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David Baxter

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Province accused of kicking out children who need help
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Lindsay Kines, Times Colonist

Few parents would kick their children out the door at 19 without helping them adjust to life in the adult world.

Yet, that?s precisely what the B.C. government is doing to many of the children in its care, Child and Youth Officer Jane Morley says in a report released yesterday.

The abrupt transition is particularly tough for young adults with a largely invisible disability known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Morley says.

The disability, caused when a mother drinks during pregnancy, saddles young people with lifelong learning and behavioral difficulties that make it hard for them to function in the adult world. Without help, they are at high risk of ending up poor, homeless or imprisoned.

Because FASD isn?t recognized as a mental-health disorder, these young adults don?t qualify for many of the services they so desperately need, Morley writes.

"We want youth in care with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder to achieve maximum independence and live full lives in their communities," she says. "Yet we are failing to give them a means to do so."

In her 60-page report, A Bridge to Adulthood, Morley says government should plug the gaps in service and "should do so now."

She recommends the province develop and put up the money for a "transition-to-adult" program for all children in its care, beginning with those suffering from FASD. The program would assist young people from age 19 to 23 and include a worker to help them get access to needed services.

"Increasingly, complete independence from families is not achieved by young people until they are into their late twenties," Morley writes. "It is time that we stopped pretending otherwise when it comes to youth in government care."

She also recommends that government stop relying on a simple IQ test to determine whether youth qualify for the kind of lifelong supports provided by Community Living B.C., which serves people with developmental disabilities. Although facing a legal challenge, CLBC currently provides services only to those with an IQ of 70 or less.

"It simply doesn?t make sense that Dan, who has been assessed by a psychiatrist as having disabilities similar to youth who would test in the 50 IQ range, should not be eligible for lifelong support services because his IQ is 87," Morley writes. "Or that Lanny (IQ of 76), who because of his sensory and memory problems needs constant reminders to eat and to look after any of his other personal care needs, should similarly be denied eligibility."

Minister of Children and Family Development Tom Christensen offered to look at Morley?s recommendations and determine how government can do a better job helping the children in its care adjust to adulthood. But he stopped short of promising more money or agreeing to expand the eligibility requirements at Community Living B.C., which already has a long list of people waiting for services.

"What I?m interested in is looking at the range of services and dollars already being spent ... and ensuring we?re doing as (good) a job as we can with existing dollars and then look at whether or not we need to look at additional resources," Christensen said.
 

HelpingHand

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I thought for sure that the province was going to be Alberta.
Alberta: We have money, but that doesn't always mean we're always going to help our people

I suppose I shouldn't complain. Yes, we did get the prosperity cheques and yes, we don't have provincial sales tax.
However, you'd think that with our money we could put it towards health care and education.

But what BC is doing is terrible. I always figured BC had the most helpful government out of the provinces.
 

ThatLady

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That's just plain sad. It's very obvious from the beginning that these kids are going to have a lot of problems, and are going to need a lot of support and help along the way. If we can't bother ourselves to assist and protect the innocent children, what good can we say of ourselves? :(
 

just mary

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Another example (to a lesser extent) is here, in Winnipeg. Currently, if a child is under the care of Child and Family Services and a foster home is not available, the child is put up in a hotel. Well, we have the Grey Cup (Canada's answer to the Superbowl) in Winnipeg next weekend and apparently the hotels have booked out the rooms they usually reserve for these children.

There are currently more than 100 children living in these hotels right now, awaiting a foster home. It's sad. I'm not sure what they're doing to resolve the problem but I've heard a lot about the predicament on our local radio stations.
 

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