In his 2005 report, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, the Ombudsman revealed the disturbing problem of parents of children with severe special needs being forced to surrender their custody to children’s aid societies (CASs) 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 2012- 2013.

In the first case, a CAS case worker told the father of an 11-year-old boy with a rare genetic disorder, autism and serious behaviour problems that he would have to put the boy in CAS custody so funding could be accessed for placement in a residential treatment program. The boy, who functioned at the level of a six-year-old, had been hospitalized after setting fires three times. The father, a single parent, said the CAS case worker had directed him to the Ombudsman’s Office for help. Ombudsman staff flagged the case to Ministry of Children and Youth Services officials. They provided direction to the local service co- rdination agency and funding and a placement in a group home was arranged for the boy.

In the second case, a worker at the local service co-ordination agency told the mother of a nine-year-old boy her only option was to sign a temporary care agreement with the local CAS so they could access funds to place him in a group home or give her weekend respite. The mother did not want him to go to a group home, but without support services, he had become aggressive and unmanageable at home. Ombudsman staff confirmed that there were no child protection concerns in this case and spoke to the agency about the message it was giving to parents. Soon after, services were arranged for the family, including respite for the mother, family therapy and a placement for the boy in a special classroom.

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