We continue to receive the most amazing, heartbreaking and disturbing letters from families, caregivers and concerned citizens around the province sharing their experiences about BC's community living crisis. I wish we could share them all, but most people are simply too afraid of retaliation if they speak out, or are quite understandably reluctant to sacrifice their family's privacy.
We thank all of you who have entrusted us with your stories, your hopes, your frustration and your fears. We are doing our best to bring these issues to public attention, with the help of our BC Community Living Action Group partners and with strong interest and support from the provincial media, in the hope of finally pressuring government to take real action.
Below, with permission, is an example of one of the dozens of letters in our inbox yesterday.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, November 21, 2011 1:57 PM
Honorable Stephanie Cadieux:
This morning I had the opportunity to listen to you regarding CLBC on CKNW. It seems that despite the huge crisis in CLBC you still strongly believe (or keep telling yourself and want others to believe) that CLBC is meeting the needs of most families. That the huge media blitz is overrated and that there are just a few families being affected and are in actual crisis.
I can tell you that you are very wrong. There are countless families who are needlessly suffering emotional and financial stress due to CLBC's lack of concern, acknowledgement of problems and lack of financial support. Have you had a good chat with any of your front line facilatators or social workers lately? How's the morale?
To pay the CEO bonuses for not adequately supporting families in crisis is morally wrong and unethical. For you and the government to continually support a board that refuses to assist families in crisis is sickening.
Why do I feel this way? Because we are one of those families, we are just one of many. Thank God we have finally received some home share funding for our son but only after a significant long term crisis!
We begged for help. Care Plan after Care Plan was submitted and revised by me as I sought help and made revisions just so our family could survive. Finally we were forced to have our son removed from our home. Still CLBC refused funding, instead they preferred to use up significant police, ambulance and local hospital resources and expected the hospital to provide his housing. Then CLBC staff suggested and threatened that he be moved to the local homeless shelter. I won't go into the details as I have already done that in numerous emails to Premier Christy Clark and the former Minister for CLBC in May 2011.
Already I suspect the funding for our homeshare is not enough; as I am already getting hints from him (only four short months into the contract) that he feels he is not getting enough and was "railroaded" in the contract.
I have friends who are aging, unwell and tired, yet their facilitator told them they will likely not get funding for their son till they die. That's encouraging!
Apparently the funding contract for our son's home share provider is top secret. CLBC and contract provider can't tell; won't tell; confidential. Yet some staff at CLBC are getting multiple funding contracts for multiple homeshare clients. They know funding contracts and are negotiating their own contracts while working full time for CLBC! Interesting. How can this be? Don't home share clients require significant care? How are providers able to work full time or even part time if they are home share providers for needy clients? How do CLBC staff negotiate their own contracts if $ amounts are top secret? Who takes responsibility if our current home share provider feels his funding contract is too low? He's getting wind that others are paid more. What is the funding formula and why is it not consistent? Who negotitiates and advocates on behalf of a potential home share provider who is not familiar with a system full of conflicts of interest? Where's the accountability of home share providers? What safeguards, controls and oversight is there to these home shares? Who's watching that homeshare providers are actually doing what they are supposed to be doing, such as life skills training?
For 18 years I've been a stay at home parent due to my son's significant needs. How does one get one or multiple homeshare clients and still manage to hold down a full time job?
Lots of questions, lots of irregularities, lots of mismanagement and I suspect some are getting rich on the backs of needy, vulnerable individuals and families who are suffering needlessly.
Economy wise; families in crisis don't help the economy much either as it causes unnecessary mental health issues to ALL family members. Hard for a husband to work when his family life is in crisis. Might explain why divorce rates among families with special needs kids is so high. Has the Finance Minister ever considered that? Would Premier Christy Clark be Premier if her son was Autistic, Deaf and had Cerebral Palsy?
My whole family has paid a price!
Also, one more key question...... Can you tell me why there is an endless pot of money in the medical/hospital setting (ex.Children's hospital) where babies of all gestational ages and ailments are saved yet the pot dries out once these vulnerable, needy, disabled children are lovingly placed into the arms of their parents and sent home? Why is it that at that point almost all parents left out in the cold? The "AT Home Program" is not adequately funded, parents receive little supports or respite, if any, and then after 19 long years there is again no funding at the CLBC end. Any answers to that question?
(Name withheld to protect family confidentiality)
The Minister responsible for Community Living, Stephanie Cadieux, suggested in media reports today that families and other community living advocates have been exaggerating the crisis in BC's community living sector because only 63 complaints have been filed to date with a new client support team.
The minister said her client support team has ordered CLBC to provide more services after validating more than 60% of the complaints reviewed to date.
- Find out more about the Minister's community living client support team and how you can file a complaint.
MOMS has written to the Minister to raise a number of concerns relating to her client support team and her comments in the media. Minister Cadieux and Premier Christy Clark are still trying to manage the community living crisis as a public relations exercise when what is needed is a commitment to working in good faith with families and other community partners to effect real change.
Read a copy of our letter below:
Dear Minister Cadieux
According to reports in today's media, you have stated that the crisis in community living crisis "is not maybe as large as some would like us to believe it is" because your new client support team has only received 63 complaints.
We wish to express our disappointment at the disrespect your statement shows for the many hundreds of caring families, caregivers and community partners who have contributed enormous volunteer time and effort, in good faith, to help to identify key challenges in community living and offer positive solutions.
Here's a very interesting retrospective from a Burnaby social worker on the problems and flaws that have dogged CLBC from its inception. (She is incorrect about exemption from the Freedom if Information Act - CLBC does have to comply.)
A history of Community Living
By Tracey Young, Burnaby Now
November 11, 2011
Community Living B.C. was doomed from the very beginning. It was never about greater individual and family control and improved service delivery. People have a short memory about how it was that Community Living B.C. was created. Read more
She argues that the flawed CLBC model was doomed from Day 1 and notes that the current crisis is just the latest, coming on the heels of the decision to return children's services to MCFD due to widespread concerns about serious gaps in how children under 19 and their families were being supported by CLBC. She also points out that scandal and alleged contracting irregularities dogged CLBC even before it was officially created in 2005.
Many argued that despite the grand vision, hopes and promises, CLBC was always intended by government to serve primarily as a mechanism to deflect political flack while doing the dirty work of cutting/controlling community living spending.
Media reports continues to expose disturbing complaints about how the BC government and Community Living BC have been managing the $700 million community living program that is supposed to provide residential and other supports to adults with developmental disabilities in BC.
New reports in the past week have revealed more disturbing practices by CLBC and gut-wrenching stories told by families of adults victimized by a brutal agenda to cut costs regardless of the human impacts.
Here are some of the latest stories on the ongoing crisis, with sincere appreciation for the tremendous work being done by BC journalists to expose the reality within community living, as BC Premier Christy Clark continues to resist growing calls for a full public enquiry:
Victoria Times Colonist reporter Lindsay Kines got hold of a secret CLBC report that warned CLBC-funded "home share" placements had gone badly awry due to a lack of standards and oversight, resulting in allegations of serious sexual and physicial abuse. After receiving the report, CLBC's response was to award more home share contracts to the agency responsible. Read the Times Colonist story
Vancouver Sun reporter Jonathan Fowlie investigates allegations that CLBC downgraded the needs assessment rating for one young woman to justify cuts to her supports. Read the Vancouver Sun story
- Here is Global BC on the same story
Vancouver Sun reporter Denise Ryan has been behind a compelling in-depth series highlighting the plight of families dealing with CLBC:
- Woman battling cancer must also fight for autistic son
- Mom's attempt to beat poverty on hold
- Navigating the maze of Community Living BC
- Struggle for care: mother fights to get special needs son back home
More disturbing reports from the front lines of the continuing crisis in community living:
- CTV Vancouver Island: Family turns to CTV for help for disabled son
- Global TV BC: Life in turmoil
- Langley Times: Move still on for Langley group home residents
- Kamloops Daily News: Parents, advocates rally against CLBC cuts
Meanwhile, newspaper editorial boards, columnists and Op Eds have joined the growing chorus calling on Premier Christy Clark to launch an independent review of CLBC:
- Victoria Times Colonist editorial
- Nanaimo Daily News editorial
- Provincial columnist Paul Willcocks
- UVic Prof. Michael Prince's Op Ed for the BC CLAG
How many more families need to sacrifice their privacy and tell their life stories in front of TV cameras before the BC government will "come to its senses," as one frustrated dad told Global News last night, and stop the betrayal of our most vulnerable citizens?
Dawn & Cyndi, MOMS