By David F. Rooney
In a move decried by parents and specialists, funding cuts are squelching a provincial program that provides support for infants and children with development problems — 30 of them in Revelstoke alone.
“This is going to be huge,” says Kristal Bradshaw, Community Connections’ director of Community Living Services for Children.
The funding cuts will eliminate the office of the Infant Development Program’s Provincial Advisor which, according to the Victoria Times-Colonist, “has been instrumental in the development and ongoing success of the IDP. Currently, there are 53 programs with 194 consultants who provide direct service to 8,000 families annually. The provincial office is necessary to ensure consultants are well educated, family focused and well informed of current research and various therapies.”
The Minister for Children and Family Development, Mary Polak, said in a statement released a week ago that: “The decision to eliminate the advisor positions is part of our effort to reduce administrative costs and invest those dollars where they are needed most – in direct, front-line services for children and families.”
Bradshaw said the BC government’s decision to cut funding to the advisor for the Infant Development Program (IDP), the Aboriginal Infant Development Program, the Supported Child Development Program (SCDP) and Children First will have important long-term implications for children with development problems, their families, the child-care services they use and the education system the children will eventually enter. Of the four programs affected, only two — the Infant Development Program and the Supported Child Development Program — are accessed by local parents.
The advisor’s office acts as clearinghouse that offers social workers, other care providers and the families they help access to specialists across the province. It also provides training for social workers and child-care providers.
“What I think will happens is that gradually services will be eroded,” Bradshaw said. “IDP has an excellent reputation but it’s a slippery slope — and a steep one. Take it away and it’s going to be very difficult for everyone down the road.”
Bradshaw said IDP offers assistance to families with infants up to the age of three. SCDP offers help for kids from three years of age up to age six. This is especially important because this the age many children are most likely to be in day-cares such as Stepping Stones, Jumping Jacks and Leap & Learn.
“If you have a child with special needs that program helps him or her benefit from pre-school,” she said, adding that the disappearance of a program that puts families, children and pre-school providers together with specialists “will have an impact at a time when we’re moving to full-time kindergarten.”
MLA Norm Macdonald says the cuts are “obviously a mistake.”
“The earlier you identify a problem the more likely you’ll have a positive outcome,” he said in an interview on RCTV’s In Conversation program taped at the Community Centre on Friday. You can see the full interview on In Conversation on RCTV next week. It will be aired at 7 pm Wednesday, 9 am and 5 pm on Thursday and at 2 pm on Friday.
Macdonald said cutting funding may look prudent right now but that is strictly superficial. It is easier to deal with problems early on. Postponing help for children and families now will simply result in increased costs down the road. In the meantime, parents and children will be left floundering around looking for help in a vacuum, he said.
As for claims that this is simply a cut to a bureaucratic administrative position, Macdonald said that is simply an attempt by the government to distract people from the real issue: concrete help for children.
Parents are deeply troubled by the cuts and are apprehensive about their effect.
“This could be devastating,” said Patsy Walker, whose son Morgan is in the Child Supported-Development Program. “We have benefitted from the program and I think there are a lot of families that could benefit from it. Losing this kind of support would not help our children.”
Bradshaw and Macdonald each urged people who disagree with the cuts to write letters to Polak at email@example.com and Premier Gordon Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Macdonald said copies should be sent to him at email@example.com. Copies should also be sent to The Revelstoke Current at firstname.lastname@example.org. All letters sent to The Current will be published in their entirety.
You can find out more about this controversial funding cut at: http://partnerships2009.blogspot.com/.