HANTS EAST: Everyone deserves a place to belong- especially in your own community.
While this may be a sentiment that resonates with all, there are still members of East Hants who remain segmented and at risk of falling through the cracks of the system— adults with special needs.
Once an adult with special needs reaches the age of 21, they are forced out of the public school system, but with little alternatives available locally, many parents are finding themselves facing the difficult decisions of what to do next.
Kim Robinson is one of these parents, her daughter, Erika Stevens, turns 21 in May and will no longer be able to attend school, she says, they have no further options available to them.
“There is very limited space in CCOA programs (Corridor Community Options for Adults), and you have to have specific set of skills to be able to be in that program,” said Robinson.
CCOA is the only programming available locally for those living with intellectual disabilities, once making it to the top of a waiting list and being accepted to the program, members have the opportunity to work available jobs, such as at the thrift shop, bundling kindling, or at a catering program. Her daughter tried the program for five months last year, but Robinson says it wasn’t right for her.
“You’re taking somebody who has the mentality of children, and you’re asking them to stay still in a job that was designed for adults, so that was very hard for my daughter,” explained Robinson, “She came directly from working in a school setting where you have a social atmosphere to all of a sudden having to be still in one area and do a specific task for 8 hours a day, that was a huge change for her.
It would be the same as taking a 10 year old child and saying, ‘OK you’re going to go work at the Sobeys for eight hours today’ and expect them to have no issues what-so-ever, it’s not logical.”
Robinson says she was told by the CCOA that her daughter was not a right fit for the program, and with no other options available they suggested she speak to local MLA, Margaret Miller, about trying to bring additional programming to the area.
“She’s my child and she’s always going to be my child, she’s always going to be my dependent and I have to look out for her best interests and heart breaking because I really didn’t see this coming, I really didn’t think I was going to be put in a position where I felt like she was almost being discriminated against,” Robinson said.
Robinson says most of these adults need full-time care and with her daughter no longer being able to attend school, she wonders whether she will be able to keep her job, or even have to move her family just to insure her daughter is properly cared for.
“It’s not fair, I know Truro has day programs, Halifax does too, but unfortunately were in that area in the middle of two larger populations who have programming and really, based on the way our population is expanding over the past number of years we really should have that
Robinson and other mothers facing the same problem have been holding meetings and consulting with Miller to try and figure out a solution to this problem.
Sally MacNearney is another one of these mothers, her son, Jimmy’s story has been featured in an earlier edition of The Weekly Press, McNearney has been the fighting force behind these mothers looking for proper day programming.
“I know of three individuals who have been out of school for a few years with no day programming available to them. There are three more finishing school this year with no future in front of them and within the next five years there will be six or more looking for day programming,” MacNearny said in an email when asked about how many people were impacted by this lack of services, “I know there are others out there it’s hard to locate them, once they are out of school people tend to become isolated.”
The mothers will be holding various meetings to try and find a solution, if you fall into the category of effected parents, MacNearney is asking you to please reach out to her for more information on dates and times at firstname.lastname@example.org
“We need more awareness for the problems that the parents in this area are experiencing in this area for our adults with special needs,” Robinson said.