(2011) BRA father’s right to love

December 12, 2018

2011 

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/bra-fathers-right-to-love-2295560.html

BRA father’s right to love

Man reunited with son after epic secret court battle to win his liberty

By Andy McSmith and Jerome Taylor

Friday 10 June 2011 00:00 

The Independent

TERI PENGILLEY

Mark Neary, the quietly spoken father who challenged the might of his local council, has won the final battle to secure the liberty of his autistic son.

In emotional scenes at the High Court, Hillingdon Council offered Mr Neary a public apology after a stinging ruling that it had breached a basic principle, when for almost a year it deprived 21-year-old Steven Neary of his liberty.

All social services departments across the country were warned by the judge not to abuse the power they have under the 2005 Mental Capacity Act to lock up people who are judged unable to make decisions for themselves.

It should only be used under “stringent conditions”, Mr Justice Peter Jackson said. “It is not to be used by a local authority as a means of getting its own way on the question of whether it is in the person’s best interests to be in the place at all.”

The Neary case is unique in British legal history because it is the first time that a judge has permitted almost every detail of a private hearing before the previously closed Court of Protection to be made public. The decision to open up the hearings was made after The Independent, backed by other newspapers, argued that the case threw up issues of genuine public concern about the treatment of people said to be “lacking mental capacity”. The judgment was accompanied by an order that prohibits publication of only a small numbers of details of the court proceedings.

Standing on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice after yesterday’s hearing, Mr Neary said he could never have won the battle to get his son home again without support from the mass media. “We wouldn’t have been here today if it hadn’t been for the press involvement,” he said. He added that Steven had not been harmed or upset by the publicity.

He also praised the courts, which had been “absolutely brilliant”, from the first hearing last December when an order was made allowing Steven to go home, to yesterday’s “fantastic” judgment. “Hopefully other people will read this judgment and fight for what’s right for their kids,” he said.

Specialists in this field of law hailed the judgment as a breakthrough for family rights. “It’s a strong judgment and comes as a stiff warning to local authorities,” said Paul Ridge of the law firm Bindmans. “It’s a call to councils to wake up to the serious implications of detaining disabled people and splitting families.”

John Wadham, of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “This is a significant victory for the human rights of disabled people and their carers. [Steven] like everyone else, has a right to personal freedom and a family life.”

Mr Neary has won widespread respect for the persistence with which he fought for his son’s freedom. Yesterday, he was close to breaking down as he listened to the praise he received from the judge, who said: “Mark Neary is an unusual man and he can be proud of the way in which he has stood up for his son’s interests.”

For almost the whole of 2010, Steven Neary was denied the right to live with his father, who had looked after him for almost the whole of his 21 years, because the council’s social services department had decided that it would be in his best interests to be in council care.

On 30 December 2009, feeling ill and exhausted, he asked the council to look after his son, expecting that they would be reunited after “a couple of weeks”. Four days later, he was shocked to learn that social workers proposed to keep Steven in care while they decided what would be in his long-term interests. Looking at the record of a meeting of professionals on 15 January, Mr Justice Jackson concluded: “Hillingdon had by now decided that it would not let Steven go home, but had not revealed this to Mr Neary. Its approach was rather to manage his opposition.”

In February, a social worker sent an email to the support unit where Steven was being held, complaining about the father’s persistence. The email said: “There is always going to be something or other that Mr Neary will bring up and more often than not we are having to appease his needs rather than Steven’s.” Mr Justice Jackson said that Mr Neary “had done nothing to deserve this disrespect”.

In April, after Steven had wandered out of the unit where he was held, seized the glasses off a passer-by and thrown them on to the pavement, breaking them, the professionals decided to take out a Deprivation of Liberty Order. But they kept his father in the dark for three months, until Mr Neary was shocked to receive a letter in July telling him that Steven was to be kept in care permanently.

The judge said that by keeping Steven in a home against his family’s wishes, the council breached ancient rights that were written into the Magna Carta in 1215.

After the hearing, Linda Sanders, director of social care at Hillingdon Council, said: “I would like to apologise to Steven and his father. It is clear that there have been times when we have let both of them down.”

Liberty and open justice: A landmark case

June 2009 The Independent applies to attend proceedings at the Court of Protection, which until now have been kept secret.

30 December 2009 Mark Neary asks Hillingdon Council to take care of his son, Steven, for what he thought would be merely a few days while he recovered from an illness.

4 January 2010 A professionals’ meeting considers keeping Steven in care longer in order to assess his condition.

22 February 2010 A social worker complains about Steven’s father in an email, saying: “There is always going to be something or other that Mr Neary will bring up” – a comment which the judge said Mark Neary had “done nothing to deserve”.

11 April 2010 Steven escapes from care.

15 April 2010 An order is signed depriving Steven of his liberty, while his father is kept in the dark.

13 May 2010 A judge makes a landmark ruling in favour of The Independent’s legal challenge to attend a separate Court of Protection case.

8 July 2010 Hillingdon Council writes to Mr Neary telling him that his son will not be returning home. He decides to go public on the case.

23 December 2010 Steven’s case goes to court for the first time, where an interim order that he be allowed to go home is subsequently granted.

28 February 2011 A judge rules that the Neary case can be reported by the media for the first time, as Mr Neary describes in court how he felt “powerless” after the council prevented his son’s return home.

9 June 2011 Hillingdon Council apologises to Mark Neary after the court rules that Steven had been illegally detained.

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Parents with disability live in fear of losing their children (2015)

December 6, 2018

 

(2015) Parents With Disabilities: These Moms Live In Fear Of Losing Their Kids 

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/10/parents-with-disabilities_n_7251484.html

05/10/2015 10:11 EDT | Updated 05/11/2015 01:59 EDT

Parents With Disabilities: These Moms Live In Fear Of Losing Their Kids

“My kids were fully cared for. There was no danger to them. I did the right thing, but I got screwed.”

Patricia Tomasi  The Huffington Post Canada

 

GETTY IMAGES

Nicole Reid has been battling postpartum anxiety since the birth of her daughter five years ago. The symptoms include panic attacks, heart palpitations, worrying thoughts and insomnia. Her treatment plan includes medication and regular visits to a psychiatrist. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right med combinations, but Reid has remained committed to the maintenance of her mental health.

In April 2014, on the third day of starting a new prescription, she began experiencing a depression that left her emotionally and physically unwell. “I was throwing up, sleeping for hours and I’d start crying at the drop of a hat,” she says. “It was scary.”

The stay-at-home mom called her doctor, who told her she was likely experiencing side effects from the new meds. Since he couldn’t fit her in to his schedule immediately to change them, he advised her to go to the emergency room. So Reid and her husband went to their local hospital in Newmarket, Ont., leaving their two children with her brother-in-law.

A hospital crisis worker asked Reid about her medical history and the different kinds of medication she’d taken. She asked the 27-year-old mom about her plan for the care of her children while she dealt with her current situation. Reid told the crisis worker that her husband would care for them, and that she didn’t feel she was a danger to herself or anyone else.

After 10 minutes, the crisis worker ordered Reid to spend 72 hours in the mental health wing of the hospital for further evaluation, and the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) was notified.

“I was distraught,” remembers Reid. “I felt like she rushed to judgment. I felt like the depression and anxiety was clearly my fault because usually CAS only comes when there’s an issue with the family. But there was no issue.”

Reid spent the night at the hospital alone and afraid.

The next day a psychiatrist assessed her, deemed her not to be a threat to her children, changed her medication and Reid was allowed to return home.

When she walked in the door, her husband said CAS had called and would be coming to their home to interview them and their children.

Reid felt horrible. During the first visit, the CAS worker asked if she could speak with her 11-year-old stepson privately. “I wanted to say no,” Reid says, “But the CAS is kind of like the police. What am I going to say?”

Her stepson later told her the CAS worker asked him what Mommy does when she’s sad, whether Reid spent a lot of her time sleeping, if he was happy and if he wanted anything to change.

The worker also asked Reid to sign paperwork allowing CAS to speak with her psychiatrist. “I signed it because I was scared,” says Reid. “I didn’t know my rights.”

Three weeks later, the worker came back to do a follow-up interview. A month after that, Reid received a letter in the mail informing her that the investigation and case had been closed.

Reid isn’t alone in her experience. Disability advocates say mothers with mental and physical disabilities face greater scrutiny and are at higher risk of losing custody of their children than able-bodied mothers. And that possibility instills tremendous fear.

Fighting Stereotypes

Historically, society has been worried about people with disabilities becoming parents. Up until the 1970s, Alberta and B.C. had Sexual Sterilization Acts, under which the provincial governments had the power to force sterilization on targeted groups of people, including those with disabilities.

Even today, disabled mothers are often told that having children will “worsen their conditions, that their disabilities will be passed on to their children, and that they won’t be competent mothers,” says Bonnie Brayton, the executive director of Disabled Women’s Network of Canada (DAWN).

“When I was pregnant, I got a really strong message from my doctor and gynecologist that they didn’t think I should have another child,” recalls Brayton, who has post-polio syndrome.

“In reality, I could have. There was a lot of anxiety that they projected on me that I don’t know in retrospect was appropriate. I terminated the pregnancy.”

When they do have children, “the majority of parents with disabilities have a fear of their children being apprehended, because you know you are being watched — right, wrong or otherwise,” says Melanie Moore, who works with disabled parents at Toronto’s Centre for Independent Living. “Because you have a disability, you are at a greater risk of having CAS called.”

Moore is visually impaired and has a son. When he accidentally burned his hand on the stove (not an uncommon occurrence among kids), she rehearsed what she would say to the doctors and nurses in the taxi on the way to the hospital. She wanted to avoid a potential CAS investigation.

“The attitudinal barriers come from the larger community that think people with disabilities can’t parent,” says Moore. “We can.”

Parenting just looks a little different for those with disabilities. While Moore gets her son ready for school just like everyone else, “the aids that I may use to travel while taking him to school or daycare include: a guide dog or a cane,” she explains. “For myself, in preparing for work, I use a colour detector, which says what colour my clothes are. Some parents however, may need more supports if they have multiple disabilities.”

Story continues below slideshow:

Parenting With Disabilities

SEE GALLERY

Rate Of Removal

The federal government doesn’t have a “single, official definition of disability,” but DAWN says a disability includes “mobility, sensory and intellectual or mental impairments, as well as chronic illness, mental health challenges or physical differences that limit functioning.”

According to Statistics Canada, approximately one million Canadians are parents living with mental or physical disabilities, and more than half are moms.

A 2012 report released by the National Council on Disability in the U.S. found that “removal rates” for parents with a psychiatric or intellectual disability were as high as 80 per cent, and parents who are deaf or blind report very high rates of child removal or loss of parenting rights.

“If you find those numbers astounding, I would suggest it’s higher in Canada,” Moore says.

One of the only Canadian reports on the subject was released last fall. It documented the experiences of 25 moms with disabilities, and was published by the West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).

The report concluded that mothers with a mental health diagnosis in Canada were three times more likely to have been involved with child protection services than mothers without a diagnosis.

Story continues below infographic:

parents disabilities

LEAF launched its investigation following the 2012 case of Maricyl Palisoc and Charles Wilton, an Ontario couple with cerebral palsy. Late in Palisoc’s pregnancy, CAS threatened to remove their baby unless they provided 24-hour care by an “able-bodied attendant.”

Cerebral palsy affects motor skills and speech and CAS workers were concerned over how the parents would physically care for their baby. Friends stepped in to help pay the cost of a full-time caregiver and their son, William, was allowed to stay.

A year later, in 2013, the Toronto Star followed up with the family in their home in an assisted-living facility. They have personal care workers on site around the clock and the couple is able to deal with much of William’s needs on their own.

“We both will help…William deal with whatever comes along as a family,” Palisoc told The Star. “We are not worried.”

The Power Of Fear

Although support services like the ones used by Palisoc and Wilton can help provide relief, the fear of scrutiny can prevent moms with disabilities from accessing the help they need.

“This happens to a lot of disabled mothers,” says Jewelles Smith, a project co-ordinator for DAWN who is based in B.C. “Even if they are struggling, they are afraid to ask for help, because you’re seen as a bad parent failing to meet all the needs of your children and it must be because of your disability.”

Smith, who is now collecting stories of moms with disabilities for her PhD, has post-traumatic stress disorder and spina bifida. When she was working on her master’s degree, stress caused her physical symptoms to flare up, and she was worried about what might happen if she reached out for help. Her sons were eight and 10 at the time.

“When the ministry becomes involved in any way, that’s when a high loss of custody occurs. And regaining custody is almost impossible if you are a disabled mother in Canada,” she says.

Risk Of Custody Loss

Toronto child protection lawyer Tammy Law is currently helping a client fight for custody of her seven-month-old baby. CAS apprehended the baby minutes after she was born in a Toronto hospital last fall.

Law’s client can’t read as a result of a severe cognitive disability. The court decided that places the baby in danger, so Law is working to get CAS and the courts to understand that despite her client’s disability, she is capable of parental care.

“We are getting her in touch with the appropriate support workers, getting the appropriate resources,” says Law, who wonders why CAS didn’t help with this before the baby was born.

Caroline Newton, communications director at the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, says all parents are asked the same questions during an investigation — regardless of whether they have a disability or not.

“About 90 per cent of the work we do with families and kids involve the child staying in the home. So it could be that as the system or the Children’s Aid Society works through that, they may have questions. They want to connect the mom or dad with local community resources, which might be able to support them in their parenting.

“But, in essence, it’s the same process that we use for all families. It’s based on parental capacity and there is this specific process that is in the eligibility spectrum. We don’t see it as a category of concern.”

Support And Solutions

Advocates disagree. Child protection workers and front-line health care staff must be better educated on how disabilities affect parenting, according to the LEAF report, and the government needs to provide better support services to make sure children can remain with parents with disabilities when its in the best interest of the child.

“Social workers across Canada are not really trained to understand what disabled mothering looks like,” says Smith. “They may not have experienced disability at all.”

Smith believes lawyers and judges also need to be educated on disabled parenting. “Those sorts of people in official positions need a reality check,” she says.

Bonnie Brayton, who heads DAWN, suggests improving support in the early stages as well. “Mothers with disabilities have unique parenting needs, including adapted cribs and change tables for mothers with physical limitations and flashing baby monitors for mothers with hearing impairments,” she says.

Research has shown adaptive baby equipment helps parent-child interaction, but Brayton says it’s not currently funded by the Canadian government. And accessing funded assistance is a separate hurdle. Personal care attendants are barred from helping disabled parents with their childcare tasks, so parents in need must apply for these services separately.

“Instead of a system supporting the most vulnerable mother who needs the additional support, she’s instead being made to constantly try to prove she can be a mother,” says Brayton.

Reid thought she was being a responsible parent by going to the emergency room. Six months after she filed a complaint with the hospital that called CAS, she received an apology. “The hospital would not issue anything in writing, which was frustrating,” says Reid. “All I got was: ‘I’m sorry this happened, but that’s our job.'”

“All I wanted was a fix to my meds. My kids were fully cared for. There was no danger to them. I did the right thing, but I got screwed.”

Patricia Tomasi  The Huffington Post Canada

Caring for children with severe disabilities financially devastates families

November 29, 2018

Caring for children with severe disabilities financially devastates Tennessee families

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/11/26/children-disabilities-costs-medicaid-tennessee-tenncare-katie-beckett-tefra/1924986002/

JESSICA BLISS  |  NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN Updated 8:41 a.m. MST Nov. 27, 2018

Middle Tennessee family raising daughter with severe disabilities struggles to afford care

The Kauffmann family talks about caring for their daughter

First, Rondi Kauffmann heard her baby cough in the back seat.

Then she heard the little girl start to choke.

That’s when she started to panic. Kauffmann sped into a gas station parking lot and grabbed 6-month-old Adelaide out of the car.

The baby’s eyes were glassy and unresponsive. She was not breathing.

Without another adult there to help, Kauffmann shoved her cellphone into her 7-year-old’s hands with the instruction to call 911. Then she yanked a terrified college kid out his white Altima at the gas pump and told him to talk to the emergency operator.

She administered rescue breaths on her baby until the paramedics arrived.

When they did, she was forced to put Adelaide in the ambulance alone with the paramedic and follow behind in her car.

It never should have unfolded that way, Kauffmann says. If the family had a private-duty nurse, then Adelaide — who was born with debilitating spinal muscular atrophy — would never be without a dedicated adult to respond to her medical emergencies.

But, despite Adelaide’s extraordinary needs, the little girl can’t qualify for TennCare support. The Kauffmanns are a middle-class family. Their household income is too high.

In Tennessee, nearly all children with severe disabilities who come from middle- and high-income families do not qualify for the state’s Medicaid program.

As a result, many parents shoulder the burden of thousands of dollars in medical bills for the therapies and vital equipment that private insurance does not cover. Others simply cannot provide their children the care they need because the cost is too much and the state will not help.

A pathway to a solution

Many states across the country have a solution for these families.

It comes in the form of a broad program created in honor of a young girl named Katie Beckett, who contracted a brain infection at 5 months old and suffered paralysis that left her unable to breathe or swallow without the assistance of a ventilator.

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Beckett spent three years in the hospital, but when she was finally ready to return home to the care of her parents, her family had reached its $1 million private insurance cap and the little girl faced the reality of losing the Medicaid coverage that supported her medical needs only if she lived in an institution or nursing home.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan’s administration took interest in Beckett’s story and implemented a program in her name that allowed the girl to go home to her family’s care and retain her Medicaid coverage so her medical expenses would not bankrupt her parents.

Beckett lived to be 34 years old, and in her obituary in 2012, The New York Times called Beckett “the inspiration for regulations that have allowed more than 500,000 disabled children to live at home since 1981.”

In the years since then, nearly every state in the country has adopted some version of the Katie Beckett program or a similar eligibility option known as TEFRA, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Tennessee has not.

“I can say with confidence there is no program in Tennessee designed as a pathway to the Medicaid program for children with long-term disabilities or complex medical needs,” said Sarah Sampson, deputy director of the Tennessee Disability Coalition.

‘It’s not safe to leave her side’

The Kauffmanns’ Dickson County farm home looks like a modified intensive care unit, with machines whirring and monitoring their daughter’s every vital sign.

Little Adelaide, a girl with silky tufts of red hair and big eyes, lies on her stomach in the middle of their living room reaching for a row of beads on a stick in front of her.

It’s therapy time for the 1-year-old, whose rare genetic disorder caused her muscles to begin atrophying just weeks after she was born, making it difficult for her to move or swallow.

With her parents smiling and cheering beside her, Adelaide practices a new trick, lifting her hips off the ground ever so slightly. Her dad, Adam, puts on a music playlist featuring Michael Jackson to get her in the mood.

Every once in a while, one of the flashing monitors attached by wires to Adelaide’s body will beep, indicating her heart rate is dropping. Adam Kauffmann will calmly pick up his little girl, clear her airways with a suction tube, and then lie her back down.

It seems nerve wracking, but this is nothing compared to when Adelaide is really sick, her parents say.

When she got a cold at just 6 months old, what would have been a few sniffles for most people was enough to put her in the ICU for days. When she was discharged, one of her parents had to be awake and at her bedside 24 hours a day to keep her alive.

At the height of their fear, Rondi and Adam Kauffmann worried every second that their daughter would stop breathing.

Without a home nurse to help, the Kauffmanns shared overnight shifts, staying up three hours at a time, suctioning mucus from her nose and throat and using a machine to help her cough and keep her airways clear.

In the mornings, when Rondi Kauffmann would go to work as a surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Adam would be home all day facing that same level of intensity while caring for his daughter alone.

Always afraid to leave her side.

“There were days when she was sick that I was literally praying ‘Dear Lord, don’t let my child stop breathing while I’m using the bathroom,’ ” says Adam Kauffmann, a former Army helicopter pilot who now serves as Adelaide’s primary caregiver.

“It’s constant. There’s no break at all. And it’s not safe to leave her side.

“That shouldn’t be that way.”

What should happen, the Kauffmanns say, is that an in-home nurse should assist. Someone who can make sure Adelaide doesn’t stop breathing while her parents sleep at night and who can sit next to her in the back seat of the car monitoring her heart rate when they drive to her many doctors’ appointments.

The Kauffmanns’ private insurance won’t cover an in-home nurse, and — with three kids at home and only one working parent — the family can’t afford one on their own. Hiring someone to work even just five nights a week would cost $150,000 a year, they say.

A road map and state resources

Medicaid is the primary source of coverage for people of all ages with severe disabilities — in Tennessee, that coverage is known as TennCare.

In 2016, TennCare closed enrollment to three Home and Community-Based Services waivers offering programs for those with disabilities. It shifted focus instead to a new long-term services program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities called Employment and Community First CHOICES.

Within that program there is one benefit group, Essential Family Supports (sometimes called CHOICES Group 4), that was created specifically for families caring at home for a child under the age of 21 who has an intellectual or developmental disability.

It was meant to serve as Tennessee’s version of the Katie Beckett option.

“The 1915-c Home and Community-based waivers for a long time allowed children to qualify without counting parents’ income,” said Patti Killingsworth, assistant commissioner and chief of long-term services and supports for TennCare.

“In the ECF CHOICES program, we do the exact same thing … when a child needs a certain level of care.”

Disability advocates, however, say the limitations of the CHOICES program are many — and it does not offer the same inclusionary coverage that a Katie Beckett option would.

To begin with, Sampson said, the intent of the CHOICES program as laid out by the TennCare Bureau is “to create a road map that will help individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities achieve their employment goals.”

Enrollment priority is given to those people with disabilities who need support to keep a job, who are about to finish school and need help to get a job, or who want to get a new job.

“That is very different than a program that would be designed to help children with complex medical needs access health care,” Sampson said.

Additionally, state funding is enough to support only 3,000 children within the Essential Family Supports benefit group.

The program is currently full, Killingsworth said, except for spots reserved for families who are struggling to meet a child’s care requirements at home and are concerned about the sustainability of that living arrangement.

“Not every child who has medical needs would meet that criteria,” she said.

“Not to underplay the demands on families, but many families are able to meet that burden. They have private insurance, they may have income and family to help them. They have lots of resources that come to bear.”

Those resources penalize thousands of children across the state, disability advocates say, because their parents make enough money to put a roof over their heads but often not enough to support the costs of their severe, sometimes life-threatening, developmental disabilities.

Small blessings but still no help

The Kauffmanns do have many reasons to count their blessings.

As a surgeon specializing in breast cancer at Vanderbilt, Rondi Kauffmann has emergency training most parents do not, though she certainly was not taught how to handle the full-time needs of her daughter in medical school.

Adelaide also has a new medicine, which is helping her muscles get stronger. Before it came on the market, Adam Kauffmann says most babies with Adelaide’s condition weren’t expected to live past their first birthday.

And Rondi Kauffmann’s primary insurance has been very good about covering all of her daughter’s hospitalizations, treatments and necessary equipment.

But it does have a specific exclusion in the policy — it will not provide home, private-duty nursing care.

The Kauffmanns say they have tried every venue they can: federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the state’s Employment and Community First CHOICES program, appeals to their insurance company and going directly to TennCare.

No one will help.

“And the reason is,” Adam says, “Rondi has a job.”

The only program that covers private-duty nursing for children is Medicaid, or TennCare in Tennessee, and that’s what they cannot get because they don’t meet the household income requirements, which much be less than $2,250 per month.

“That is actually a very modest income level,” Rondi Kauffmann says. “So it’s not just us that’s excluded. It’s basically anyone who had a professional full-time job.”

Across the state, other families raising children with severe disabilities can commiserate.

In West Tennessee, Jennifer Austin and her husband incurred $4 million in medical expenses during the first year of their daughter’s life because they were told not to apply for TennCare to support their now 19-month-old child with Trisomy 18.

On the east side of the state, Sean and Jessica Fox — both full-time working parents with employer-based health insurance — spend hundreds of dollars a month on feeding tube supplies and copays for the more than 19 health care providers their 4-year-old daughter, Claire, sees.

Claire Fox was born with Cri du chat, a chromosomal deficiency that caused multiple dangerous heart deformities and has required continuous care from the day she was born.

She received TennCare coverage until just before her second birthday, when, her mom says, the family was notified the coverage would be terminated “because we were ‘over the maximum income allowance.’ ”

“This is a path these kids didn’t choose,” Jessica Fox says. “My family didn’t choose this. We did everything right.

“There has to be a workable solution for working families.

“We have nowhere to go. We are out of options.”

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Taking off a ‘tremendous burden’

Ascertaining exactly how many of the approximately 1.5 million children in Tennessee may be eligible for a Katie Beckett or TEFRA program is difficult.

Advocates and state agencies struggle to determine even how many children with intellectual and developmental disabilities there are in the state. The best estimate comes from data collected through the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures services for children with disabilities throughout the country.

That program served 128,936 children ages 3 to 21 in Tennessee during the 2016-2017 school year.

But only a small percentage of those children would meet the Katie Beckett standards.

To be eligible they would currently not be covered by TennCare and they would have developmental disabilities severe enough to necessitate the high level of specialized care typically provided in a hospital, skilled nursing facility or intermediate care facility.

The Tennessee Disability Coalition estimates that between 1,200 and 3,900 children in the state may be eligible for a Katie Beckett-type program under those stipulations.

“We want kids who need care to get the care they need regardless of parent income,” Sampson said, “and if they can, that takes a tremendous burden off the whole family and the entire family can benefit.”

3 extreme options

Without a Katie Beckett-type program in Tennessee, the Kauffmanns have been told they have three options to get coverage for the nursing care their daughter needs.

First, they could get a divorce. Adam Kauffmann could remain Adelaide’s primary stay-at-home caregiver. He could rent an apartment and move with Adelaide down the road. Without income, they would qualify for TennCare.

Or, Rondi Kauffmann could quit her job. The family could give up their sole source of income and the insurance coverage they do have, empty their savings accounts and live destitute. They also would qualify for TennCare that way.

Or, they could move to another state.

They haven’t ruled out that last option, but they love their land in Tennessee where Adam Kauffman hopes one day to have a small sustainable farm to sell homegrown healthy food to the neighbors and to feed his own children.

A place where his kids, especially his little Adelaide, can play — maybe with a home nurse by her side.

Reach Jessica Bliss at jbliss@tennessean.com or 615-259-8253 and on Twitter @jlbliss.

What is Katie Beckett or TEFRA option?

It is an eligibility pathway for the Medicaid program given to certain children who have long-term disabilities or complex medical needs and live at home. It allows children to receive Medicaid coverage for services like therapies and nursing care without being excluded because a family’s household income is too high.

Why it is needed?

The specialized and intensive services needed by children with long-term disabilities often are not available through private insurance. That results in high out-of-pocket expenses that can deplete a family’s resources — or result in lack of important medical interventions and care.

What would it mean for Tennessee?

It would provide families currently excluded from TennCare coverage because of income a pathway to coverage for therapies and nursing support that could help their children with severe disabilities survive and thrive.

Will both of you Ministers be proud of what you have accomplished? Will your cabinet be proud? How many people do you plan to hurt? How much treatment to you plan to deny? How many lives to you plan to ruin? Is there a point where it is all worth it? Are tax cuts worth my son’s life? His future? Your “new era” means that I actually have to ask these questions. Your “new era” is nothing short of immoral. If you allow it to continue unchecked, so too are both of you. Rachel Notley

November 6, 2018

https://featbc.org/discussions-board/reply/2659/


Lou Arab

Member

Dear FEAT Members,

My wife wrote an excellent letter to Gordon Hogg and Christy Clark, with copies to all the MLAs and the media. I want to share it here. In another posting, I will post the unbelieveable response from one Liberal MLA.

Lou Arab (Ethan’s Dad)

—————-

I am the mother of a beautiful blonde three year old boy. I want you to imagine yourself , going through what I have gone through in the last two and a half years.

You wake up every morning and hug your six month old baby. You marvel at his beauty. You make plans for his future. You bask in his smile. You take your baby to a place with one or two other children the same age. You stand back and smile as they crawl around and over eachother, exploring, playing. He looks back at you with a smile, just to check that you’re still there. You’re so proud. A few months later, it’s his first birthday party. Your baby’s beauty has increased tenfold. You didn’t think it was possible. Two of the other babies there are walking. They laugh and look at eachother. A third one, not quite walking, declares “mama!” and crawls toward her mother. Your baby stares into space, lost in thought. The birthday cake arrives. Your baby desolves into frightened tears. The cake is taken away. You try to interest your baby in the other children. The tears increase. A bad day you think to yourself. You feel your throat tighten. Six months later. Still no words from your child. He’s just started to walk. You’ve been to see your family doctor. “Everyone develops at their own pace” you’re told. You demand an appointment with another doctor. An eyebrow is raised. You’re told to come back in another six months. A speech therapist tells you that your baby is “a little behind”. You go back to your doctor. You demand a referral, and then another. You are desperate. Finally after six months of telling you that “there’s nothing to worry about”, suddenly the collective opinion changes. You are told that you child is “probably autistic”. You’re forced to wait another six months to get the “formal” diagnosis. You need that so that you can get help for your child. You grieve. You cry. You don’t sleep. Your beautiful child continues on, unsuspecting, in his world. You cry some more…alot more. Then you “get busy”. Something must be done. You read everything you can find. You discover that something CAN be done. You hear that the new government promised treatment. The deputy premier, a new mother herself, personally made a public promise during the campaign. You thank God for your timing. You feel bad for those parents that came before you whose children were not able to get the treatment you’ve been promised. You wait. Two months, four months…the treatment gets put off again, and again. It will be coming soon you’re told. Then you are told that “a 30% cut will be made to the budget”. Tax breaks were more important. You look over at your beautiful child, just turned 3 years old. He looks up, he smiles. He returns to his odd little routine. He has no treatment.

Tax breaks are not more important. Anyone who says they are is immoral. They deserve to go through what we have gone through.

They probably won’t. Only 1 in 160 are autistic. The odds are on your side Christy. Do you deserve to enjoy the benefits of those odds? If it were just you, I would not be so sure. But your child has done nothing wrong. So your baby deserves to be healthy.

Will both of you Ministers be proud of what you have accomplished? Will your cabinet be proud? How many people do you plan to hurt? How much treatment to you plan to deny? How many lives to you plan to ruin? Is there a point where it is all worth it? Are tax cuts worth my son’s life? His future?

Your “new era” means that I actually have to ask these questions. Your “new era” is nothing short of immoral. If you allow it to continue unchecked, so too are both of you.

Rachel Notley

 

Let’s Talk About Access to Information in Alberta: Part One

November 5, 2018

https://ablawg.ca/2018/11/05/lets-talk-about-access-to-information-in-alberta-part-one/

Let’s Talk About Access to Information in Alberta: Part One

Posted on November 5, 2018 by Drew Yewchuk

By: Shaun Fluker and Drew Yewchuk

PDF Version: Let’s Talk About Access to Information in Alberta: Part One

Legislation Commented On: Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSA 2000, c F-25

The Faculty’s Public Interest Law Clinic handles a lot of inquiries from the community that engage with Alberta’s access to information legislation: the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSA 2000, c F-25 (FOIP Act). Simply put, there is a high demand for the disclosure of information collected, produced and otherwise held by state officials. The Information and Privacy Commissioner, who serves as an officer of the Legislature (FOIP Act, s 45), is responsible for overseeing the administration of the FOIP Act with the assistance of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). In its 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 reports to the Legislative Assembly the OIPC indicated the access to information process in Alberta is approaching a crisis. Since commencing operations in 2015, the Public Interest Law Clinic has developed some expertise on working within the FOIP Act, and we would agree the system needs some critical attention. This post summarizes our current observations in this regard and, as the title to this post suggests, we see this as the beginning of a longer conversation. In order to illustrate the process and some of the problems within it, we refer to a request for information filed by the Clinic in July 2017, which is still ongoing, with respect to a creative environmental sentence imposed on CN Rail (see here for details on the offence and the creative sentence).

Access to information legislation provides an interested person with a right to the disclosure of records in the control of government departments (FOIP Act, s 6(1)). This is a right in the Hohfeldian sense in that the legislation imposes a correlative duty on the part of a government department to disclose records to the interested person. However, this right to the disclosure of records is qualified by many provisions in the FOIP Act which limit the scope of the disclosure requirement. Generally speaking, these limiting provisions are directed at preventing the disclosure of records which may be harmful to a government body or have an adverse effect on the privacy interests of others noted in the records. In cases where there is a dispute over the extent of a right to disclosure, the OIPC serves as the initial dispute resolution mechanism.

The access to information process starts with a request for disclosure by an interested person to the targeted government department along with the prescribed $25 fee (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Regulation, Alta Reg 186/2008, s 11 (FOIP Regulation)). The exact wording of a request is very important: Ask for too many records over a long period of time and your request will be expensive and delayed; ask for too little and you risk not getting the records you are seeking. In the CN Rail case we are looking for records pertaining to the development of the creative sentence, and thus our request for records was as follows:

I am requesting records pertaining to guidelines, policies (formal or informal), directives, instructions, notices, or internal communication (including emails) which address the use, format, structure and decision-making framework related to orders issued under section 234 of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, RSA 2000 c E-12 (otherwise known as the creative environmental sentences). These records would have informed the actions of the Crown Prosecutor in the matter of R v Canadian National Railway Company which saw the sentence order signed on June 2, 2017 (For the time period of January 1, 2017 to July 12, 2017).

In the interest of promoting transparent government, one obvious structural problem with the access to information process under the FOIP Act is that the subject government department plays the dominant role in a response to the information request. These departments have developed several techniques to frustrate information requests: delay, excessive fees, and redactions.

Delay

The most common technique appears to be simple delay – not replying, or seeking multiple time extensions from the OIPC. Section 11 of the FOIP Act contemplates most requests being completed within 30 days:

11(1) The head of a public body must make every reasonable effort to respond to a request not later than 30 days after receiving it unless

(a) that time limit is extended under section 14, or

(b) the request has been transferred under section 15 to another public body.

Extensions can be taken under section 14 if there is a large number of records (section 14(1)(b)), time is needed to consult with another public body (section 14(1)(c)), or the record contains documents with third party information which that party opposes the release of 14(1)(d)). The OIPC 2016/2017 annual report illustrates the problem: the OIPC received 253 extension requests from public bodies in 2016-2017 and had 57 cases where an applicant made an access request and received no response within the legislated timelines (what the OIPC calls a ‘deemed refusal’). Of these 57 cases, 44 were requests to Alberta Justice or Alberta Environment and Parks (see the 2016/2017 annual report at pages 6-7).

None of the access to information requests filed by the Clinic have produced records within the 30-day time frame set out in section 11 of the FOIP Act. The three requests where the Clinic has received records have taken 125, 89, and 84 days respectively to be completed. Five of our requests which are still outstanding have been open for more than 100 days. The Clinic filed the CN rail request for information with Alberta Justice on July 12, 2017. We received partial disclosure on November 14, 2017 but for reasons set out below, to date we have only received 35 out of the 857 pages of material we were told are responsive to our request.

Excessive fees

The second technique used by government departments to frustrate the process is fees. The applicable legislative provisions governing fees are sections 11, 13, 14, and schedule 2 of the FOIP Regulation. A department can only charge fees where it estimates the cost of processing the request will exceed $150. Fees are estimated by valuing employee time at up to $6.75 per 1/4 hr (27$ an hour) to handle the record. The amount of time needed to handle a record will vary depending on the size and complexity of the request. Once a total fee estimate is tallied, the department requires the applicant to pay 50% of the estimate before proceeding to prepare the record. An applicant must accept the fee or modify the request within 20 days of receiving the fee estimate (FOIP Regulation, section 13(4)).  What this means in real terms is that where a request for information is estimated to take more than 5 ½ hours to process there will be a fee payment required of the requesting person before the request is processed by the department (The $150 fee threshold divided by the $27 per hour expense for time to prepare the record = 5.5 hours). This fee threshold is easily passed for requests that produce a large number of documents (counted in number of pages), and thus it is typical for a person seeking access to information to be presented with a bill in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars which must be accepted within a short time frame in order for their request to be processed. Keep in mind, this monetary amount must be paid in the absence of any knowledge on what the content of the responsive records will be and what redactions will be applied by the department (more on that below).

We have noticed that a significant portion of the fee estimate will be for ‘preparing and handling’ the record. A breakdown of the required fee for requests made by the Clinic which have exceeded the $150 threshold is set out below. Alberta Justice estimated the total fee at $1270.25 to process the Clinic’s request for information on the creative sentence in the CN Rail case (listed as FOIP D in the table below). In a letter dated July 28, 2017 Alberta Justice requested $635.13 to paid within 20 days in order to proceed with the request for records in the CN Rail case.

Locating the record Preparing and handling the record Printing, USB sticks, or postage Total estimated cost per FOIP

FOIP A $162.00 $48.60 – $210.60

FOIP B $162.00 $459.00 $36.00 $657.00

FOIP C $391.50 $720.00 – $1,111.50

FOIP D $189.00 $864.00 $215.25 $1,270.25

FOIP E $1,215.00 $1,311.75 – $2,526.75

FOIP F $72.00 $3,240.00 – $3,312.00

FOIP G $432.00 $3,240.00 – $3,672.00

Totals $2,623.5 $9.883.35 $251.25 $12,760.10

 

This table shows the extent to which preparing and handling the record dominates the basis for a fee requirement. At this juncture, it is important to keep in mind that so long as the request for information is in relation to a recent timeframe (i.e. not searching for archival materials) much of these records will be in an electronic format. There is a separate category for locating the records. So what sort of work is encompassed by ‘preparing and handling’ these electronic records?

Our observations from working within the FOIP Act suggest to us that the work involved in preparing and handling the record amounts primarily to the department redacting information from the records, in accordance with how the department reads the application of sections 16 to 29 of the FOIP Act. What this means for a person seeking access to information is that the legislation requires them to pay for the work it takes for department employees to remove information from the records sought. In other words, you pay the department to conceal the information you are seeking. In the CN Rail case, the Clinic was asked to pay $864 in order for Alberta Justice to fully redact 822 pages out of a complete record of 857 pages.

One option available to someone who would like to reduce or eliminate the fee requirement is to seek a fee waiver where the person can establish (1) they cannot afford the payment or for any other reason it is fair to excuse payment; or (2) the information sought relates to a matter of public interest, including the environment or public health or safety” (FOIP Act, section 93(4)). The interpretation given to these criteria for a fee waiver by government departments appears to vary. Some departments focus on whether the public would be ‘interested’ in a literal sense in the information sought, and how the applicant will provide that information to the public. Alberta Energy, for example, asks whether the disclosure will add to public research on the operations of government and whether the information will be useful in clarifying public understanding of issues.

More typically, a government department offers no guidance on how it will interpret the fee waiver criteria and thus a person seeking to obtain a fee waiver should look to OIPC decisions for guidance on what to submit in their waiver application. A helpful decision to look in relation to interpreting section 93(4) of the FOIP Act is Order F2014-11 (Re), 2014 CanLII 8570 (AB OIPC) at paragraphs 22-23:

Will the records contribute to the public understanding of, or to debate on or resolution of, a matter or issue that is of concern to the public or a sector of the public, or that would be, if the public knew about it? The following may be relevant:

Have others besides the applicant sought or expressed an interest in the records?

Are there other indicators that the public has or would have an interest in the records?

Is the applicant motivated by commercial or other private interests or purposes, or by a concern on behalf of the public, or a sector of the public? The following may be relevant:

Do the records relate to a conflict between the applicant and government?

What is the likelihood the applicant will disseminate the contents of the records?

If the records are about the process or functioning of government, will they contribute to open, transparent and accountable government? The following may be relevant:

Do the records contain information that will show how the Government of Alberta or a public body reached or will reach a decision?

Are the records desirable for the purpose of subjecting the activities of the Government of Alberta or a public body to scrutiny?

Will the records shed light on an activity of the Government of Alberta or a public body that have been called into question?

In the CN Rail request for information, the Clinic requested a fee waiver by making submissions based on the guidance set out in this OIPC decision. Alberta Justice granted the request, and waived the stated fee of $1270.25. However, Alberta Justice did so without reasons. The explanation we received for our successful fee waiver application was as follows: “After reviewing your request for a fee waiver and Section 93(4) of the FOIP Act; in this instance Alberta Justice decided to commence processing your request and the fee for processing your request has been waived.” Of course, without reasons it is not possible to know which of our submissions on the waiver request was persuasive and thus difficult to gain any institutional knowledge for future applications.

Redactions and More Delay

The third, and clearly most effective, method used by government departments to frustrate the access to information process is to redact as much information from the disclosed record as is allowable under the exceptions to disclosure under sections 16 to 29 of the FOIP Act. As we mentioned above, in the CN Rail case Alberta Justice fully redacted 822 of the 857 pages in the pages responsive to the Clinic’s request. Of the 35 pages which were not fully redacted, 13 pages were simply copies of email correspondence that had been sent by Clinic staff to obtain information from the Crown on the creative sentence without resorting to an access to information request under the FOIP Act. In other words, much of the records we received were simply copies of our own emails. In light of this result, we were glad to have been granted a fee waiver. Otherwise, we would have paid hundreds of dollars to receive copies of our own emails!

Section 65 of the FOIP Act provides that an applicant can request a review by the OIPC of the department’s redactions from the record. A review introduces an incredible amount of delay: the OIPC expects the delay to be 6 to 8 weeks for the Office to decide if it will investigate the matter and another 9 months to investigate or mediate the complaint. If the process leads to an adjudicative inquiry by the Commissioner, you should expect the entire process to take 18 months or more. This is remarkable given that section 69(6) of the FOIP Act suggests an intention by the Legislature that a review will take 90 days or less. These timeframes for a review by the OIPC are in addition to whatever amount of time has elapsed before making the request for a review. In the CN Rail case, 14 months passed since the initial FOIP request before we were invited to seek a review by the OIPC. That process is ongoing.

These issues are real barriers to realizing access to information under the FOIP Act. What is truly disappointing is that they are widely acknowledged and known to be problematic, as set out by the Centre for Law and Democracy in its 2012 release of an Analysis of Access to Information Legislation in Canadian Jurisdictions. None of what we have set out in this post will be news to anyone who regularly uses the access to information process under the FOIP Act. The purpose of the FOIP Act, to grant a right of access to government records (section 2(a)) and facilitate transparency as a means for Albertans to hold their government accountable, seems completely frustrated by delay, excessive fees, and redactions.

This post may be cited as: Shaun Fluker and Drew Yewchuk, “Let’s Talk About Access to Information in Alberta: Part One” (November 6, 2018), online: ABlawg, http://ablawg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Blog_SF_DY_Lets_talk_about_FOIP_Nov2018.pdf

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The postcode lottery in our inquest system

October 13, 2018

https://www.leighday.co.uk/Blog/August/The-postcode-lottery-in-our-inquest-system

The postcode lottery in our inquest system

Merry Varney, partner in the human rights department, discusses the differences that can occur at inquests due to the wide discretion given to coroners

Coroner

Related Areas of Practice:

Merry is a partner in the human rights department.  She has a particular interest in using the law to protect children, vulnerable adults and patients.  She tweets as @merryvarney
I spent most of July in two different coroners’ courts instructed by the bereaved families of two young women, Sophie Payne and Zoe Watts, who died while inpatients, detained under the Mental Health Act in general adult psychiatric hospitals, one in London, one just outside.

Both inquests took place with a jury and both juries returned conclusions that included failures in the care and treatment provided to the deceased. Both involved the coroners obtaining independent expert evidence and both coroners accepted their investigations must address not just how the deceased died, but also the circumstances of the death.

The similarities end there and the differences in their approaches highlight the postcode lottery of our inquest system and the wide discretion coroners have, which leave bereaved families with considerable uncertainty about how their loved one’s death will be investigated.

The need for a national system has long been recognised, and it was deeply disappointing to see the appeal process for coroners’ decisions,  set out in the Coroners & Justice Act 2009, withdrawn before it was even brought into force. This leaves bereaved families with judicial review is as their only option to challenge coroners’ decisions, and this can be an expensive and risky process in which coroners are given a wide margin of discretion. You only have to have a skim read of Chief Coroner’s Law Sheet (no.5) on the discretion of coroners to see that from scope to procedural decisions to what is left for a jury to decide, the width of the discretion is very broad indeed.

So what were the differences?

As aforementioned, independent experts were instructed by both coroners. In one the coroner asked the Interested Persons (which includes my clients) for views on the identity of an appropriate expert and provided the opportunity for questions to be put to the expert in advance. This step assisted greatly in ensuring the family were at the heart of the process. The other coroner went ahead and instructed experts without any recourse to the bereaved family.

In one inquest the coroner asked witnesses who had already provided a statement to read relevant sections out, and then to answer questions. This allowed the jury to hear clearly, from the witness directly, what the witness was saying happened. The other coroner questioned witnesses by summarising the statements prepared in advance and asking the witness to confirm what she said was accurate. This meant the coroner’s own interpretation on what had been written was added to the evidence, and considerable key information was contained in their question, rather than the jury and the bereaved family hearing it from the witness directly.

Still on witnesses (and bearing in mind that witness evidence in inquests is often crucial given its inquisitorial nature), one coroner directed that those under oath should, to avoid any concerns, ‘keep themselves to themselves’ during any short breaks during their evidence. The other simply said not to discuss their evidence or the case, but indicated it was acceptable to socialise with colleagues for example. Where trust is already very sparse, seeing witnesses chatting with their legal representatives/employer/colleagues (including other witnesses) can be very distressing for a bereaved family and the purpose of inquests allaying suspicion becomes a farce, albeit the latter  approach is well within a coroner’s broad discretion.

Finally on the topic of witnesses, one coroner decided that the jury should hear evidence from  ‘Trust management’ explaining all the actions taken since the death in their care to improve patient safety and services; the other felt such evidence should not be heard by the jury as it was not relevant to the circumstances of the death, but instead was only relevant to whether or not the coroner’s duty to make a Prevention of Future Deaths report was triggered.

The last difference to highlight goes to the heart of how a jury inquest is conducted: the jury bundle. In one inquest, the jury had no documents. The Interested Persons and their lawyers and the coroner had several files worth of medical records, policies and statements. Witnesses also had access to the documents. The jury had none; rather, they had to try and listen carefully to either witnesses reading sections out, or the content being contained in a question being put to a witness, and make notes to consider it during deliberations.

In the other inquest the jury had her progress notes, the observation chart from the day of her death and multiple policies which governed her care and treatment, and how the ward should be run. The jury had these key documents in front of them throughout, allowing them to more easily follow the witness evidence, and allowing more direct, clear questions to be put by the Interested Persons and the jury themselves.

I cannot explain these differences in any other way than the personal preference of each coroner, yet each decision has a fundamental impact on how an inquest proceeds and the experience of the bereaved family. The above is just a snapshot of the variety in decision making that occurs across the country in coroners’ courts. Within that variety are some very poor decisions and when combined with the unpredictability that variety also brings, the woeful nature of our postcode-based inquest system is clear to see.

Finding My Family – Velvet Martin

October 3, 2018

A few days ago, an elderly childhood friend of my late mother – Marguerite (who was born Hennessey, fostered by McLeod, married James Crystal, Bob Williamson; Ray Rideout, my dad) – shared the following image with me of my mom at age 21:

Look at my beautiful mother and my 2 eldest siblings. I can’t stop smiling!

💝 Helen and Patricia 💝

image1.jpeg

It is the first time I’ve ever glimpsed my own sisters! (The photo on the right is myself as a child.)

I’ve yet to find further identifying information. In total, I have 4 elder half siblings; Helen and Patricia born approximately 1944-1945 to Marguerite and a soldier named James Paul Crystal in Toronto.

The next girls, Brenda and Gloria Bonnie, were born to Marguerite and a man, Bob Williamson, of Toronto prior to 1955. *CAS had a file for Gloria Bonnie Williamson; however it was dated 2002 and neither phone nor address are current. I’m at a dead end.

Sisters… please find me. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

4D6839E1-7EEF-47D7-BABC-59AAEB11B3C5

Come take a walk with me

October 3, 2018

#DearMrsPremier #Alberta #SamanthasLaw

Dear Mrs. Premier,

Come take a walk with me

Let’s pretend we’re just two people 

Indigenous and equal

I’d like to ask you some questions

if we can speak honestly

What do you feel when you see 

all the homeless on the street?

Who do you pray for at night

before you go to sleep?

What do you feel when you look in the mirror?

Are you proud?

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?

How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?

How do you walk with your head held high?

Can you even look me in the eye?

And tell me why?

Dear Mrs. Premier,

Were you a lonely girl?

Are you a lonely girl?

How can you say, no child is left behind?

We’re not dumb and we’re not blind

They’re all sitting in your Selves

When you pave the road to hell

What kind of mother would take another family’s rights away?

What kind of mother might betray a father’s child for being born disabled?

I can only imagine what the public at large might have to say

You’ve come a long way, from promises to investigate child Fatalities and PDD campaigns

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?

How do you dream when Residential School and Institutional Victims barely survive?

How do you walk with your head held high?

Can you talk Reconciliation and even look me in the eye?

Let me tell you about hard work

Traumatized by a System that has killed your own child 

Holding the hands of families in court so they know they’re not alone

Battling our Government to end generational wrongs

Earning less than minimum wage while suffering from PTSD 

Let me tell you about hard work

Abandoning your home because savings are depleted

Let me tell you about hard work

Defending Autistic children confined to seclusion boxes

Let me tell you about hard work

Hard work, hard work, you don’t know nothing about hard work

Hard work, hard work

Extend your hand to the kohkums who offer generations of expertise

Why won’t you apologize by ending inhumane Policies?

Well-paid Ministers continue to ignore abhorrent legacies

Treating constituents who are vocal with scorn

While grass-roots groups work uncompensated to protect your unborn

Are you proud?

How do you sleep at night?

How do you walk with your head held high?

Dear Mrs. Premier,

We had such high hopes and were eager to believe in integral leadership, 

but clearly

You’ll never take a walk with me…

Hmmm, will you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ VM

Inspired by “Dear Mr. President”

*Original Songwriters: Alicia Moore / William Mann

Dear Mr. President lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management

Come take a walk with me

September 28, 2018

#DearMrsPremier #Alberta #SamanthasLaw

Velvet Martin:

Dear Mrs. Premier,

Come take a walk with me

Let’s pretend we’re just two people 

Indigenous and equal

I’d like to ask you some questions

if we can speak honestly

What do you feel when you see 

all the homeless on the street?

Who do you pray for at night

before you go to sleep?

What do you feel when you look in the mirror?

Are you proud?

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?

How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?

How do you walk with your head held high?

Can you even look me in the eye?

And tell me why?

Dear Mrs. Premier,

Were you a lonely girl?

Are you a lonely girl?

How can you say, no child is left behind?

We’re not dumb and we’re not blind

They’re all sitting in your Selves

When you pave the road to hell

What kind of mother would take another family’s rights away?

What kind of mother might betray a father’s child for being born disabled?

I can only imagine what the public at large might have to say

You’ve come a long way, from promises to investigate child Fatalities and PDD campaigns

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?

How do you dream when Residential School and Institutional Victims barely survive?

How do you walk with your head held high?

Can you talk Reconciliation and even look me in the eye?

Let me tell you about hard work

Traumatized by a System that has killed your own child 

Holding the hands of families in court so they know they’re not alone

Battling our Government to end generational wrongs

Earning less than minimum wage while suffering from PTSD 

Let me tell you about hard work

Abandoning your home because savings are depleted

Let me tell you about hard work

Defending Autistic children confined to seclusion boxes

Let me tell you about hard work

Hard work, hard work, you don’t know nothing about hard work

Hard work, hard work

Extend your hand to the kohkums who offer generations of expertise

Why won’t you apologize by ending inhumane Policies?

Well-paid Ministers continue to ignore abhorrent legacies

Treating constituents who are vocal with scorn

While grass-roots groups work uncompensated to protect your unborn

Are you proud?

How do you sleep at night?

How do you walk with your head held high?

Dear Mrs. Premier,

We had such high hopes and were eager to believe in integral leadership, 

but clearly

You’ll never take a walk with me…

Hmmm, will you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ VM

Inspired by “Dear Mr. President”

*Original Songwriters: Alicia Moore / William Mann

Dear Mr. President lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management

#DearMrsPremier #Alberta

September 28, 2018

NEW version dedicated to #Alberta

Dear Mrs. Premier,

Come take a walk with me

Let’s pretend we’re just two people 

Indigenous and equal

I’d like to ask you some questions

if we can speak honestly

What do you feel when you see 

all the homeless on the street?

Who do you pray for at night

before you go to sleep?

What do you feel when you look in the mirror?

Are you proud?

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?

How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?

How do you walk with your head held high?

Can you even look me in the eye?

And tell me why?

Dear Mrs. Premier,

Were you a lonely girl?

Are you a lonely girl?

How can you say, no child is left behind?

We’re not dumb and we’re not blind

They’re all sitting in your Selves

When you pave the road to hell

What kind of mother would take another family’s rights away?

What kind of mother might betray a father’s child for being born disabled?

I can only imagine what the public at large might have to say

You’ve come a long way, from promises to investigate child Fatalities and PDD campaigns

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?

How do you dream when Residential School and Institutional Victims barely survive?

How do you walk with your head held high?

Can you talk Reconciliation and even look me in the eye?

Let me tell you about hard work

Traumatized by a System that has killed your own child 

Holding the hands of families in court so they know they’re not alone

Battling our Government to end generational wrongs

Earning less than minimum wage while suffering from PTSD 

Let me tell you about hard work

Abandoning your home because savings are depleted

Let me tell you about hard work

Defending Autistic children confined to seclusion boxes

Let me tell you about hard work

Hard work, hard work, you don’t know nothing about hard work

Hard work, hard work

Extend your hand to the kohkums who offer generations of expertise

Why won’t you apologize by ending inhumane Policies?

Well-paid Ministers continue to ignore abhorrent legacies

Treating constituents who are vocal with scorn

While grass-roots groups work uncompensated to protect your unborn

Are you proud?

How do you sleep at night?

How do you walk with your head held high?

Dear Mrs. Premier,

We had such high hopes and were eager to believe in integral leadership, 

but clearly

You’ll never take a walk with me…

Hmmm, will you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ VM

Inspired by “Dear Mr. President”

*Original Songwriters: Alicia Moore / William Mann

Dear Mr. President lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management