Posts Tagged Autism Policy
(Current Platforms in Ontario’s 2018 Election Puts Province At Risk of a Credit Downgrade)
Late Tuesday afternoon Moody’s downgraded the economic outlook for Ontario from stable to negative. In its press release Moody’s cited the recently tabled Liberal budget, and growing spending pressure from all parties that need to be addressed as the economy is expected to retract 1% by 2021. Moody’s also cites current household debt is a record high level, and that key interest rates are likely to rise as a result, making it expensive to service the debt, with retracted economic growth. If spending pressures do not ease post-election, it could mean that Ontario could face a credit downgrade in the very near future which would have a huge impact on the provinces ability to borrow money.
What does this mean for autism services? Over the past several years the autism community has been dealing with austerity through the Wynne Liberals. The last time Moody warned of an impending credit downgrade Wynne slashed special needs education budgets, tried to lower the age of behavioral therapy, and froze special services at home funding. Just in time for the election Wynne has stopped a lot of the austerity measures she put into place, and focused more investment in autism services in Ontario, with huge spending promises in other areas.
The NDP have released their platform, which is huge on spending rather than prioritizing. The NDP in their election platform have stated that they are willing to keep the status quo in Wynne’s investment in Autism Services. In fact NDP MPP Monique Taylor took to social media to try and calm the nerves of parents that the NDP would in fact keep investments the Liberals have made in place, however did not respond to questions regarding Moody’s economic outlook downgrade and what the NDP would do to shift priories to protect the disabled from austerity measures. Taylor who has championed parents’ plight with austerity in the past is currently being sued for human rights abuses in her own constituency office. NDP leader Andrea Horwath has stated in the past that she may take action against Ms. Taylor if a negative judgement is placed on Taylor’s conduct.
Doug Ford hasn’t released any policy platform at all.
With a credit downgrade almost certain in the near future with the current platforms, all three parties should clearly express to the people of Ontario exactly what their priorities are and where the cuts will be. The disabled should not be the punching bag of austerity. They’ve been through enough of that over the past few years. The cupboards so to speak are already bare. The tax payers deserve answers.
UPDATE 12:43: Finance Minister Charles Sousa has responded to the Moody’s downgrade:
— NEWSTALK1010 (@NEWSTALK1010) April 18, 2018
You can read the full Moody’s press release below:
(CUPE Says Money Should Go To Its Members Rather Than Autistic Kids)
CUPE who is the union representing educational assistants (EA) in the province of Ontario released a press release this week in which it has lambasted the provincial government for piloting a project which will allow autistic kids to receive privately purchased therapy to be administered in public schools. CUPE says by doing this would open the door to privately funded education, and that its current members are not qualified to handle special needs students despite millions that have been negotiated in front line workers with the province over recent years.
As part of its revamp of Autism services in Ontario the provincial government is expected in the next few months to allow families a choice to purchase Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for kids with autism privately or go through publicly funded Centre’s. This move by the province to offer a private option paid for by the province is expected to reduce wait times for this needed therapy.
The move by the province to pilot a project to allow privately purchased workers to administer this therapy in school would be a necessity to the success of students receiving that therapy at the choice of the families, and lighten the load on parents who often have had to drive autistic kids to and from these appointments, often in separate cities in which the these children are being educated in and miss days at work. CUPE on the other hand thinks that the province should shell out that money to retrain EA’s across the province, rather than give parents a choice or say in their child’s therapy:
“We represent 13,000 Educational Assistants who work hard, with other Board employees and parents, to develop and deliver individualized educational programs to assist students with multiple challenges, including those with autism,” said Terri Preston, Chair of the CUPE Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee. “They are deeply concerned by any initiative that opens the door to the privatization of those critical services in our schools.”
Parents of children with special needs, including children with autism, have every right to expect they can walk into their local school and receive the services their children need, fully funded and publicly provided,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “They shouldn’t have to worry about securing outside funding, finding a private provider or paying out of their own pockets, to ensure their children succeed at school. That is the responsibility of the government and instead of just abdicating their role to private operators, they should be properly funding and providing all the necessary services students with special needs require.”
The ABA therapy these kids will be receiving will most likely be publicly funded as part of the new Ontario Autism Program. Terri Preston, Chair of the CUPE Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee essentially stated in this bizarre press release from CUPE that the union negotiated $52 million from the province for front line workers recently, who by admission of this press release are not qualified enough to be working with special needs kids in our public schools, and the government must pay for unqualified staff to get degrees in behavior analysis (which is a two year full time university course at Brock University):
“As education workers, we know students with special needs need more front-line staff support,” said Preston. “It’s why, in contract extension talks with the government, we negotiated $52 million over two years to increase front-line staff working with students with special needs. Even with those hard-won investments, more support is needed for students with a variety of complex needs and that’s why the government needs to finally conduct a long-overdue funding formula review.”
The press release gets a hell of a lot weirder as you read on. In its closing remarks after blasting the government for allowing parents a choice and complaining that its membership is under-qualified to support kids with special needs ended the press release with this statement:
“Many of us already have ABA training or incorporate ABA principles into our work with students,” said Laura Walton, an Educational Assistant who is also Vice-Chair of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee. “Educational Assistants are constantly upgrading their skills and knowledge, often at their own expense, so any funded training opportunities are always welcome. We have been asking the government to ensure Educational Assistants, and all board employees who work to address the complex needs of our students, have access to an array of professional development opportunities, including ABA training.”
Wouldn’t working with privately funded ABA therapists which I would think would be the goal of the government here, be more beneficial to both their own members and the students they serve? Wouldn’t that give EA’s workplace experience in ABA working alongside these therapists? Where’s the outrage from CUPE that university or college programs educating future EA’s are not required under law to ensure an extensive ABA training? After a $52 million investment from the province in front line EA workers to support special needs, why is the province agreeing with CUPE to hire unqualified staff in a $52 million negotiation in the first place? In our view it should not be the position of the province or tax payer to front the bill for unqualified staff. Simply hiring qualified staff would be a better more economical option, or better yet CUPE can pick up that tab.
The problem that exists right now in the education system is one where there is money in the system, but it’s not getting to the students that need it. There’s no accountability in the education system right now. From this press release, it sounds that CUPE wants to be showered again with government coffers, while the rights of special needs kids in the system are yet again pitted against the needs of education sector unions. For its part, in its press release CUPE blames successive Liberal and PC governments for the lack of supports in our school system, yet falls short on criticizing the NDP who have yet to come out with a platform recognizing the lack of accountability the public education system is currently facing right now – the lives that have already been lost across the province to due education sector unions ignoring student mental health issues – the full time battles parents of kids of all levels have had to deal with as a result of these unions – yet we continue to shove money down the throats of this unaccountable system in hopes it gets better. $52 million CUPE negotiated went towards unqualified staff. When will the rights of all students in Ontario be put before union demands, and when will we have an accountable public education system?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14th, 2017
TORONTO – The parents of several autistic kids will be rallying at Minister Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau’s constituency office on Friday, June 16th, 2017 at 1:00pm. Parents are concerned that transitional services over the past year to the new Ontario Autism Program have not been equally distributed, leaving many children suffering. Last week Coteau announced changes to the Ontario Autism Program, and that it will include a direct funding option (DFO). Last June, the DFO option was only given to a few families on wait lists, leaving many children suffering without appropriate service options over the past year. The announcement last week by Coteau did promise DFO to all families by the end of the year, however details on how that will be rolled out, and exactly when each family can expect that option remains unclear.
Jason Koblovsky, a parent of an autistic child has witnessed first-hand the suffering of his son as a result of the government not offering appropriate transitional services to a majority of families affected by Autism over the past year. “Quite simply, you cannot accommodate some with transitional support to the new Ontario Autism Program, and leave the rest of us hanging like this, which is what has happened over the past year.” Koblovsky said. “There is nothing available for my son who has been waiting, and who has had an extremely rough year with behavioral issues. All I have been offered as transitional support are group “workshops” in which due to my family situation I can’t even get to. My son needed the same access to ABA as those who have received DFO over the past year. The decision last June to provide “some” families with appropriate transitional support and not all represents a major lack of understanding on what our kids go through on a day to day basis without support, and a lack of understanding on how wrong that decision was, which continues to this day by this government. My patience has run out.”
Another parent Angelina Palmisano had to also watch her son suffer as a result of the lack of appropriate supports stated: “For over a year I heard promises from the government. My child has not had any early intervention. EVER! But the government has now decided to accommodate a small demographic of children and leave out a large portion of children out. The turmoil it has caused me watching my son struggle with behaviors that are severe, is unbelievable and the future scares me.”
Brenna Bloodworth who heads up the Alliance Against The Ontario Autism Program agrees: “Children still left waiting while Direct Funding continues for a minority. That’s not right.”
The rally to support children current suffering and in need of transitional support will get underway on Friday, June 16th, 2017 at 1:00pm. Address 1200 Lawrence Ave East, Toronto.
Micheal Coteau the Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services as been somewhat like a Sasquatch to many in the autism community. There have been reported sightings, but often those reports come with fuzzy details, and then he seems to vanish into the wilderness of Queen’s Park. Almost a year has passed since Coteau took the reins on developing the new Ontario Autism Program (OAP), and he hasn’t met with a broad swath of parents, nor has adequately addressed concerns.
Last Thursday I participated in what I hope to be many teleconference town halls put together by Coteau and his staff. There were 12 of us parents on the line. Over the past year I have been strongly advocating for such an approach with ministry staff. I’m glad that they are attempting to properly communicate with parents.
During last Thursday’s teleconference, I got the impression that there doesn’t seem to be an adequate understanding by Coteau on the problems within the system and the amount of advocacy needed from parents to ensure service delivery for their kids. Most of the discussions in the teleconference revolved around the direct funding option, implementation of direct funding, appeals process, and accountability within the service providers. Out of privacy for the others that were a part of this call, I will be only touching up on these issues since it directly relates to public policy and those discussions were generalized.
What direct funding will do is provide families who are on the centralized ABA wait list the option to opt out of waiting for services and provide them with funds to purchase their own. Coteau stated that there will be no cap in funding and it would be geared towards the level of support a child needs.
When asked when direct funding would be made available for kids, Coteau stated by the end of the year. I did bring up that there are currently 2,500 families who are receiving direct funding payments, but the vast majority of parents are still waiting. I stated that it seems rather unfair for the vast majority of families to wait until the end of the year, when last year the Ministry immediately gave 2,500 families that funding. Coteau stated that it is his hope to have the direct funding out as soon as possible, and they were looking at moving it up a few months. I then stated that there is no reason for this funding not to be available to parents in June. Coteau stated that he wasn’t sure the capacity is there yet to handle the direct funding option so early.
The centralized ABA wait list is seemingly how people will be able to access direct funding during the transition. So if you are not on that wait list, get on it. If you are on the wait list, the Minister stated that the regional service providers must provide you with information on where you are on that list when requested. Several parents brought up that the regional service providers are actively refusing to provide that information. Coteau stated he would be following up with the regional providers on this and asked those that couldn’t get that information to connect with Ministry staff who would source that out.
Currently the ABA services offered are useless to many families and are 1 – 2 hour/week blocks. When the new OAP is rolled out, ABA services will increase to a maxim of 20 hours per week. For the current 1 – 2 hour/week blocks, there was some discussion on how this would work if your family is currently on the ABA wait list. Once the direct funding is rolled out, you have to wait until your child’s name comes up for an ABA spot before you will be able to access direct funding in the new OAP, which runs counter to the intimidate direct funding the ministry provided 2,500 families last year.
From my take of this discussion, if you are currently on the wait list for the useless current 1 – 2 hour/week ABA blocks, and your child’s name comes up before the direct funding roll out, you have to go through the block of useless ABA. If that useless ABA is done before direct funding is rolled out, it is my understanding that you will be put on another wait list for another block of ABA. Once that next spot becomes available is when your child will be able to access direct funding.
The way things look right now is that direct funding won’t be an option for many families until after the next election due to wait lists, “capacity problems”, and politics. Direct funding should be an option to all in June in my opinion.
This is a big one. If a family disagrees with a professional decision made regarding how many hours of service a child is entitled to; will there be an appeals process to appeal a reduction of service or service withdrawal in the new OAP? Considering the amount of problems I am aware of through social media and how regional service providers have in the past treated families, to my utter surprise Coteau stated that he was on the fence regarding an appeals process in the new OAP.
Coteau brought up an argument against an appeals process stated that he was worried that parents would constantly use the appeals process to advocate against service reduction. If this is the main concern, Coteau is very much tone deaf to the problems the system faces right now. I brought up twice that every patient in Ontario has the right to a second opinion, while he was defending this view. It is a legal right and cannot be taken away. The appeals issue is being punted back to the implementation committee for further review and recommendations.
I find Coteau’s argument against an appeals process to be quite telling. If he’s worried about parents using the appeals process en masse due to service reductions, than one has to wonder if the new OAP will actually properly support the kids that need it. The argument against, seems to suggest Coteau is worried about backlash regarding service reductions.
There was some talk about getting regulation in place for those providing services through the direct service option with regional providers. There didn’t seem to be a lot of will to do so. Coteau stated that everyone’s take on the regional service providers seems to be different. Some really like the service they are getting, and others don’t. This runs counter to public statements made by Coteau not even a few months ago stating that things need to change with the regional providers because he was getting a lot of complaints from parents. This also seems counter to a lot of the discussions I have been monitoring through social media about how badly families seem to be treated by regional service providers across the province.
Off side of the three main points of direct funding, appeals, and accountability within the new OAP, I did bring up the issue of wait times, and wait lists. I know firsthand how much damage it’s caused my son, my wife, and myself and we’re still waiting for proper ABA supports. Coteau went on a bizarre rant about how everyone has to wait for services on a number of fronts, and used shootings in the black communities in Toronto to justify the lack of services and wait times for those services, yet in the same breath stated regarding autism services in Ontario that the money is there, and the system just needs to be more accountable, and transparent. I’m not sure how that’s going to be accomplished without regulation, and an appeals process.
Coteau went on to say that he wants to make parents happy and proud of the new OAP, and that this government is committed to helping youth and children, and he will be doing more of these teleconference town halls after the OAP announcement in a few weeks, trying to focus on parents he has not heard from.
Coteau has had a year to consult parents, and only now when it’s starting to become election season that seems to be starting to happen. I think going forward it’s going to be a certainty, that many families will fall through the cracks, and we’re going to see the legal side of this very soon appear in Ontario courts and tribunals. Many serious problems will arise as a result of poor planning. There just simply isn’t a level of understanding I feel that is needed to fix the most pressing concerns with the autism community properly. Coteau seems rather tone deaf to major concerns facing the autism community. Most of that is a result of the lack of consultation, and misrepresentation of the autism community on whole rather than ensuring a direct line for parents with the minister over the past year.
The caveat in all of this is that they are now committed to broadly consulting parents, but I think it’s way too late to contain a lot of the carnage that this new OAP is likely to incur. I hope I’m wrong, and I hope that all those that have worked so hard over the past year in different committees don’t see their work flushed down the toilet due to poor planning, and execution by a tired and desperate government trying to do everything it can to cling on to power, and score a win with Ontario voters. We’ve seen that before with the government’s take of expert panels on autism services last year.
In contrast, it took me 10 months to get a direct line into this provincial minister, when it took me 10 seconds to get often direct responses from federal ministers in the past through social media on questions or concerns regarding policy on a variety of topics. Almost all federal politicians of all stripes have been a lot more forthcoming, open and approachable than Coteau has been towards concerned autism parents, and the community as a whole over the past year. One would figure that a Minister of Children and Youth Services would have been a lot more accessible to parents, especially when it relates to some of our most vulnerable in society.
As for our situation at home, none of what was talked about during this teleconference does anything for my son who has been waiting 7 years for a proper level of ABA support due to disappearing paperwork and records at Kinark. Nor was there any commitment from the government to ensure that never happens again to another family through regulation. We’re still going to be waiting when we need that support now. My son is dramatically, and unnecessarily suffering as a result of that support not being made available while 2,500 families received immediate direct funding last year to get that support, and no solid time line as to when we can expect in home proper ABA support from this government. All this teleconference did for me, is solidify who not to vote for in the next election, and I have a strong feeling unless some major developments happen between now and the announcement of the new OAP, I won’t be alone.
As many of you may remember I wrote an open letter to the Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services Micheal Coteau regarding some concerns I had with the transition process, and with my son’s situation. I was hoping for a direct response from Minister Coteau instead I received this (sorry for the chicken scratch, this is the number of the individual from the ministry that wrote this letter. I was hung up on 3 times by the contact they gave me before I got to the program manager):
For a Minister willing to meet with parents, Coteau seems extremely illusive to direct communication with those who are trying to reach him. Apparently we’re getting busy signals. As for my sons situation, apparently IBI still ends at 5 accounting to Cantkier, and she is unwilling to budge on giving my son the appropriate therapy he has been recommended by specialists and other medical professionals. More soon.
The Toronto Star recently sat down with the Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau to discuss changes being made to autism services in Ontario. A common theme is starting to emerge over the past few months since the announcement of the new Ontario Autism Program. The way the process for “change” has presented itself, could see catastrophic consequences going forward as a result of tight budget constraints, lack of transparency and consultation needed to identify problems, analyze the system on whole and come up with sustainable solutions. The end result will be a number of children and families caught in the cross-fire and shoved aside as collateral damage.
In the interview with the Star Coteau stated:
“My job now is to deliver a program that will be considered the best program in this country”
Also from the Toronto Star article:
“It’s going to be tough transforming a system overnight,” Coteau said. “This is what I’ve been mandated to do by the premier. It’s what’s required and we’re going to get it done.”
If the goal is to create a system that is the best in the country, it cannot be done “overnight”.
There are two ways of fixing problems in any system.
1) Crisis Management
2) Structured Problem Solving and Analysis
If you try to solve problems that arise in complex systems on a case by case basis, others arise as a result of trying to solve those problems. You fix those, and more will pop up. It becomes a web of problems in large part because the extent of the problems within the system when you are using a crisis management type of approach is not known. You are not looking at the system as a whole. It’s a “whack-a-mole” type of approach where you only look at the problems you’re facing, you don’t analyze the system to anticipate problems, and develop solutions to lessen the effects of catastrophic damage that will likely occur if you don’t know the extent of the problems within the system as a whole. The end result if Coteau continues with a crisis management case by case strategy are kids falling through the cracks (like mine) and the system will end up in a much worse position than it was prior to the announcement.
Structured problem solving on the other hand, allows a much broader look into the system through analysis. Since the Auditor General’s 2013 report on autism services there hasn’t been any call for a public consultation from the government, just tightly controlled committees looking only at small pockets of the system, and the government hand picking what it wants to sell through those committee reports. The users of that system are way more knowledgeable of the problems within it because they are the ones dealing with it on a day to day basis, and you can’t have an accurate picture of the problems without first broadly consulting the users.
The system as a whole needs to be revamped. The government has stated it’s committed to that, but their actions to date seem to suggest otherwise. The expert committee laid down a path for forward, which the government is still refusing to follow because they don’t seem to want to commit the needed funds. That’s quite clear on the fact that Coteau is still steadfast on only providing expensive intensive behavior intervention therapy to kids under 5, which the expert panel has since refuted as being anything but their recommendation. The experts have also been muzzled by the government in participating in any public conversations on this public policy. That runs counter to the mandate Coteau has been given, when open public participation in the democratic process should be facilitated if the goal is to make the system rise above others nationally.
The path forward should include broad system wide open and public consultation with parents and people within the system who are the users of the system and the most valuable part of the system on whole in order to provide a complete picture of the problems within it, along with complete transparency so that the experts and the implementation committee can publicly contribute to this public conversation and consultation. Simply selecting a few hand picked people will not represent the extent of the problems, nor provide proper analysis. Putting any kind of muzzle on these people strongly suggests the government is anything but committed to doing what’s necessary to make the system the best in the country.
The proper way to deal with this in which the experts alluded too in their letter to the Minister, back a few weeks after the announcement of the new program, is to first start out testing the any new changes to system first as a “pilot project”, or in analytical terms, alpha and beta testing. I would add that alpha and beta testing commence after proper public consultation with users of the system and a proper plan has been developed as a result of those consultations. This gives the government the chance to test changes made to complex systems in a controlled environment to lessen the effects of problems limiting any damage the system might occur as a result. This does NOT happen “overnight”!
If you’ve done open consultations with the users and know the full extent of the problems, you can anticipate those problems moving forward. You need to first analyze the effects on the system in a controlled environment, work through the problems, and slowly expand those changes out, repeating the process. In a complex system like autism supports, it can take upwards of 2 years or more to fully role out. Open consultation with the users again has not happened, and Coteau has no idea of the extent of the problems in the current system because he is focusing on small samples of the user base.
Simply rolling out changes to complex systems “overnight” without knowing the extent of the problems within it it, due to lack of consultation will create a tremendous amount of collateral damage, as the government is only interested in saving face and on a budget, rather than seriously looking at a massive systemic and sustainable change, and realizing this is about children not politics. I’m sorry Mr. Coteau, but it is unacceptable in my books to use autistic children as collateral damage while your government plays politics and tries to cover up the extent of the damage you’ve already created since March by ignoring the advice of your own expert panel, and refusing to broadly consult with parents across this province which continues to this day.
The only good news is that Coteau is now looking at placing accountability mechanisms on regional service providers, and looking at their budgets. Reallocating money within the system is a step forward, but will likely not produce the funds needed to restructure the system on whole, nor cover the costs of collateral damage that has and is about to occur as a result of the lack of consultations and understanding of the problems that will inevitably be serious moving forward.
So my message to my fellow autism parents if the status quo in the current process is allowed to continue:
“Brace yourselves, the new Ontario Autism Program is coming.” Expect massive problems and collateral damage.
We need a commitment to an open and transparent process, and one that has a flexible budget, if Coteau is at all serious in delivering his mandate of creating a system of autism supports that can be looked upon as one of the best in the country. Not one child should fall victim to collateral damage as a result of political games being played by the Wynne Liberals to save face and a few bucks. A lot already have as a result of how Wynne has handled this. The government has a moral and ethical obligation to openly and transparently consult with stakeholders during this “transition” phase to ensure that no child is left behind when the new program is rolled out “overnight”.
I received a letter from the central region of your ministry while I had expected an answer regarding my complaint against Kinark directly from your office. Part of this complaint was to raise policy concerns to your office directly regarding the lack accountability of AIPs while your office further and directly investigated my complaint against Kinark. From the September 22nd Ministry letter underwritten by Ms. Cantkier:
“The Ministry is committed to monitoring the Autism Intervention Program (AIP to ensure that the program achieves its goals and objectives and makes efficient use of public resources).”
Had your office directly followed up on my complaint it would have discovered that the system to apply for AIP’s is deeply flawed. My son Matthew received a diagnosis of Autism in which it was recommended that we as parents contact Kinark directly and verbally to be put on the IBI wait list only to find for years after we did just that, multiple times Kinark refused to do so. I’ve also provided the Ministry with documentation from another family that has gone through a similar situation with Kinark.
In an electronic age, recommendations from family support network professionals to AIP programs should be done by those professionals and submitted to Kinark electronically. I have to question even in 2010 why that wasn’t done in our case. It should be an automatic electronic process. It should NOT be left for families to connect with AIPs verbally to apply. That should be handled on the back end, and allows the possibility of the AIP to manipulate the process, with little to no evidence of a verbal request to be put on wait lists often pitting the care givers word against the AIP. This policy doesn’t have any common sense in this day and age whatsoever.
I don’t understand why under these circumstances the ministry is refusing to find a viable solution for my son who has been waiting 6 ½ years for IBI (while others on the wait list who have been waiting far less than my son are entitled to support now) and why the ministry hasn’t taken the initiative to work with Kinark upon my complaint to find a solution, nor properly and fully investigated which would have revealed the policy flaws outlined above that need to be corrected in order for the Ministry too fulfill the mandate to accurately monitor the AIPs ahead of the new program.
Back to the September 22nd letter, in the same paragraph the Ministry stated:
“In situations where families have concerns with transfer payment agencies, including regional autism providers, the ministry encourages families to raise their concerns directly with these organizations and follow their complaint resolution process. This process may include the senior management, and if necessary, the board of directors to resolve differences.”
Ultimate responsibility for ensuring compliance with policy and legislation regarding transfer payments falls directly under the Ministers portfolio. There seems to be a lack of enforcement audits by the ministry to ensure AIPs are actually monitored for compliance to ensure AIP goals and objectives are properly met and use of public resources (such as transfer payments and administered programs) are actually reaching eligible families under these circumstances. The fact that this Ministry didn’t do proper follow up on my family’s situation now TWICE is representative of that. Where there is a lack of accountability and compliance audits, one could reasonably without a doubt expect abuse and manipulation of the system as a result.
Instead of this ministry periodically questioning users of this system (parents and caregivers) electronically to ensure legislative and policy enforcement of regional AIPs on a regular basis, it is the Ministry’s position from the statements provided above that compliance with legislation, mandates, and policy, is left to the AIP’s board of directors and complaint resolution officers to self-police. I find that interesting considering it is well within the legislative scope and jurisdiction of this Ministry to ensure compliance with such upon complaint to this office.
I also find it very interesting that parents who are receiving ACSD support are subjected to compliance audits every few years, yet under the nose of this Ministry Kinark’s administration budget has ballooned yet again, while advocates list this agency as being one of the worst in Ontario regarding the treatment of eligible children and families, and providing the proper care, and following ministerial guidelines under their own mandates. The Minister even acknowledged recently to some degree that there are problems being reported to this office regarding the conduct of AIPs, and yet I’m referred back to a complaints procedure at Kinark, when it’s this ministry who has direct oversight of this organizations compliance with ministerial guidelines.
This self-policing approach to AIPs is leaving families such as mine without services (while we qualify) at great expense to the province and tax payer. As a result of the lack of compliance audits and self-policing of AIPs, this Ministry cannot at all guarantee that families in the new Ontario Autism Program (OAP) in June 2017 will meet any sort of mandate, while currently several parents are left battling out who said what because the first point of contact with AIPs is left to one that is verbal rather than professional electronic and traceable referrals to the program!
Politely, it is this ministers legal responsibility to follow up properly with Kinark’s board of directors to get this matter resolved since it is entirely a complaint based on mandates, policy, legislation and this agency’s conduct in which the minister has direct oversight. It should not be the job of the caregiver or parent upon complaint into the ministry to be chasing a moving target, adding to the frustration, stress, mistrust, and anxiety over a transition to the new autism program which should be seamless and transparent if the government at all was listening to parents concerns over the past few months.
Finally from the Ministry’s letter dated September 22nd 2016:
“The ministry funds a range of supports and services that may be of assistance to your family. I suggest that you contact with Kerry’s Place Autism Services who provide ASD consultations and respite and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program. I encourage you to re-refer Matthew to the ABA program at which time service length and intensity will be determined”
Also from the September 22nd letter:
“The Ministry of Children and Youth Services is investing in ABA services to increase their capacity, intensity and length. In 2017 the ministry will start implementing the new Ontario Autism Program that will adjust the intensity of services to correspond with the children’s needs and will offer a single access point to autism services in each region”
I’ve been in contact with Children’s Treatment Network (CTN) who diagnosed my son and referred us to Kinark for IBI. There is currently NO community supports that are in place that are even close to the intensity he needs (as a result of the government’s policy decisions since March 2016) in which CTN is in full agreement of, along with descending views of your own expert panel your government is trying to keep quite through non-disclosure agreements.
We’ve placed my son on the ABA wait list in which the ministry acknowledged was a total of 2 – 4 hours/week as a supplementary which was sold to the people of Ontario as a transition program to the new OAP, even though he would not benefit from this program. The current wait list for that in York region is 1 ½ years which extends past the date of the new OAP which is supposed to replace this ABA program. This leaves many in “transition” with NO services while the new program is put into place. It’s been over 6 months since the announcement of this program and investments into ABA “transitional” services seem to be nonexistent. In fact the last time we applied for this useless block of ABA was in 2013, and the wait list back then was 1 year. It’s now grown to 1 ½ years wait with the government investing 6 months ago to “increase” capacity.
In conclusion Minister Coteau, your office has direct responsibility under its mandate to ensure AIPs are being compliant with legislation, transfer payments, and ministry guidelines. As outlined and acknowledged by the Ministry in its September 22nd, 2016 letter, the ministry doesn’t have the proper enforcement regime in place, nor does it investigate compliance issues properly with AIPs, all the while you directly acknowledged to parents recently you are aware of concerns regarding AIPs yet have done nothing to date to resolve those accountability concerns, nor has the ministry added any acknowledgement of that in response to my complaint against Kinark.
This ministry is refusing to work with parents upon complaint, and is refusing get involved in finding a solution for my 11 year old boy who has been eligible for IBI for 6 ½ years.
When is the ministry under your leadership Mr. Coteau, going to start following its mandate to the people of Ontario, and understand that neglect in doing so has severely impacted many families and the futures of our kids. I believe this Ministry’s responses to date regarding my sons issues and unwillingness to get involved to find solutions to those caught up in an imperfect system closely align to that in which was reported by the Ombudsman in August regarding adult services with a different Ministry which launched a multiyear systemic investigation. The culture in your office needs to change Mr. Coteau if you are expected to put forth viable solid solutions to a crisis your ministry is directly responsible for creating due to lack of enforcement and accountability mechanisms on AIPs. Do parents have to go through yet another round of protests, fights, and complaints before your office does the right thing?
We shouldn’t be fighting for services at all Mr. Coteau. I don’t think your government quite understands that point yet. We have enough on our plates, than to be dealing with this mess in which the people of Ontario pay you handsomely for. I would like a resolution to my sons situation please.
I’ve had several parents come up too me with their stories since last week’s post on my son’s situation. There seems to be a large number of fights and battles with regional service providers like Kinark across the province that manage services for kids with autism too get kids the services they need. It’s important to note that these service providers fall within direct oversight of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The Ontario Autism Coalition has been fielding complaints from parents regarding these service providers as well. Too simply state that my son’s situation is an isolated incident would be to undermine the enormity and severity of some of the problems parents are reporting to advocates regarding regional service providers across the province. Kinark has been named one of the top three worst service providers in the province for parental complaints by the Ontario Autism Coalition.
In 2006, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s spouse Jane Rounthwaite worked as a consultant with Kinark. According to ontariosunshinelist.com there was a spike in 2004 where the total number of employees at Kinark that were paid $100,000 or more reached 29. Prior to when the Ontario Liberals took office in 2003, Kinark only had about 1 – 2 people making over $100,000. When Rounthwaite was hired by Kinark in 2006, the total number of people employed by Kinark making over $100,000 was around 8. In 2015 that number has ballooned to 22 people working for Kinark that are making over $100,000 (click image to enlarge):
There was quite obviously a problem with this organizations management back in 2004 with ballooning overhead costs, in which I would think was the primary reason why the organization was looking for a contractor to “fix” the issue. Somehow, Rounthwaite got the contract. It’s still not clear why Rounthwaite was given that contract. Wynne was the education minister at the time, and Rounthwaite was a principle stakeholder in the contracting company hired by Kinark. To date the public isn’t clear on what Rounthwaite’s involvement with Kinark was. Questions journalists had while investigating Rounthwaite’s involvement with Kinark have been repeatedly blocked by the government, and the issue hasn’t seen the light of day with the ethics commissioner for proper follow up either.
What we are seeing from an advocacy point of view; a steady increase in people employed by Kinark making over $100,000 since Rounthwaite’s involvement, with a lot of complaints coming in regarding the treatment of eligible families for services in which Kinark oversees (full disclosure my family is one of those).
What’s worse right now is that there seems to be a lack of enforcement by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services regarding their own “guidelines”. There seems to be a lack of legislation to hold these regional service providers in line with those guidelines and/or enforcement of these guidelines to ensure that families get the services they need. The most recent issue that has come up, is that those parents who received money for their kids for transitional services while they wait for the new autism program to be implemented are being misled by these service providers in thinking the best option for services is to spend that money with them, instead of properly informing parents of their choices and rights to seek treatment outside of these providers as per ministerial guidelines.
There is a huge push right now in the autism movement to provide all families with immediate funding for services to get the kids what they need now while they wait for the new program too roll out. By providing every family affected now with money to purchase services while they wait, it would be cheaper for the province in the long run, but also put the parents in charge of their kid’s therapies. However there is also a problem that has crept up with that as well outside of many not receiving the money.
The province during its announcement to give families the support they need, upped the amount of money they were giving families for DFO to $10,000 until the new autism program would be in place. It seems like kids over the age of 5 are not receiving the full amount (a proposal was sent to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to fix the issue yesterday), and some due to administrative issues with regional providers are ineligible to receive anything. Allegations are also surfacing by those that have received the funding that the government is tying their hands on what type of support and intensity of therapy they can receive with this money.
So as we go further down the rabbit hole, there seems to be an upset in the balance of accountability and enforcement where these regional service providers are not providing the services to the kids that need them, misinforming parents, ignoring ministerial guidelines, and what looks to be quite the issue with overhead costs of these non-profit service providers, along with government tying the hands of parents who are looking outside these providers for services with money provided to these families by government until the new program rolls out.
Pile on the fact only a select few got this money to begin with in which that process for eligibility is in the hands of these providers; it becomes a sick and cruel joke on all families and kids affected by this “transition” that need support NOW! All this at the expense of Wynne trying to save a few bucks, while these regional providers run insane overhead with no accountability or enforcement under the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
The plot thickens. Stay tuned…
I’ve received a follow up from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services in Ontario regarding my son’s position (who is severely non-verbal autistic) after insisting on it regarding what we were told during the last conversation. What I received back looked like a canned response. So here it is in full. I’ll dissect the response.
Dear Mr. Koblovsky:
Thank you for your email regarding autism services for your son. I appreciate the opportunity to respond and provide you with some information.
With a canned pre-made template but okay I’ll listen.
The new Ontario Autism Program, which will begin in June 2017, will deliver individualized autism treatment that provides the intensity and flexibility of service to meet the individual needs of each child, regardless of his or her age.
As of April 1, 2016, children five and over are no longer eligible to apply for IBI. These children can apply for ABA services and receive ABA when a space becomes available. The ministry is increasing the number of spaces available in ABA beginning this year, and doubling the maximum intensity available for each child in 2017. These changes mean that more children who are waiting for ABA will receive services sooner, they will receive more service, and for longer than they would have before these changes.
What’s being said here is that my son who is 11 is no longer eligible to apply for intensive therapy. The only therapy that is available for him is the ABA program. That program only allows for 1 hour per week slots, and most of it is training the parents on ABA rather than observing the child. The ministry is indicating it will “up” the program here to 2 hours per week? Still not effective, not even close to being enough. It’s a waste of money across the board. This amount of therapy from our experience as well as many others hasn’t produced any successes I am aware of in its history.
The wait time for this ineffective therapy is 1 1/2 years! This is being used as “transitional” services by the ministry for kids who are over the age of 5. Those that apply now for these services will not receive support until well after the new program takes place. The government promised that all kids affected by this transition to the new program would receive intensive therapy no matter the age until the new program is in place. Many parents were given upwards of $10K to purchase those supports, until the new program has been rolled out. That doesn’t seem to be the case for my son, largely due to his age.
Beginning in 2017, children of all ages will be eligible to apply to the new program, and will receive more flexible and individualized services based on their needs. There will also be a single access point for autism services in each region, so that families do not have to apply to two separate programs.
It better not be Kinark! What this is saying to me, is parents will not be eligible to apply for the new program until it is rolled out. Meaning there is no plan to have a wait list right now for that program. Those who were on the IBI wait list prior to April 1st, 2016 will keep their spot from what I understand, and those not on the wait list will have to wait for the new program in order to even get on this wait list and will be at the bottom of the barrel. It is unclear from this whether those who are on the ineffective ABA wait list will have their spot in line transferred to the new program, or will this be an automatic transition with priority given to those who were on the wait list prior to April 1st, 2016 (most of which were the ones protesting at queens park), and our place in line determined in 2017.
I’m getting the feeling from the way this has all been set up, the “backtrack” was to make those who were the majority of the autism protests happy, and screw everyone else in the process.
Your email to Sharon Gabison from the Ontario Autism Coalition regarding your family’s situation was forwarded to your local ministry regional office. I understand the program supervisor contacted you to provide information on what services are currently available to your family. If you have any written documentation regarding your son’s past application to IBI, please contact Kinark or your ministry regional office.
I had previously stated that we had documentation from Kinark regarding our placement on the wait list for IBI. Turns out that it was actually for the ineffective ABA program. To date Kinark hasn’t sent anything to my family regarding putting my severely autistic son on the IBI wait list after repeated attempts to get them to do so. I am aware and have forwarded another case to the minister directly where this has happened to another eligible family as well. I have filed a ministerial complaint against Kinark, read the Ministry’s response and my open letter to Minister Coteau.
We know the transition to an improved autism program may be challenging for some families. Information is available online at http://www.ontario.ca/autism on how the changes may have an impact on your family while transitioning to the Ontario Autism Program. It includes the changes that will occur and the next steps a family can expect.
The problem with this statement is they used the word “challenging”. Parents of disabled kids have enough on our plates regarding “challenges”. This represents a lack of understanding and complete ignorance of the challenges we face as care givers on any given day. To add to these challenges intentionally is immoral, self serving, ignorant, and also representative of the fact that Kathleen Wynne was not listening to parents over the past few months that came to Queen’s Park looking for understanding from politicians on what we all have to go through on a day to day basis.
It seems to me, this “backtrack” on autism funding and age restrictions has been nothing more than smoke and mirrors, combined with an attempt to put lipstick on a pig.
If you have further questions or concerns about specific services in your community, you may find it helpful to contact Greg Ladyka, Program Supervisor, at 905-952-1907, or Brenda LeMoine, Community Program Manager, at 905-952-1901.
Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.
Assistant Deputy Minister’s Office
Service Delivery Division
Ministry of Children and Youth Services
A very junior contact being provided to members of the Ontario Autism Coalition. Politically that states that autism services isn’t very high on the priority list anymore after the protests died out. In solidarity to the autism community on behalf of my son who has been waiting 6 1/2 years for intensive therapy:
(Ontario’s Minister Of Child and Youth Services Michael Coteau (above) And Premier Kathleen Wynne called out on false statements regarding Autism funding by Ministry staffer)
A few months ago, the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services announced plans to “restore” autism funding for intensive therapy. On the Ministry’s own website and press releases during this announcement the Ministry told the public that “all children with autism regardless of age will get the services they need at the intensity they need.” According to sources within the Ministry I spoke with today regarding getting my own son the therapy he needs, the ministry staffer acknowledged that statement provided by the Ministry to the public is indeed false.
My son who is now 11 received a recommendation by several specialists (to which is documented) for Intensive Behavior Intervention (IBI) therapy. That was in 2010. I called Kinark who handles the wait lists for IBI shortly after this recommendation in 2010 (my son was 5 at the time), and during that call we were put on the wait list and told we would have an assessment 6 months prior to receiving IBI. We were told the wait list was about 2 1/2 years so we should get a call within the 2 year mark.
In 2012 we didn’t receive word regarding any assessments from Kinark. I called to follow up only to be told we were not on the wait list. We went through the intake process for IBI yet again. At the time we were experiencing major anxiety issues and self-injurious behaviors with my son along with toileting issues. I asked Kinark if we there was any immediate support available, they told me no and to apply for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) until we received IBI. Once IBI was involved it would take over the ABA therapy I was told.
Between 2012 – 2013 we received ABA. ABA was 1 hour per week for 8 weeks, most of which was done without my son being observed, and mostly done with my wife and I at home while my son was attending school. The goals set out in the training as a result were not successful. As a result both my wife and I decided to not follow through with another block of ABA since we were not seeing the results and my son needed to be properly observed through a more intensive process. We wanted to wait until IBI was involved. In late 2013 we connected with Kinark again, to find out once again my son was NOT put on the wait list. We were assured that would happen for the third time.
Fast forward to last week. We still hadn’t heard anything from Kinark. I followed up with them, only to be told that my son is now 11 and does not qualify for intensive therapy anymore as per the new ministerial guidelines released to the public in June. They told me to connect with the Children’s Treatment Network to get on the centralized ABA wait list for the one hour per week sessions we had done before and were not successful.
With the help of the Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) I forwarded off the medical documents from 2010 recommending my son to IBI with Kinark and basically stated what I had just written above to the Ministry of Child and Youth Services for investigation and follow up. I got a follow up call today from the Ministry.
Right from the beginning of that conversation I got the impression that they were not going to help, and they were even questioning whether or not we got the recommendation from our doctors and specialists for IBI, all while the staffer had the paperwork I submitted into OAC from the doctors for just that in front of him. It took him 5 mins to look through 8 pages, and he still disagreed with me regarding the recommendation stating he couldn’t “find it”. I pointed him to the page # on where the recommendation was and had him read to me line by line.
Once he got to the recommendation, the ministry staffer stated that regardless of what was on the paper, that the only thing Kinark had a record of was my call in 2012 for ABA. There was no record of my son on the IBI wait list. Say what? I asked the staffer what our options were, again I was told to apply for the centralized ABA wait list. I brought up my concerns regarding the one hour per week ABA therapy, only to be told that was our ONLY option.
I asked: “Are you telling me that Kathleen Wynne’s promise to get autism kids the therapy they need at the intensity they need is false and misleading?”
He replied: “Yes as it stands right now.”
He then stated that any issues between Kinark and my family regarding the wait lists were a private matter and the ministry would not intervene.
So with my son now hitting puberty and the accelerated behavioral issues that come with that stage in life, we still don’t have the intensive therapy that has been recommended by at least 4 specialists 6 ½ years ago and from what the Ministry has told me today, that’s not on the horizon either. Kathleen Wynne needs to explain to the people of Ontario who were behind the parents of autistic kids, exactly what the heck is going on, and why parents and kids months after this announcement are still NOT getting the services they need at the intensity they need, and why she has mislead the public in believing that this therapy was restored?
Author’s Note: I want to make it clear, that I’ve heard of several stories from specialists and from parents that Kinark is notorious for “losing” paperwork. I’m not the first one with this problem and it extends to other regional providers as well. This needs to be immediately addressed.
What our family desperately needs right now is a commitment that my son will get the therapy he needs at the intensity he needs at some point in the future, in writing from the Ministry with a date on when to expect it, so we can develop a support plan with my sons school, and support network who have been waiting for 6 1/2 years for this support to be in place. I did not get that commitment from the Ministry today, nor was any attempt made at resolving the lack of intensive supports for my son, nor given any direction on which to take to ensure my son at some point would receive the intensive therapy he needs as directed by documents submitted to the ministry and promised by the Premier.
As it stands right now, and from my conversations with the ministry and Kinark, my son will not be getting the intensive treatment he needs as promised by Wynne regardless of the circumstances, due to his age, and he’s not alone.