According to a copy of the directive obtained by The Globe and Mail, the ministry said special needs should be met by "other more appropriate community service providers."

But local agencies did not have the resources to provide support services, Children's Aid Society officials and parents say. As a result, they said, families were left to fend for themselves or sign away custody of their children to a CAS in order to gain access to support services.

"We obviously see it as a problem," John Liston, executive director of the Children's Aid Society for London and Middlesex, said yesterday. "If services had been available, would they be on our doorstep? I don't think so."

A video about the situation entitled An Act of Desperation prepared by his office says it all, he said. "A parent only does this out of desperation and a sense that if they don't, the child will be worse off."

Prior to the directive, the province helped families who needed to put severely disabled children in residential treatment without requiring the families to give up custody.

The government was put on the defensive this week after Ontario Ombudsman André Marin launched an investigation into whether parents of children with severe disabilities are being forced to give up custody of a child to gain access to support services.

He said his office has received complaints from half a dozen families.

Minister of Children and Youth Services Marie Bountrogianni said in an interview that the answer lies not in reinstating the special-needs agreements but by providing the funding to train and hire more therapists so that disabled children don't have to wait as long to receive help. She said the government has already provided $200-million for children's services in last year's budget.

John Baird, the former Progressive Conservative minister who signed the directive, said it was never the intention that parents would have to give up custody of a child. The directive explicitly states that "parents will not be forced to relinquish custody" in order to access special needs.

When he learned in 2001 that parents were being forced to do just that, he said he secured an extra $28-million in government funding for services. "I thought it was abhorrent," he said in an interview. "I said, 'This practice will end immediately.' "

But the practice did not end, said the CAS's Mr. Liston. Many parents are forced to go through the anguish of walking into a courtroom and effectively saying, "I'm abandoning my child," he said.

Tina Grignard of St. Thomas is one of the lucky parents who narrowly escaped having to give up custody of her 11-year-old son, Jordan, who has Down syndrome and severe behavioural problems.

When she began looking for help, Ms. Grignard said, everyone told her to go to the CAS. Jordan was moved to a group home in Guelph a year ago, where he is doing extremely well, she said. He was initially placed under a temporary custody agreement with the CAS. Three weeks before the CAS was to assume permanent custody, and after she had made countless phone calls and wrote numerous letters to provincial government officials, funding came through, she said.

Source: Globe and Mail