ANNUAL REPORT UPDATE - 2011-2012

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE – CARE AND CUSTODY OF CHILDREN WITH SEVERE SPECIAL NEEDS – MINISTRY OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES


In his 2005 report, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, the Ombudsman revealed the very
disturbing problem of parents of children with severe special needs being forced to surrender them to custody of children’s aid societies in order to obtain the care they needed. At that time, and several times since, the government committed to ensuring this would no longer happen. Nevertheless, parents continue to complain that they have been pushed to make this heart-wrenching choice. There were two such cases in 2011-2012.

In one case, a children’s aid society case worker sought a court order for custody of a 14-year-old boy with severe autism and a seizure disorder in order to allow him to stay in the group home where he had been in care for a year. She told the boy’s mother there were no concerns for his welfare, but surrendering custody was the only way the mother could keep the boy in the home. Ombudsman staff flagged the case to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, triggering a meeting between officials from the group home, the local
service co-ordination agency and the children’s aid society. The necessary funding was arranged for the boy’s group home placement, while the mother retained custody of
her son.

Similarly, in the second case, the mother of a severely disabled 13-year-old girl was told by a children’s aid worker that the best way for her to have the girl’s group home paid for was to surrender custody. There were no protection concerns for the child, but she has Down syndrome and significant special needs that required group home care. After Ombudsman staff alerted the Ministry to the case, its Complex Special Needs committee arranged funding so the mother could retain custody and the daughter could stay in the group home.

Ombudsman staff continue to monitor this issue closely and similar complaints are
brought directly to the attention of senior Ministry officials.