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Parents Still Have to Give Up Kids

July 15, 2005 permalink

Remember Marie Bountrogianni's promise to end the practice of requiring parents to surrender custody to get treatment for kids? It is still going on. Gordon Floyd claims once again that more funding could solve the problem.



The ultimate act of a mother's love: Kim Drexler Loved Her Child So Much, She Gave Her Up

Kim Drexler says she's scared to death her troubled daughter's next act of self-mutilation could be her last.

The Sarnia woman says she is being forced to give up custody of her 14-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, and make her a ward of the court in order to get her into more programming to address her mental health problems.

"Katie cuts herself up and no one can say what causes her behaviour", mom say,. "Her one arm, she has nothing left of it, it's all scars".

The Children's Aid Society has been involved with the Drexlers for months. Drexler said there isn't a lot of help left out there. If Kaitlyn were older, she's been told there'd be more resources available.

"One of the biggest issues I have with this whole thing is why did we have to give her up to get her help?" Drexler wonders.

"They tell me that and I might not have a child to help by the time she reaches 16".

Kaitlyn's been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, other conduct disorders and learning disabilities. She's been on mood stabilizers since she was 10.

Kaitlyn has been in foster homes, group homes, and the community girl's home. Every time her daughter gets placed in open custody, she bolts.

"She's even tried to escape from the courthouse".

Kaitlyn has been in counselling, hospitalized, has been prone to violence and drug use and has had recurring issues with skipping classes since Grade 4.

When she was in Grade 5, after kids began to notice Kaitlyn couldn't read, Drexler says her daughter "tried to jump out of a window and stab herself.

"She's always been a handful", Drexler adds, "since she was about six years old".

She's been verbally abusive and physically abusive to her family, including mom and dad.

"I've heard it all, bitch, slut", Drexler says.

There have also been issues involving her other sons, ages 12 and 9.

"My youngest is scared of her. He thinks we can't protect him. I can't tell you how that makes me feel", she says, tears running down her cheek. "It's been really hard on us. I've done so much crying".

The turmoil has taken its toll on the family. Drexler says she's been hospitalized for stress-related illnesses and had to step down as a supervisor at work.

"Even though we've been having all these troubles, she's still my baby", Drexler says. "I've had a lot of guilt because I've been forced to choose between my kids".

The saddest part is this isn't an isolated story, says Gordon Floyd, CEO of Children's Mental Health Ontario, an association made up of all the youth mental health treatment centres across the province.

He says there isn't enough provincial funding, resulting in only a handful of kids getting the proper treatment they need.

"It really is a serious problem", says Floyd, who spoke recently at a St. Clair Child and Youth Services event.

He says there is only enough treatment capacity in the province to handle 150,00 kids a year, which is less than a quarter of the kids requiring treatment.

"The demand for services is going up and coupled with reduced capacity, this is the result".

And, because there is a shortage of services, the kids deemed most in crisis would be at the top of the list. For a parent to give up custody, that would certainly move the child up the chain, Floyd says.

It's situations like this that drew the ire of the province's ombudsman, André Marin.

In a 44-page report last month, he called the system "unjust, oppressive and unfair".

More than 100 Ontario families have already had to give up their children to get help and as many as 15 other families will soon be forced to confront the wrenching decision, the report stated.

"This is one of the toughest reports I've ever seen", Floyd says. "It says what's going on isn't just wrong, it's immoral".

But according to changes to the Child and Family Services Act and directions from the Ministry, no one has to surrender services to access services, says the Children Aid Society's Stephen Doig.

"There is free treatment available", he says.

But, there are waiting lists that can top five months, Doig says, and children do sometimes fall through the cracks.

"We could always use additional programming, especially residential treatment beds for children with long-standing mental health issues".

In other words, children like Kaitlyn Drexler.

It's been a long-standing issue locally, Doig says, as all of the beds are reserved for assessments, not for long-term care.

For now, the Drexler family will continue to struggle along, hoping Kaitlyn gets the help she needs before it's too late.

"My biggest fear is she is either going to end up dead or gone for good", her mom says.

Source: Photocopies forwarded by two readers.