|Within SNDW, people who have developmental disabilities and those who come to assist share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighborhoods. Communities are open and welcoming of neighbors and friends and often engage in various collaborations at the local level.
SNDW is committed to helping create an open, inclusive and compassionate Canadian society where every person is valued and can make a contribution. It undertakes Canada-wide educational and community-building initiatives that extend the values and vision of SNDW into the wider society. It publishes press releases and reference materials that highlight the contributions of people who have developmental disabilities to the wider society and that contribute to the public conversation about values, policies and the social ethos in which we live. It also ensures the standards of Canadian SNDW communities, supports the establishment of new communities, and program development in areas of common concern (today, Aging is one such area) SNDW Canada Foundation is the fund-raising body for SNDW.
SNDW group homes goal is to consist of a small number of homes where people share in decision-making and each person contributes as they are able. SNDW believes that meaningful work or day-time activities are very important to a person's dignity. Some people in SNDW may have regular jobs in the wider community, but most of the people with developmental disabilities who come to live in SNDW homes need considerable support and find competitive employment is not an option. SNDW seeks to provide environments where people can reach their full potential; lead lives rich in relationships of mutuality, and have a valid place in society where they can contribute.
SNDW was founded in 2002 by Canadian humanitarian and social visionary, Anne Larcade, the mother of a special needs son Alexandre. Distressed by the isolation and loneliness of people with developmental disabilities and their families, Anne Larcade and a group of committed volunteers created a charity called Special Needs Dreamworks-The Alexandre Foundation.
When Alex was 9 he required a group home assisted living setting with 24 hour support. Ms. Larcade found her journey quite emotional and stressful as she began to enter the myriad of the spider web to find and access services and support. During a crisis and after many emergency situations, Alex was placed into a temporary home for assessment. In 1999 the Ontario Government did not use their own piece of legislation for Special Needs Agreements, which resulted in the Larcade’s and many other families, having to relinquish their children to the Province, in order to receive the services they required for their children in therapeutic group homes.
“Alex is a heroic Forest Gump. He is intellectually delayed; pervasive development delay (autism family) suffers from Child Bi-polar, Anxiety and Post traumatic Stress, but through it all he has remained stoic and endeavors each day for small accomplishments, pride, and to be happy with his circle of friends”.
“There are acute shortages of therapeutic living spaces for those most vulnerable in Ontario. There is a shortage of support for families to care for their children in their homes. The government should paperclip the supports to these children directly to the families vs. agencies. Currently placements for children can be anywhere in Ontario. Such was the case for Alex who had to live 3 hours from his family for 4 years, until we were able to raise funds and purchase a home in Huntsville, for use in our community”.
Ms. Larcade and Alexandre, as well as her other son Emile, vowed that they would fight this action, not only for their family but for others. Anne Larcade became the lead plaintiff in a $500M class action lawsuit against the Ontario Government, for denying services to this sector and for forcing families to abandon or relinquish custody in order to access group home care and/or in home supports that are sufficient to the need. The legal firm handling the class action is www.reko.com and information and updates on the legal suite can be found on their website.
On May 26, 2005, the Ontario Ombudsman released a report addressing the issue of parents being forced to relinquish the custody of their special needs children in order to obtain necessary care. The report, entitled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, urged the Province to remove the moratorium on funding for Special Needs Agreements and to return the custody of special needs children to their parents.
Since June 2005, the government has taken steps to return the custody of special needs children to their parents. However, the government has not removed the moratorium and continues to refuse to enter into any new Special Needs Agreements. A copy of the Ombudsman’s report may be obtained at www.reko.ca.
The Ombudsman’s report estimated that there were approximately 300 families who were affected by the decision to eliminate Special Needs Agreements. This is in contrast to the almost 33,000 families identified by the Ontario government.
Between a rock and a hard place
The Special Report titled “In Between a Rock and a Hard Place” can be accessed at http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/
Between 1999 and present Anne Larcade has become a vocal and leading authority in National Media, for severely challenged people and their families. SNDW was set up to create integrated group homes, the first one in Huntsville Ontario. SNDW does not operate the group homes but rather raises capital dollars to support the creation of homes that are operated by various reputable organizations or individuals. The first home has been purchased and SNDW and is located in Huntsville, Ontario in beautiful Muskoka and sits on one acre of land.
Ms. Larcade is well know advocate and speaker and has appeared on National Television and in numerous magazines and newspapers around the world. She was dubbed the Canadian Erin Brokovitch by Seamus O”Reagan on CTV Canada Am.
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