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B.C. still denying services to children based on IQ: report

Lindsay Kines, Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2008

VICTORIA -- B.C. continues to flout a court ruling and deny services to severely impaired children based on their IQ test scores, the province's representative for children and youth said today.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled last year the province has no authority to turn children away simply because their IQ is slightly higher than 70.

The practice, however, continues to this day. "We know many children and youth with special needs are being left with little or no support based on as few as three IQ points," Turpel-Lafond said in a critical report on B.C.'s system of services for special needs children, released today.

The NDP seized on the report to accuse Children and Family Development Minister Tom Christensen of "a new level of arrogance and contempt."

"The government is simply disobeying the law and acting illegally," NDP critic Adrian Dix said. "They've picked out the single least powerful group in society and they've said, 'You shouldn't enjoy the protection of the courts.' I think that's beneath contempt."

Christensen, however, said the IQ test is just one way in which government assesses children's needs, and that it's "consistent" with what happens in other jurisdictions.

He said government could make the IQ test legal by simply passing legislation, but has decided to take a different path.

"We're looking for criteria that will ensure that we don't have people who are vulnerable and require services fall through the cracks," he said. "We're going to take our time in doing that work effectively to ensure that we end up with the best system of supports in the country."

Turpel-Lafond, however, made it clear today the government has a long way to go.

Her review found a special needs system that's so confusing and fragmented it's difficult for families to navigate.

The Ministry for Children and Family Development provide some of the 90 available programs and services.

Community Living B.C., a Crown agency, provides others.

Different programs have different eligibility requirements. And there is no one-stop place where families can find out what is available for their child.

"Families that are already vulnerable or are not experienced in self advocacy would have little success figuring out what services would best suit the needs of their child and how to access those services," Turpel-Lafond said.

She also expressed concern that government fails to support youth with special needs as they reach 19 and enter the adult system. In some cases, they end up on the streets or in the court system, she said.

She urged the province to extend services until age 24.

"A prudent parent wouldn't send a developmentally impaired 19-year-old to the street and the state shouldn't do that," she said.

Christensen said his ministry is looking closely at how to smooth the transition into adulthood. But he said the cut-off point is less important than ensuring those who need ongoing help continue to receive it without interruption.

The NDP said that isn't happening now. Speaking in the legislature, MLA Doug Routley cited a case, reported recently in the Victoria Times Colonist, of a 19-year-old developmentally disabled man who has been homeless for months on Vancouver Island. In care since the age of 10, the young man showed up at his former foster dad's house last November and has been staying there ever since.<

"The family is appealing daily for help from CLBC [Community Living B.C.] and from this minister, but to no avail," Routley said.
Christensen said government generally explores different residential options, and can't force a person to accept services.

Michael Steele, the man's foster dad, however, rejected implications that either he or the young man are refusing help. Steele said the reality is government staff have suggested few options, and seem content to leave the young man where he is or let him return to the streets.

"They're not telling [the minister] the truth," he said. "They're feeding him spin."

ACT posts news reports and other sources on this website for the information of our readers only. ACT neither endorses nor condemns this material. We urge readers to consider this information with a critical eye and to form their own opinions about its validity or applicability to their situation.

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