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Including Angela: a mother speaks out

Angela Greenwood, who has cerebral palsy, has had her provincial program support cut by 50 per cent. Photo courtesy of Karen Greenwood, Special to

Angela Greenwood, who has cerebral palsy, has had her provincial program support cut by 50 per cent. Photo courtesy of Karen Greenwood, Special to

The Ontario Liberal Government is ignoring our daughter’s pleas to continue living her life as a full citizen in her community.

We met with MPP Monique Smith on Friday, Feb. 18, 2005 requesting her assistance. We regret that she has been unable to assist us in our ongoing efforts for Angela’s inclusion in today’s society.

For 15 years, Angela thrived and enjoyed her life as a fulltime student. Angela has always lived at home with her family who support her life within her community. The equality of funding for 100% citizenship in community-based programs ends at the magic age of 21. When Angela graduated in 2002, the Ontario government reduced her program support by 50%.


The only thing that changed was her age. She still has cerebral palsy and will need 24-hour care for the rest of her life. As graduation nears, families are falsely encouraged to work with a transition team to create essential lifestyle plans to support their loved ones at home within their communities.

We are then SHOCKED to discover that funding for these individualized community-based programs is very limited and, therefore, our loved ones are forced to reduce their activities by half. The government does not give this advice to parents when they register their children for school. Nor is it given to heart attack victims when they need medical attention. Yet this is what the Government is saying to high-school graduates.

A community lifestyle is one that all citizens take for granted. However, Angela’s freedom to continue enjoying her life was taken away on January 20, 2005. She can no longer go out and do the things she wants to do. Are families expected to lose their livelihoods to stay home and care for their special needs loved ones?

We already care for them 16 hours a day on weekdays and 24 hours a day on weekends with the odd weekend of respite thrown in when a slot is available. Many families remain on a waiting list just for weekend respite because the Government funding is so limited.

There is a growing number of families like ours in this country who prefer not to place their special needs loved ones in segregated homes or programs. However, there are also many families who do prefer them but are told there is nothing CURRENTLY available. There is a 25 to 30-year waiting list for group homes. The only way to get in is if a caregiver can no longer care for their special needs loved one.

Segregated programs are also filled to capacity. Families have little choice but to keep their loved ones at home. These waiting lists are due to increase sharply when the three remaining institutions close their doors, giving $70,000 in capital funding to 1,000 residents.

Is it any wonder that there are those who choose to end the lives of their loved one and/or themselves. Families are desperate and the Government is not helping them.

Since 2002, Angela and her family appealed the government’s decision to reduce her community-based program to 50% at every level possible. While an investigation was completed last year by the Ontario Ombudsman’s office, a decision has yet to be made.

In 2003 and 2004, bridge funding was provided to meet the substantial shortfall. On March 1, 2005 our appeal was denied because bridge funding:

‘is intended to respond to a crisis situation on a time-limited basis’.

We were advised:

‘[you need] to develop a plan of care for your daughter that will result in her being supported each year within existing resources’;

When we asked the local agency why they paid ‘host’ families an average of $25,000 last year, we were told they needed to ensure proper care for their clients. This is an unaffordable luxury for natural families. We are not asking for money to line our own pockets. We need it to hire developmental service workers.

Educational assistants are paid by the government to provide support to our special needs children at school. Nothing changes when they turn 21. Why then does their level of assistance need to change? Bill 82 placed our special needs children in our schools. Unfortunately for them and their families, short-sighted politicians did not provide an exit plan.

While we commend the ongoing endeavours of the government to transform the Developmental Services Act and to committing $110 million in future community services, this is not an excuse to ignore the present needs of its most vulnerable citizens.

Karen Greenwood is Angela Greenwood's mother.