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2014-03-31 at 13:43

Out of options

Mirella Stroink, associate professor of community psychology at Lakehead University, says there are shortcomings in the developmental services field.
Matt Vis,
Mirella Stroink, associate professor of community psychology at Lakehead University, says there are shortcomings in the developmental services field.
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By Matt Vis,

Families trying to care for adults with developmental needs are often left with no options, say experienced field workers.

When those families reach the point when they lose the ability to provide their own care, they must often make a heartbreaking and personally devastating decision

Mirella Stroink, associate professor of community psychology at Lakehead University, says there are overloaded wait lists and shortages of resources. 

“(Caregivers) are being told that in order to access services for their loved one they’re going to have to declare them homeless and the system will pick them up,” Stroink said at a workshop the Thunder Bay Family Network on Monday.

“How painful is that for a family to say my son or daughter is homeless and then the system will pick them up? That’s unacceptable and it’s not that anybody is at fault but the system can’t respond quickly enough to meet the need that is out there.”

The Own the Future workshop, which was hosted at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, gave parents the opportunity to meet with experts in the field to discuss challenges and possible solutions to improving developmental services care.

The desire is there to inspire change, particularly with younger children who are currently in the school system.

“We see a lot of families of children in the schools who are excited and passionate and concerned and want to see they can have power in the system and be agents of change for their loved ones,” she said.

“Families of children are already exhausted from having to advocate for their loved one through the education system. By the time they start to realize their child is a teenager and getting to the end of inclusive education and what’s next they realize the adult system is worse.”

She added the developmental services sector has a history of grassroots movements inspiring change, pointing to the shift more than 50 years ago from institutionalized treatment to a community living approach.

Those that work in the field believe there is room to maximize the effectiveness of supports.

Michael Hull, a past executive director of Community Living Dryden-Sioux Lookout, said the manner in which individuals receive support needs to be refined to each specific case.

He said each individual has unique needs and responses and that a broad approach is not ideal.

“Some people feel the way services are delivered is overly institutional. It doesn’t focus on the individual, it focuses more on the support needs of the individual and that’s what we’re trying to get away from,” Hull said.

“When you’re looking at supporting someone in an institutional way it’s just not going to work. You’re going to have people complaining and resisting whatever you want them to do.”

Using the example of having individuals physically capable of playing hockey being included in a group, he said it could not only enhance the people’s quality of life but it can free up as much as three hours of time where a paid support worker is not needed.

If community inclusion can be increased on a wide scale, Hull said substantial savings could be created to reinvest into the system.

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