The Canadian government gives special attention to children who have disabilities as well as their families. This is because of the special attention that these children require in terms of home care, healthcare and education (Irwin, & Brophy, 2000). This is due to mental health, physical health or emotional conditions, which affect these children as they grow. It requires an extra financial cost to take care of children with disabilities, which becomes an extra burden to their parents. Children with disabilities develop and grow in unique ways with regards to their relationship with other members of the society. The environmental factors around them influence the development and relationships with others and, therefore, they need to be provided with an appropriate and a conducive environment in order to ensure that they develop well. Over 560, 000 children are disabled in Canada, and they need special attention from their families, a task that requires government support (Irwin, & Brophy, 2000). It is necessary that a survey is conducted in order to look into the environmental factors that are causing the limitation of the disabled, children, the role of their parents in their lives and the entire society. This is because these children have got diverse needs, which require a different level and special types of attention. The government of Canada has formulated policies that are aimed at taking care of these children and their families. Despite of the establishment of these policies that the government has put in place to take care of the disabled children and their families, there are notable gaps that are present in these policies, and which should be reconsidered. This is because the government has not put in place appropriate policies to make financial compensation to these parents who are forced to leave their jobs since they still lose their pensionable earnings. In order to make help these parents, the government should make policies that are able to take into consideration, the parents with disabled children, for example, establishing formal beneficiaries for such families, whereby there are extended medical plans for the disabled child so as to reduce the burden of the parents affected.
This paper is going to discuss children with disabilities in the context of their families, the community and the Canadian government. In addition to that, the paper is also going to examine these children with regard to the policies that have been put I place to take care of them.
Why be concerned about children with disabilities?
Initially, the majority of children with disabilities was neglected and were made to live in centers away from their legitimate homes, however, currently, families have changed their opinions and these children are now living in their legitimate homes with their parents. These developments have managed to improve the level of attention that these children were given, but there is still a lot, which needs to be done with regards to care and attention given to the disabled children together with their families. The needs of children with disabilities have been assumed while the needs of other able children in the society are being addressed. They have been excluded in the children policies and they have been left alone, even with members of their families (Valentine, 2001).
Children with disabilities should be well taken care of and be made feel like members of the society. This means that they should be given the freedom of participation by choice in activities and social structures in a manner that fits their special needs. These include access to education and health care, so that they can feel a sense of belonging and also to feel equal to the other members of the society. In order to make the disabled children feel loved in the society, the society needs to start appreciating their disabilities and include them in the society. Inclusion means appreciating diversity and the recognition of the value of human life (). A society that is inclusive will give due respect and take care of children with disabilities. This is because such a society recognizes the special needs of these children. Therefore, as the normal members of the society, we should be concerned with the welfare of all children with disabilities.
Challenges faced by Children with disabilities
There are wide ranges of problems that children with disabilities face in the Canadian society. Among the major challenges that these children go through including neglect in terms of education and health care services. The section below is going to present a discussion on the factors contributing to the challenges that these children go through.
Families and Economic Security
Despite of the different economic status of the families of children who are living with disabilities, the children who are living with disabilities have gotten higher chances of living a life full of poverty as they become of age. According to CCSD (2002), hunger among children has become a major issue of concern in Canada, and children with disabilities are more vulnerable to suffering from hunger as compared to the other children. This is because the budgets of their families have been stretched in the effort of taking care of their special needs health care attention. Due to the economic insecurity of these families, the disabled, children are subject to a risky lifestyle whereby they do not have access to quality health care and education, therefore, they dwell in illiteracy.
With regards to the above circumstances, it is notable that the disability contributes hugely to poverty. In Canada, the work lives of parents with a disabled child are affected in one way or another (Roeher Institute, 2000). This is because either one of the parents of the disabled child is forced to leave working so that he or she can take care of their sick child. This has a negative impact on the total income that the family is supposed to generate. In most cases, it is the mother who is forced to leave her work so that she stays at home to provide support for the child. There are also their negative implications that are associated with the parent who has to give up his or her job to take care of the child. These include the loss of pensions that he or she earns, there is also isolation from members of the society as well as stress. This exposes one of the major gaps in the policies that the Canadian government has put in place to take care of disabled children and their families. This is because the government has not put in place appropriate policies to make financial compensation to these parents who are forced to leave their jobs since they still lose their pensionable earnings. In order to make help these parents, the government should make policies that are able to take into consideration, the parents with disabled children, for example, establishing formal beneficiaries for such families, whereby there are extended medical plans for the disabled child so as to reduce the burden of the parents affected.
Families and social assistance for Children with Disability in Canada
The families of children with disabilities need stable and reliable support from the society. In Canada, a huge population of parents with children with disability is forced to leave their work in order to stay at home and give social support to their children with disabilities. A total of 90% of the women opts to stay at home and care for their children instead of engaging themselves into government paid work (Roeher Institute, 2000). This leaves them with a very little amount of income to support their families and that is why these families rely on the government for support. As a result, many of these families become dependent on the government for employment insurance, workers compensation as well as social assistance.
During our research process, we took a look into the governmental policies regarding giving assistance to families with children with disabilities; we realized a major gap existing in the manner through which these services are offered to these families. The delivery of services to this population is very inadequate because even in the presence of the policies, which call for quality services to these families, a report from research shows a widespread suffering of these families. Many of these families are already living in poverty and for the support of the government is inadequate, they have been forced to go for many days without having access to the most basic needs in their lives, for example, sleeping hungry.
These families have reported and reduction in the social help that receive from the government. With regards to this, the government has reduced social assistance payments due to the cuts that were made in the provincial social assistance. Many of these families are very unhappy with these cuts and refer to it as penalization and humiliation from their own government upon which they depend on (Valentine, 2001). Dependence on the government for support comes along with its own challenges. Among the challenges of relying on governmental support includes lack of enough finance to pay the bill, to buy food, to educate the children and even to give medical care to the children. This becomes a major challenge to these families as the majority of the disabled children rely on special meals. In addition to this, the government policies for children with disabilities do not take into account other special needs of these children, for example, the requirement of equipments like orthotics. The cost of providing these needs is, therefore, left to the parents or other family members of the disabled children to take care of.
The task of taking care of the disabled children is the responsibility of the parents, who are forced to play the roles of the educator, the nurse, the advocate and also as the trainee of the child. These tasks require skills and sufficient knowledge of these parents, something that has been realized to be lacking among the majority of these parents. It is, therefore, realized that even the quality of services that these children receive from their parents are of very low quality. This further puts at risk the lives of these children.
The historical development of programs, services, and acts that existed in Ontario regards to children with disabilities
In a year, 1974 Developmental Services Act was enacted. This act transferred responsibility for services for people with a developmental disability from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Community and Social Services (Ministry of Children and Youth Services, n.d.). The Developmental Services Act was a turning point in the evolution of Ontario’s system of developmental services. It marked the beginning of the shift to a new way of providing services and supports to individuals with developmental disabilities, which focused on greater independence, social inclusion, and personal choice. Major investments were made with regards to developing centers to take care of the disabled, children, and by 1976 Ontario operated 16 institutions (which eventually became known as facilities) which provided residential care to over 10,000 individuals with developmental disabilities.
In 1984, the Act for the Protection and Reformation of Neglected Children evolved into the Child and Family Services Act (Ministry of Children and Youth Services, n.d.). The Child and Family Services Act was legislation that made child welfare the direct responsibility of the government. Using agencies like The Children’s Aid to protect and monitor children. From there onwards, there are many remarkable improvements with regard to providing services to children with disabilities in Ontario and in Canada as a whole, for example, in 2008; the Government of Ontario passed the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act. This Act gives families more control and specificity in regards to services as well as supports closer to their home.
The government of the province of Ontario provides funding to eligible people with intellectual and/or physical disabilities through various programs as listed below. Assistive Devices Program (ADP), whereby the Ontario government guides this program to provide funding to individuals with long-term physical disabilities who reside in Ontario (Community Living Ontario, 2014). The funding is intended to increase the independence of the recipient. Equipment and supplies are covered, including wheelchairs/mobility aids, monitors and test strips to insulin-dependent diabetics, hearing aids, respiratory pumps, and visual and communication aids. Eligibility criteria include being a resident of Ontario, having a valid Ontario health card, a physical disability for at least 6 months. The government also offers Easter Seals, which are meant to provide funding for disability solutions for children, youth, and young adults with physical disabilities. Funds are utilized to provide financial assistance, summer camp, the Recreational Choices Funding Program, research, advocacy, incontinence supplies grant program, and public/consumer education. The Easter Seal financial program is utilized after the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Assistive Devices Program, insurance and any family resources have been exhausted. The government of Ontario also takes care of children with disabilities due to Inherited Metabolic Diseases Program (IMD).
The Benefits of Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD)
The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act would be beneficial to families and their children who have a disability through the variety of supports and services offered to assist in ensuring a more comfortable and quality lifestyle (Alberta Government, 2004). Guardians will have more time to provide support to other family members; they will have time to relax without the added stress of being the only caregiver who can support their child, as well, a healthy family is able to support their family much more. In addition, families can process the stress they may feel and learn coping strategies through the provided counseling. There would be less worry for medical support and the possible lack of income, as they will still be provided support for clothing as well as childcare (Alberta Government, 2011). The children will be benefiting as they are receiving various services including assistance with transitioning into adulthood and will be able to spend more quality time with their families without the high-stress level. The child can benefit through an improvement in development or at least through prevention of regression.
In conclusion, children with disabilities require special attention from their families, the community and the government. Taking care of these children is costly due to the special education and special medical attention that they require. This is a burden that should not be left for their parents to deal with alone. Children with disabilities have been affected by poverty due to the huge financial demands that they require. Despite the challenges, the government of Canada has come a long way with regards to taking care of children with disabilities. The following programs and services offered to these children in Ontario and Alberta provinces, the entire government has made major improvements aimed at helping children with disabilities and their families.
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