Manitoba advocate releases systemic review of services for children with disabilities

Ainsley Krone. Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth

A new report by the office of the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth looks at improving the lives of children with disabilities and their families.

The report, which acting advocate Ainsley Krone said marks the first time her office has conducted a systematic, independent review of the province’s disability services for children, was released Thursday.

“Manitoba families are struggling. Manitoba’s services for children with disabilities are underfunded and under resourced. This is not just the case for children with complex medical and behavioural needs,” Krone said in the report.

“Our caregiver survey and consultations with parents reveal that gaps in service exist for many children with disabilities and their families. Families who can, pay out-of-pocket for supports.

“Yet families that experience multiple layers of disadvantage struggle more, including Indigenous caregivers and single-parent households. Some children with disabilities may enter the care of child welfare in order to receive services even when no child protection concerns exist.”

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The report makes nine recommendations to increase the effectiveness and responsiveness of disability services for children in Manitoba:

  • Enact a new law to provide a continuum of supports and services for children with disabilities and their families that is in line with their rights
  • Develop a protocol with child welfare to coordinate services when needed
  • Fund a plan to reduce wait times for diagnostic assessments
  • Develop systems navigation supports for families while on wait lists
  • Review and address case management caseloads
  • Improve accuracy of data about First Nations, Metis and Inuit children
  • Gather regular feedback from children and families on services
  • Make a policies and procedures manual available to the public
  • Establish a full continuum of respite supports for families

These recommendations, Krone said, are grounded in the story of “Emma” (not her real name), a girl with disabilities from rural Manitoba who was involved in the child welfare system and died accidentally as a teenager.

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The circumstances around Emma’s death led to an investigation by the Manitoba Advocate, and the report details the struggles her family had with finding the appropriate systemic supports and resources as she grew older.

“In accordance with international law and Canadian legal principles of non-discrimination, children and youth with disabilities in Manitoba have the right to effective government services that ensure substantive equality,” said Krone.

“That means children like Emma are entitled to equality in outcomes and the resources necessary to ensure they can realize their rights.

“Families of children with disabilities have the right to receive appropriate supports to maintain family life and prevent separation.”

The full report can be found on the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth’s website.

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