Currently there’s a strong focus on the financial impacts of the pandemic. There’s an increased awareness of precarious finances due to job loss, lack of childcare, and exposed inequities within our various systems of support.
For families with disabled children and children with complex learning needs, this is nothing new. Over the course of the summer, we conducted a couple of focus groups to determine the most pressing issues for our families. Finances were one of the concerns and this year we included questions around them in the new optional demographics section of our Exclusion Tracker. This is the first year we have asked our community about out-of-pocket expenditures towards our childrens’ specialized support needs.
We asked if parents/guardians are paying for additional supports outside of school. The answer was a resounding yes. Within the last year BC parents paid forWithin the last year, BC parents paid for many services not provided in school or by Health or MCFD, including tutoring, occupational therapy, psychoeducational assessments, and more.:
- 28.1% – in home sessions (eg. Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), interventionists
- 21.9% – Speech Language Pathology (SLP) sessions
- 17.2% – Occupational Therapy (OT) sessions
- 4.7% – Physical Therapy (PT) sessions
- 14% – private diagnosis
- 12.5% – Psychoeducational assessment
- 14% – SLP assessment
- 12.5% – OT assessment
- 4.7% – PT assessment
- 32.8% – counseling
- 28.1% – tutoring
Our April 2020 snapshot survey in the early days of the pandemic found that 35.9% of respondents were neither employed nor in school.
Exclusion often leads to job instability for parents as we navigate unstable schedules or increased work absences. We also have a number of parents who juggle their time for therapies, appointments, providing unpaid nursing care, and more, for their children.
The bottom line is that a number of our families are stretched financially, and have already been getting by on a single-income while the other parent, if present, assumes the role of primary coordinator for all supports and liaison with the schools. In single parent families all of this falls to the same caregiver.
Those of us who can assume this additional financial burden will do so – because otherwise our children will be deprived of these specialized supports. And those of us who can’t take on any additional costs are unable to access therapies, assessments and supports. This is completely inequitable.
The added stress and subsequent strain on caregiver relationships cannot be overstated. A recent survey conducted by Simon Fraser University and ACT-Autism Community Training found that “More than a third of parents report safety concerns for their family and almost 10 per cent have considered putting their child into [Ministry] care.”
Another recent study by University of British Columbia (UBC) Law found that:
- “A large majority of the [child protection] cases involved a woman raising children in conditions of extreme economic disadvantage and social marginalization, consistent with other data that shows that apprehensions occur more often in poor families headed by lone mothers”.
- “These cases are particularly striking in light of the fact that, as judges acknowledge, children with extensive “special needs”, particularly older children, are difficult to place for adoption and more likely to remain in foster care indefinitely.”
- “In general, the additional “burdens” that come with parenting a“special needs” child in a society not equipped to support that mother are expected to be borne by that mother alone.The mother is held responsible for any limitations in her caregiving and only so much support is available before a child will be removed.”
And if a child is removed or relinquished into Ministry (MCFD) Care?
Last year, Victoria News reported that, “According to the ministry’s online reporting portal, in 2017/18 the ministry spent $306 million on “Children & Youth In Care.” In comparison, the ministry spent $119 million on “Family Support Programs.” But it isn’t clear which families the ministry is supporting with that money — foster parents or parents at risk of losing their kids.”
They continued, “Due to financial constraints, requests for services are denied if they do not meet the extremely high criteria — meaning that services aren’t available until family is in crisis,” wrote one B.C. social worker with nearly a decade of experience, who asked that her identity be protected because she fears she losing her job. “Prevention is definitely not a priority. Crisis intervention is,” she wrote.”
Given these findings, here are some actions that the Ministries of Education, Advanced Education, Children and Family Development, and Health, could collaborate together to:
- Train and recruit more specialists to reduce assessment wait times and provide services in schools and communities
- Tap into current post-secondary students to assist with the backlog/large case loads
- Increase funding to families of children with disabilities who already qualify and/or are in current funding programs
- Expand these programs to include all families of children with additional support needs so they can also access much needed assessments, therapies and support services
If you would like to make a presentation to your school District on the data we have collected, and why they should be tracking exclusion please reach out to us, firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need to use the tracker, the link is in the top menu on the BCEdAccess website, and also here: https://bcedaccess.com/exclusion-tracker/