Foster families who take care of children with disabilities in Quebec are receiving an average 70 per cent more financial support than biological parents in similar situations.
That is the main finding of a study commissioned by two community organizations working with the parents of handicapped children.
Analyse économique du soutien aux familles comptant un enfant handicapé (French only) found that parents receive an average of $25,632 a year, while foster families get an average of $44,264 of government support.
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“My son will never be independent. We have to feed him through a tube every four hours,” said Marie-Ève Tétreault, whose son, Zakary, is four-years-old.
“He needs care 24 hours a day, which costs almost $55,000 a year.”
Tétreault added she is unable to work as she has to care for her son, noting that Zakary would have access to better services if he was in foster care.
“It makes no sense and it’s unfair,” she said.
The organizations point out that foster families who care for a child with disabilities receive different amounts of money based on the child’s limitations.
This aid is evaluated on a scale of 1 to 6.
Biological parents, however, have to qualify for the supplement for handicapped children with exceptional care needs (SEHNSE).
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“It’s all or nothing. It’s not based on levels of disability,” said Nathalie Richard, founder of l’Étoile de Pacho.
“More than half of ‘natural’ families have their applications refused because their child ‘is not disabled enough.'”
She insists this means only 1,634 of the 36,000 children with disabilities in Quebec qualify for SEHNSE.
“The scale already exists. It’s being used to figure out how much help foster families need,” explained Geneviève Dion, co-founder of Parents jusqu’au bout.
Her six-year-old daughter Naomie lives with a genetic syndrome and requires the same care as a newborn baby.
“Why not offer equal treatment for all families, have they be biological or foster?”
As a result of the report’s findings, l’Étoile de Pacho and Parents jusqu’au bout have started the Equity for All Children with Disabilities Campaign.
“It is time to put an end to this injustice and ensure equitable treatment for all parents who wish to keep a child with disabilities at home,” the organizations argue.