Wilma Arthurs (left) keeps her 20 year-old daughter, Emelia, busy with the help of her support worker during a news conference April 20, 2011.
Credits: Heather Wright/This Week/QMI AGENCY
SARNIA, ON — Wilma Arthurs' crusade to find government funding for her intellectually disabled daughter Emilia is gaining ground.
“I'm pleased with that because the whole point of us doing this publicly is not that we want some fame or anything. It’s to really show the government, and people, how difficult it is for families like us,” said Arthurs, 58, who recently visited Ontario's legislature pressure the government for more funding.
Arthurs' husband Chris, 59, has terminal colon cancer and the couple are no longer able to care for Emilia, 21, who has autism, epilepsy and cortical deafness.
The couple gave Emilia up to a respite home, Community Living, in September — a desperate move to elicit funding for space in a residential group home.
But the respite home doesn't have the resources to take care of her either.
Lambton County has about 220 residential group home beds, with another 180 people on a waiting list.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services said there's no more funding available.
The government spent more than $1.7 billion on developmental services this year, and has boosted funding to the sector by $500 million since 2003.
Government officials said they are working with local agencies to resolve the issue.
It's not known how much it would cost to house Emilia in a group home, Arthurs said.
Meanwhile, her non-verbal daughter is staying in the respite care home, and the organization is adding a bedroom so she can stay there until a group home space is ready.
Arthurs said she contacted Ontario’s ombudsman about launching a complaint against the government.
There is funding for Emilia in a hospital, psychiatric or long-term care home bed, but those options are more expensive and inappropriate, Arthurs said.
Emilia's strength and lack of understanding can make her dangerous to herself and others. She functions at the cognitive level of a two- to three-year-old.
“We feel the only care we will accept for Emilia is with Community Living,” she said.
PC MPP Christine Elliott has called on Ontario to create a special committee to create a comprehensive developmental services strategy.
But the provincial parliament has since been prorogued.
Community Living asked Arthurs last week to find a nursing home for Emilia — under direction from the ministry — or the agency would seek custody through the Public Guardian's Office.
Days later, a ministry spokesperson publicly said the government does not ask families to give up custody of children with a disability.
Arthurs e-mailed Community Living and the the ministry, saying she wouldn't take Emilia out of respite care.
“I feel that other families across the province are watching our family's plight and the response we have gotten from government so far,” Arthurs said in an e-mail.
“I think it is probably making families even more fearful and hopeless for their children with disabilities.
“This makes me all the more determined to win our cause, not just for our Emilia, but to give hope to other families in similar situations.”