Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.



Award for Velvet Martin

June 7, 2012 permalink

Velvet Martin has received an award from Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel for her efforts on behalf of disabled children. Her own child, Samantha Martin, died of a heart attack just after returning from a decade of neglectful foster care.



Local advocate wins service award

Edmonton mayor recognizes Velvet Martin's tireless advocacy for the vulnerable

Velvet Martin

STRONG VOICE - St. Albert resident Velvet Martin recently earned an award from Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel for her efforts to help the vulnerable. Martin's mentally disabled daughter died while in foster care.

St. Albert disabled persons advocate Velvet Martin recently earned an award usually reserved just for Edmontonians.

Martin spent years pushing for a new law to improve the rights of children with disabilities and their families after her 13-year-old daughter Samantha died while in a foster home. Martin’s efforts earned her an award for outstanding service from Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel during his annual mayor’s awards ceremony recently.

Martin said the honour makes her feel humbled.

“I hadn’t even prepared a speech. I just spoke from the heart when I went up … mostly about just the fact that the award actually recognizes Samantha,” she said.

Mandel gave Martin the award for outstanding service for advocating for the rights of children, youth, vulnerable persons and seniors in her community.

“I am inspired by these individuals and organizations who are building a more inclusive city where all Edmontonians can participate fully and share their gifts with the community. My congratulations and thanks to all the award recipients and nominees,” Mandel said in a prepared statement.

Samantha’s Law, the reason that Martin was able to receive the award, is an amendment to the Alberta Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act. It requires that participants in the Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program are recognized as legally distinct from children in protective services under the intervention model.

It means that the government needs to involve the families when figuring out funding for children with special needs.

“What Samantha’s Law did … it changed the way that the legislation looking at parents of children with disabilities focuses now,” she began. “Now you do not need to have your child move out of home in order to access the services. The services are provided to the family.”

She called the previous legislation an “archaic way of looking at individuals with disabilities.”

“When my daughter was born in 1993, we were actually forced to place her into an outside home for care because the government wouldn’t support natural families in home, which is totally crazy. Now what the legislation does is it defines children with disabilities in good homes separately from the child intervention model.”

All in the name of her daughter

Samantha Martin was born with a rare chromosome disorder called Tetrasomy 18p that results in several severe congenital abnormalities including a malformed heart and hip dysplasia. The Martins were forced to send Samantha to a foster home in order to access funding and services. She died in that care after suffering a heart attack at the age of 13.

Now employed by Transitions – the St. Albert agency that offers programs and services for people of all ages with disabilities – Velvet Martin continues to work hard to improve living conditions and make lives better every day.

Executive director Paul Fujishige said the award was well deserved. He called Martin a huge asset to the organization.

“Velvet is a true advocate and supporter of people with disabilities,” he said. “It was a tragic situation for her family but I do applaud her for turning the tragedy into something positive. It’s employees like that that are inspiring.”

Because the ministry of children’s services was involved in the case of her young daughter, there was a publication ban that prevented her from speaking about the system. Now, she can speak freely.

“To see her name on the plaque, that was huge for me because there are just far too many children that are dying anonymously and publication bans are protecting the wrong individuals,” Martin said. “It was really good to be able to tell her story and make sure that this doesn’t happen to somebody else.”

There are still things she wishes she could talk about but can’t at the present because of a fatality inquiry into her daughter’s death. The inquiry wrapped up in November but its report hasn’t yet been released.

Martin also works at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital helping families who have experienced a disability. She is also the spokesperson for Protecting Canadian Children, a group whose purpose is to stop abuses within the foster care system.

Source: St Albert Gazette