"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our American Friends

South of the border the debate continues on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Is it good? Or is it bad?
Despite bipartisan support for a United Nations disability rights treaty, a group of Republican lawmakers is holding up U.S. Senate consideration of the matter.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee planned to consider the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last week, but was unable to after Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and a number of other Republicans reportedly placed a hold on it.

The move effectively squashed efforts by supporters of the treaty to get the U.S. to ratify it before the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Thursday.

While the U.S. initially signed the U.N. Convention in 2009, Senate approval is needed for ratification of the treaty, which calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for people with disabilities worldwide.
Why, you ask?

Why would any part of the American government be reluctant to ratify an international convention recognizing the rights of person with disabilities? Rights which surely must be recognized and held in high esteem in such a great democracy as the US, a shining city uppon a hill?

For the very same reason that the US is hesitant (or outright refuses) to ratify other international conventions, of course.
The delay comes amid opposition from the Home School Legal Defense Association which is urging its members to tell Congress that the treaty “surrenders U.S. sovereignty to unelected U.N. bureaucrats, and will threaten parental control over children with disabilities.”

In a statement to the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill, a DeMint spokesman said he wanted to delay the treaty over largely similar concerns..
That's right, folks. It just wouldn't do to have anyone else telling them what to do to or [gasp] interfere with their sovereignty.

Although I have to wonder just how well that is working for them.
The failure of the US to join with other nations in taking on international human rights legal obligations has undercut its international leadership on key issues, limiting its influence, its stature, and its credibility in promoting respect for human rights around the world.
And I must admit, I do find this thinking somewhat puzzling.
Sen. DeMint strongly opposes this treaty, as the United States is already the world leader in addressing the needs of the disabled and it’s foolish to think Americans need to sign away our sovereignty to exert our influence around the world.
So let me get this straight ... because the US is the world leader in addressing the needs of the disabled (I wonder what their own people have to say in that regard?) and they can/will continue to exert their influence around the world (now, here is where I get lost ... are they referring to their influence with regard to recognizing the rights of persons with disabilities?) because naturally they will have so much more moral clout around the issue given that they refuse to sign the Convention?

I must say that I find it particularly strange that the HSLDA is such a vocal opponent. Perhaps they are concerned that constitutionally enshrining "the right of persons with disabilities to education" [Art. 24] will somehow interfere with a parent's right to "direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms."

Oh, wait, now I get it.
There is no doubt that the Obama administration is waiting to see how they do on this convention to push through an entire package of UN treaties—chiefly the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, CEDAW (the women’s treaty), and the small arms treaty.
The poor souls are afraid. Afraid, I tell ya.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"In Need of Services" = "In Need of Protection"?

A very interesting decision out of the US, in which the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a lower court finding that a mother had neglected her teenage daughter by refusing to pick her up from an emergency shelter.

Wait a minute, that sounds like abandonment, doesn't it?

Maybe but perhaps not if you have a good enough reason. In this case, the mother refused to take the girl home until she received counseling services.

Apparently the teenage daughter had a lot of behavioral issues, which the mother (a single parent) was attempting to address. And apparently it was the policy of the state's Department of Child Services to use a portion of state law that says parents are "unable" to provide necessary care as legal justification to "help" them secure services for their children with mental illness or a developmental disability.

In other words, in plain English, the government's policy was to substantiate neglect findings against a parent if the parent had legitimately been unable to access the services the child needed. Unable to access services because the government had, you know, refused to provide them.

Sound familiar?

The mother had twice called police after her daughter had become physically aggressive. Not surprisingly, police contacted DCS officials, who initiated an assessment and when, after the second incident, the woman refused to bring her daughter (who by that point had been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder) home until she received counseling, a petition was filed with the court alleging the girl was a "child in need of services" (which here, in Nova Scotia, we would refer to as a "child in need of protection") due to the mother's failure to provide necessary care.

Even though the mother had taken the child home a few weeks after first being requested and despite the fact that the Department's own investigation showed that the child, not the mother, had been the aggressor in the altercations, the girl was found to be "in need of services". To add insult to injury, the mother was ordered to participate in services and and pay DCS $25 per week for reimbursement of service costs.

Friday, July 20, 2012

'Ride The Wave'

I thought this was too important to just leave in the "Places To Be" Section of the sidebar, so here you go. Now don't go saying I never do anything for you!

Family Forum - Securing A Bright Future

See you there, I hope!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Telling It Like It Is

Kudos to Dr. Brian Hennen for telling it like it is when it comes to life for persons with developmental disabilities in Nova Scotia.

I met Dr. Hennen and his colleagues for the first time the end of May when I took the Blue Jay to a transition clinic for young adults in Halifax. And I must say that I was very impressed with what they were/are doing - armed with the latest clinical guidelines for the care of adults with developmental disabilities, Dr. Hennen (a psychiatrist) and Dr. Clarke (a family doctor), joined by a supporting cast of a few other doctors and nurses offer a complete assessment of the young adult's physical and mental health, making appropriate recommendations to the family doctor for continuing care and, where necessary, referrals to other specialists.

Yeah, I was impressed - because really, how often do individuals with special needs (particularly adults) appear to be after-thoughts found on the side of the road, left to fend for themselves best as they can? Whether it be the health system, the criminal justice or elsewhere, this sadly appears more likely than not.

So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see Dr. Hennen's op ed in today's paper - an op ed which essentially sets out Nova Scotia's history (the good, the bad and the ugly) over the past five years in dealing with persons with developmental disabilities.

Offering both kudos and criticism where appropriate, Dr. Hennen notes the self-assessment undertaken with much fan-fare in 2008 by the Services for Persons with Disability (SPD) program, following which fewer than half of the resulting recommendations were fully implemented to the two reviews conducted by that same program following reports of abuse at a residential care centre in 2010 and the terrible treatment of an autistic young man in the Braemore Home in Sydney in 2011; both resulting in numerous recommendations, few of which were actually acted upon.

From research showing that half of the 156 adult Nova Scotians with developmental disabilities interviewed were unhappy with their living arrangements to the April 2011 report to the Standing Committee on Community Services concerning the inadequacy of residential options available to Nova Scotians with developmental disabilities (including the fact that one-third of individuals referred with developmental disability and psychiatric or behavioural challenges did not actually have mental illness, but were troubled by the inappropriate residential situations in which they had been placed). Kudos to the committee’s members who actually had the guts to admit their lack of awareness of the key issues.

From the Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention program for pre-school children with autism started in 2005 (for which demand far outstripped supply) that five years later finally opened its door to allow access for all such children to the highly successful Access to Community Education & Employment (ACEE) program, piloted in 2007, that offers a one-year program in life skills and vocational experiences to youth following the completion of high school, which was finally awarded secure funding in 2009.

Alas, Dr. Hennen fails to note the ACEE program (like so many) is only available to youth who reside in the Halifax Regional Municipality, leaving many, many who could benefit from it out in the cold (and most likely stuck in high school until they are 21 due to the lack of any other options).

Looking forward, Dr. Hennen notes that although that five years ago teaching programs for health professionals had little developmental disability content, the new undergraduate curriculum provides medical students with a minimum of 13 hours of such content over four years, with a further six hours of inter-professional learning about developmental disabilities planned. Family practice trainees will also have defined learning experiences in each of two years of training.

Leaving us exactly where, you ask?

I could do no better than offer Dr. Hennen's final words in reply.
As are other jurisdictions, Nova Scotia will be judged by how well it supports its citizens with developmental disabilities in their bid to live independently and contribute to our community. As care providers, teachers, advocates and government departments, we know we can do better. 


Cross-posted at Free Fallling