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Press Skeptical of Bountrogianni
May 11, 2005 permalink
The Windsor Star today questions the actions of Marie Bountrogianni in the matter of disabled children. They suggest she was untruthful when claiming that she only recently heard of the problem, and that in spite of her public statements, parents are still required to give up custody to get treatment for their children. Reissuing a directive that failed in the past can only fail again in the future. Mrs Bountrogianni worked closely with the child protection system before entering government, and may have assimilated the habit of deception endemic in that trade.
Ailing kids' parents doubt CAS directive
Minister of Children and Youth Services Marie Bountrogianni ought to have known more than a year ago that parents of severely disabled children were essentially being forced to relinquish custodial rights in order to get the services they required, say some local parents.
"I have contacted Marie Bountrogianni's office," said Jennifer Bray, who recently signed a temporary care agreement with the Children's Aid Society for her mentally disabled son.
"People in her office have corresponded with me. This has gone on for a year and a half that I have corresponded with the ministry."
The issue gained public attention April 25 when new Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin looked into claims that parents of severely disabled children cannot access the services their kids need and therefore feel they have no choice but to sign away custodial rights to the Children's Aid Society.
Bountrogianni says she learned of the problem about two months ago.
"Although the issue had been raised before, it's come to her attention more recently that the scope of the problem is greater than anyone initially realized," Bountrogianni's press secretary Andrew Weir said Tuesday.
"That's why she responded urgently with a strategy in the regions to develop specific plans to meet the needs of those children and their families."
Even before Bountrogianni's ministry finishes its own investigation, she has reissued a directive for children's aid societies not to require parents to give up custody rights of their children if they don't require protection.
But Bray says once parents say they can't cope anymore -- because residential services aren't readily available -- the CAS automatically considers it a potential child protection case.
"All kids with special needs require protection," Bray said. "It's the way that they word it. The CAS is doing a very good job helping me out, but I just don't like that I have to sign away my rights to receive help."
Dolores Sicheri, a founding member of anti-CAS protest group Citizens for Social Morality, believes Bountrogianni's directive is toothless because it has been issued before by this government and the previous government.
One woman, who did not wish to identify her developmentally disabled teenage sons, said she will have to relinquish custody to the CAS so they can continue living in a group treatment home. She said she thinks the government should change the law and reinstate guardianship to parents where there is no protection issue.
"But I'm two weeks away from having to sign away my parental rights permanently, so I don't know if anything will happen in time.
"It's not fair. I haven't done anything wrong. Signing away custody is heartbreaking."
Source: Windsor Star, as copied by OACAS.