A Mission mother is giving up her job for the summer to look after her two children after funding was recently cut to her family.
Gwen Langer expected to receive six hours of one-to-one child care in July and August for her four- and six-year-old boys, but she was recently notified by Mission Association for Community Living (MACL), that her children will only be receiving one support worker between the two of them for six hours a day.
Langer worries her children won’t be safe or properly cared for with the change.
“The reality is one person cannot take care of both my boys,” said Langer. “I can’t handle both boys myself.”
Her youngest child, Wyatt, has a micro deletion of a chromosome, mild cerebral palsy and autism. He’s doesn’t communicate and has problems eating.
Taking care of him is a full-time job, Langer explained.
Her son, Ethan, is autistic, non-verbal and global developmental delayed. He’s six, but his mental age is three.
He tries to communicate, but gets aggressive when he’s not being understood. He can’t calm himself down when he’s overwhelmed.
Support hours are being reduced because Langer’s children are no longer at the top of the priority list as set by provincial criteria, said MACL executive director Dawn Hein, noting MACL administers the funds provided by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Children entering school for the first time are priority now, but MACL is constantly adjusting to the shifting landscape of families, explained Hein, noting the level of care is also based on a family’s dynamics.
“There may be families who move away or go on holidays and don’t need support,” Hein said.
“I have a right to government funding,” said Langer, who works part time as a bookkeeper in Maple Ridge, but picks up enough extra shifts to be considered full-time. “Every parent drops their kids off at daycare to go to work. I don’t think it’s fair I don’t get that.”
Langer said she was on the brink of bankruptcy almost three years ago before funding for her children to receive extra care came through. She wasn’t working then and she doesn’t want to be in the same situation again. Her children’s father is an active participant in their lives, and is doing as much as he can, but the situation has created a lot of stress, according to Langer.
MACL is trying, but there’s a wait list and not enough funding, said Langer.
“I get it, but I need to work too. I have to work to provide for my family. I shouldn’t have to go to friends and family for support.”
There are 17 children, including Ethan and Wyatt, who receive support from MACL under a program called range 3, and there are 15 on the wait list, said Hein.
Range 3 funding comes from the province and is used to provide extra child care support for kids who have been diagnosed with certain conditions, like autism, and enable them to have an inclusive experience.
In a preschool setting like Ethan and Wyatt’s, the parents pay for their spot in the school, but MACL is charged for the extra staff hired to care for a child.
MACL staff also work in supportive development programs and provide consultations on how these children can be included.
Funding for the program, which is $116,000 annually, has not increased in recent years, but the need for care has, said Hein. Recognizing the demand for the service, MACL cut its internal budget this year to add another $14,000 to the range 3 pot.
Currently, Wyatt receives six hours of care daily, while Ethan receives two and a half for after-school care. Together, the brothers have used more than a quarter of the budget this year already, said Hein.
According to Hein, parents prefer one-to-one support, but a two-to-one model is workable, especially if they are siblings on the same side of the preschool.
“We try to do what we can to help, but at some point there isn’t anything to give,” said Hein. “We have historically overextended ourselves to help, but we can’t do it anymore. We’re bound by our budget.”
Overall, funding to MACL has decreased in the past three years and for the first time ever, the non-profit organization is fundraising to maintain its current level of programs and services.