One of B.C.’s leading organizations for children with special needs is calling for changes to avoid a repeat of a heartbreaking murder-suicide in Prince Rupert.
Inclusion BC says families are struggling, not with the demands of their special needs children, but with the barriers put in front of them by a government “that may keep information from them, dismiss them, wear them down and leave them waiting on wait list with no hope,” Executive Director Faith Bodnar said.
Last April, Angie Robinson hanged herself after giving her 16-year-old autistic son Robert a lethal dose of an anti-anxiety drug. A coroner’s jury made 25 recommendations to prevent similar tragedies.
Among its recommendations, the jury called for the ministry to provide child safety training to social workers dealing with special needs children to identify when to involve child services.
It also called for a review of the autism funding cap of $6,000 per year for children over age 6 and consider increasing funding to ensure higher-need children are being accommodated.
The jury also recommended that the ministry ensure caregivers of special needs children, living with conditions such a mental health issues or domestic violence, are assessed to determine appropriate support requirements.
“We can’t bring Angie and Robert back but their deaths do not have to be in vain,” said Michelle Watson, Robinson’s sister.
Inclusion BC is now looking to partner with the government, proposing six regional advocates to work for the 50,000 individuals in the province with developmental disabilities.
But when raised in the legislature today, Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux offered little in response.
“What we do as a government is attempt as best we can to provide supports and services to assist those families in managing and creating a good life for themselves and their children,” she said.
But the problem is only expected to get worse with roughly 150 children coming out of care and 500 to 700 people newly eligible for Community Living BC.
It may too late for Angie Robinson and Robert, but for families of special needs children, any help could be the lifeline they desperately need.
“We are caring, conscientious, responsible, hardworking people that are asking for help and not a temporary Band-Aid,” said Kim Heddon, a parent of a daughter with autism.
-With files from Kylie Stanton and Canadian Press