Saturday, January 24, 2009

Campaign: End Waitlists Now (Community Living sector)

Campaign to End Waitlists Blog

End Waitlists Now:
People with Developmental Disabilities Deserve Better

BCACL has joined together with other family and community groups to address waitlists that are forcing children and youth with special needs, adults with developmental disabilities and their families into crisis.

Virtual Rally - January 30th to February 1st. You can be a part of the rally without even leaving your home. All you have to do is visit End Waitlists Now between January 30th and February 1st and follow at least one of three easy steps to urge the Premier to support community living in his budget.

BC Association of Community Living - advocacy, campaigns, news, events.

BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD)

BC Family Net Society - Family support & advocacy organization.

Community Living BC - they provide services, supports, Individualized funding for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Also, parents, advocates, self-advocates and other stakeholders can join the community councils in their region.

BC Representative for Children & Youth - Advocates for child & youth rights and helps with systemic problems, monitors and reviews government services.

Report: Children and Youth Rep Update on System of Services for Children and Youth with Special Needs

Advocate for Service Quality - Adults with disabilities can ask for help, make complaints and get support here.

Office of the Ombudsman

Make an appointment with your MLA

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ego, Relationships & Spirit

Ego and parenting

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Common Ground, January 2009.

You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
– Kahlil Gibran

More than ever before, there now seems to be greater awareness about the ways in which an unchecked ego can create havoc in our lives. When we strive to remain conscious, we can utilize our inner observer to keep ego in check.

There are times, however, when ego’s reaction is so strong and so swift it is as if the observer gets knocked out, perhaps not regaining consciousness for hours, days or even much longer regarding that particular situation. This is most likely to happen in our closest relationships.

One area where unconsciousness can show up in an otherwise evolving individual is parenting. When a child is born, this new soul comes into this world to make its own particular journey. Parents, of course, are a very important part of this journey, but it is not as much about them as they would like to think.

When people become parents, or sometimes even during the pregnancy, a couple begins to have visions for their child and, early on, they begin to shape the child according to their wishes and aspirations.

As the child grows, the parents’ egos become very satisfied to the extent that the child’s behaviour and ways of being are in alignment with what the parents want for the child. If the child does not live up to parental expectations, there is often dissatisfaction, frustration, disappointment and even anger. If the parents’ egos are in full swing, they see the child as a reflection of themselves. They redouble their efforts to make the child “look good.” I am reminded of a friend who, years ago, when her five-year-old daughter had dressed herself in a most “creative” ensemble, told the child that no daughter of hers would go out of the house looking like that!

As the child gets older, the involvement of parental egos may intensify. If the dad wants his son to be a hockey star, he can be hard on the child when he does not perform well. If the parents want their child to be an academic star, they may, when presented with a mark of 80 percent, ask why it was not higher.

An unaware ego can be very determined to get its way. It can “know” which career path is best for a child, despite the child’s differing interests and protestations. This causes the young person to surrender and follow the career path that will please the parents, or go her own way and live with guilt and a feeling of letting down her parents, or become immobilized and depressed and do nothing.

Ego can also do serious damage to the parent/child relationship when it has a strong negative reaction to the child’s choice of life partner. Once again, the child can be made to feel guilty for following his or her own heart and true path.

To honour the souls of children, parents need to strive to maintain awareness of ego and when it is trying to satisfy itself through the child. It is helpful to think of the child as a plant that begins as a seed, with all of its potential and characteristics already locked inside. It needs only proper care, loving nurturing and attentiveness in order to blossom fully into its natural beauty.

As children grow, I think asking them more questions is more important than what we tell them. Ask them what they think, what they like and what they want to be when they grow up. When they are older, ask what inspires them, what they are passionate about, what gives their life meaning and what they would like to be remembered for.

As parents, our job is to give children good roots, but they must find their own wings and fly where their spirit leads them.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author of Growing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For articles and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit www.gwen.ca

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Drop your reactions

THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle

Common Ground, January 2009.

Your relationships will be changed profoundly by surrender. If you can never accept what is, by implication, you will not be able to accept anybody the way they are. You will judge, criticize, label, reject or attempt to change people. Furthermore, if you continuously make the Now into a means to an end in the future, you will also make every person you encounter or relate with into a means to an end.

The relationship – the human being – is then of secondary importance to you, or of no importance at all. What you can get out of the relationship is primary, be it material gain, a sense of power, physical pleasure or some form of ego gratification.

Read more

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Affordable Housing Belongs In The Budget

Date Published: January 15, 2009
Publisher: National Post
Author: Tim Hearn

There's never a shortage of ideas for spending taxpayer dollars and no doubt Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is learning that lesson in spades these days.

Minister Flaherty has reasonable criteria for stimulus to help weigh his options: timeliness, impact, appropriate size, limited duration and contribution to long term goals.

But which stimulus options will achieve the greatest return on investment (ROI)?

One prime candidate is affordable housing. The Calgary Homeless Foundation, along with other organizations across the country, has proposed a $2.5-billion federal investment to create 30,000 to 50,000 units across the country.

The foundation asserts that by investing in affordable housing -- including home ownership, rental, supportive housing and renovation projects -- the federal government could stimulate recession prone industries, directly support Canada's most vulnerable citizens and ultimately reduce costs to the Canadian taxpayer.

The proposal clearly meets all of Minister Flaherty's criteria. The economic impact of affordable housing investment is nearly immediate. The impact would be multiplied because affordable housing would attract provincial, private sector and philanthropic investment -- levering as many as two additional dollars for every federal dollar for a total injection of over $7.5-billion. And this is an investment in quality of life for low and moderate income Canadians, which would leave enduring community assets as a legacy.

Yet the proposal goes beyond meeting the general criteria to be a clear ROI winner. For starters, it leaves more money within Canada than other suggested stimuli targeting the construction industry, with 80% of residential construction costs remaining in Canada. The construction industry employs more than one million Canadians, and each new home built creates four to six years of employment for Canadian workers. (As I write this, Statistics Canada reported a decline in full-time employment in December and attributed the decline to job losses in construction.) Furthermore, the benefits of this investment would accrue to communities nationwide, not just in one region or province.

An affordable housing investment would provide direct support to lower income and homeless Canadians -- targeting those in greatest need. More than 1.4 million Canadian households lived in Core Housing Need (a direct measure defined by the CMHC using Canada Census data) in 2001, with one in every 10 Canadian households facing housing affordability issues. As many as 300,000 Canadians experience homelessness every year.

Lower income and fixed income Canadian households will be particularly vulnerable in a recession. Renters, female lone-parent families, seniors, immigrants and Aboriginal households will face higher risk of losing their homes. Investing immediately in affordable housing will ensure that our most vulnerable Canadians weather the impacts of these uncertain economic times.

But what makes the business case for this investment are the numbers. Right now homelessness rings up an annual cost to taxpayers of $4.5-billion. Research and recent Canadian experience proves that affordable and supportive housing is five times less expensive than current institutional responses to homelessness and about half the cost of emergency shelters.

A $2.5-billion affordable housing investment would pay for itself if one third of the units built were targeted to house our homeless neighbours.

To illustrate , Calgary's per capita share of $2.5-billion would be approximately $78-million, so 1,560 new affordable units could be created at $50,000 per unit. The average annual cost of system use (hospital, corrections, police, shelters, etc.) by a homeless person in Calgary is estimated at about $100,000. If we created 520 homes for homeless Calgarians (one third of the total units) we would save taxpayers $21-million per year. The savings would pay for the $78-million investment within four years. I would add that more than 50% of the homeless population in Calgary already has employment.

An economic stimulus that actually saves taxpayers' money is a winner for all! I strongly encourage Minister Flaherty to put affordable housing on the top of his priority list. It's clearly worthy of inclusion in this year's budget.

Tim Hearn is the immediate past chairman and CEO of Imperial Oil Limited. He currently chairs the Board of Directors of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

©Copyright 2008. Funders Together to End Homelessness. All rights reserved.

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Housing First in the Age of Naught: Homeless People Need Homes NOW

Westcoast Indie News. December 19, 2008.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hodge Podge: Christensen bows Out...

Cabinet minister Christensen will not seek re-election in May

CBC News

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Ah yes, the ubiquitous, "spending time with the kids" excuse for exiting stage right from government. Sounds like a whole bunch of folks running to the exits to me. Wonder what they know that we don't? Yet.

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Tom Christensen becomes seventh Liberal cabinet minister not seeking reelection

Jonathan Fowlie, Vancouver Sun. January 13, 2009.

Children's Minister bows out of politics
Victoria Times-Colonist. Tuesday, January 13, 2009.

Christensen, who had earlier announced his plans to see re-election this year, changed his mind during the Christmas holidays, he said in a news release.

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Warning signs, risks often ignored before parents kill

By Janet Bagnall, The Montreal Gazette, January 13, 2009.

Excerpts:

Warning signs were flashing all over the place, if anyone had known to look: Marc Laliberté was bankrupt, jobless and suffering from depression. Cathy Gauthier-Lachance had just lost her job, too, and was described by a former co-worker as someone with "problems."

This troubled couple had three children to care for and a house on which they couldn't afford the rent. They were also socially isolated, having recently moved to Chicoutimi from a smaller Quebec town about 500 kilometres away.

Mental illness, particularly depression, is the key factor in the majority of cases of murder-suicide involving parents and children, research shows.

In the majority of these cases, research found the killers thought they were acting in the best interests of the children, to protect them. "This type of perpetrator is generally the breadwinner of a family and tends to be overly responsible for the family," Yip wrote in a new study to be published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. "We call it delusional altruism," Yip said.

Others kill their children to spare them a life marked by poverty, family breakup, discrimination, exploitation or "other real and imagined social ills."

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Depression is the cost of doing business the way we have over the past couple of
decades. I believe the dramatic increase in mental health issues and disability in the workplace can also be related to downsizing, cutting budgets, staff and increasing stress, workloads and expectations for workers left behind, or those who come into downsized organizations.

For instance, when the BC Liberals came into government in 2001, they made significant budget cuts to every Ministry, got rid of hundreds of staff and have continued to not replace staff leaving certain positions (while exponentially increasing senior managers and bureaucrats). With an aging population and recruitment & retention problems in skilled professions, it leaves fewer and fewer staff, with much more work and increasingly unrealistic workload expectations, which they crack under. Which leads to all kinds of mental health issues.

It's time for some common sense, adequate staffing levels, reasonable workloads, compassionate and enlightened leadership to return to the workplace in light of the severe labour market shortages many fields will be facing over this decade.

Employers could save billions by reducing stigma of mental illness

Economic cost of disorders exceeds $50 billion

By KATHRYN MAY, Canwest News Service, January 7, 2009.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Child Welfare Media: It's Time for the Dog to Quit Chasing it's own Tail

Campbell administration risks another tragedy
Sean Holman, January 08, 2009. Public Eye Online.

Excerpts:

In April 2006, an independent review judged the Campbell administration of having mismanaged the ministry of children and family development - which some said contributed to the deaths of two toddlers. "I don't think there's any doubt" government cutbacks "took the knife too far," said former Justice Ted Hughes, the man appointed by the administration to make sure such a scandal didn't happen again. But 33 months later, the status of the 62 recommend-ations included in Hughes' independent review of British Columbia's child protection system is in the doubt. And Premier Gordon Campbell is again to blame.

The premier needed to create a clear process and chain of command to right this badly-listing ministry. Instead, the two powerful child protection officials put in place by his government - Lesley du Toit, the deputy minister of children and family development, and Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the province's children and youth representative - have become, in effect, rivals.

But Ms. du Toit, who would later be named the deputy minister of children and family development, seems to have had her own future vision for the ministry. After all, three months prior to her hiring, she had been in Victoria delivering a presentation to senior bureaucrats and community members entitled "Transforming the Child Welfare System."

But Ms. du Toit's transformative vision - which, according to her, was "strongly influenced" by the Hughes Review - appears at odds with the report's recommendations.

Mr. Hughes wanted to repair the ministry - stressing a need for "equilibrium and stability." By comparison, Ms. du Toit appears to want to remake it - changing the ministry's culture and structure.

The Campbell administration was wrong to have appointed both Mr. Hughes and Ms. du Toit to do what became the same task - envisioning a future for the ministry of children and family development.

Ms. du Toit's poorly-articulated vision may indeed improve the province's child protection system. But to-date, there's little evidence that's the case. Nor has the representative found any - perhaps because there is none, perhaps because of her own belief in the Hughes Review.

Meanwhile, many of the review's recommendations have gone unfulfilled - perhaps because they are unnecessary, perhaps because of the deputy minister's equally strong belief in her own vision.

And, in the end, it is the children who will suffer as a result of this in-fighting.

Read more

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VIDEO: Heather Robinson reports: B.C.'s child protection system still broken: watchdog (Runs 1:12) CBC News.
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Christensen: "I am confident this ministry is on the right path."
Watchdog takes another bite
Sean Holman, Public Eye Online. December 11, 2008.

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Children’s Ministry requires progressive, clear and decisive leadership in a time of economic uncertainty
BC Association of Social Workers

It is time for some sober second thoughts on the state of BC’s child protection system as we head into an unparalleled economic crisis.

BC is in desperate need of strong, clear and decisive leadership. There is arguably nothing more important than keeping BC’s children safe and it is the paramount legal mandate and moral imperative of the BC government to do so.

The MCFD Deputy Minister’s recent statement that one option for MCFD to address the need for fiscal restraint measures would be not to replace child protection workers who leave by “natural attrition” through retirement or other means, causes us deep concern. This is not the way to strengthen the child welfare system.

BCASW offers these recommendations for the BC government, MCFD and other stakeholders to shore up the child welfare system and to be proactive in planning for the days ahead:

Read more here.

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Representative warns children may pay the price of new Liberal cuts
BC Government & Service Employees Union.

"Front line workers see first hand the impact these cuts had on families and children," said Walker.

"I am particularly concerned over reports that the Ministry of Children and Family Development will be looking at "fiscal restraint measures" in the coming weeks," said Walker. "Has the government learned nothing?"

The BCGEU represents 4,200 employees who work in the Ministry of Children and Family Development and over 10,000 who work in front-line community social service agencies.

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An oversight oversight
Sean Holman, January 08, 2009. Public Eye Online.

Earlier, we argued the differences between former Justice Ted Hughes and deputy minister Lesley du Toit's visions of the ministry of children and family development might not have become apparent if the Campbell administration hadn't appointed an a children and youth representative to oversee that ministry. But what you might not know is the representative's oversight function may not exist after November 2011.

The creation of such an office was Mr. Hughes's first and foremost recommendation in his independent review of British Columbia's child protection system. But, in that review, the former conflict of interest commissioner acknowledged the representative's power to "monitor, review, audit and investigate the performance and accountability" of that system may not "be a permanent aspect of its mandate."

The reason: "it is unusual to have an external body overseeing the functioning of a government ministry." As a result, Mr. Hughes suggested "that this area of responsibility be reviewed in five years time." And if public confidence in the ministry has been restored by that time, the representative's mandate may be revised to "include only its advocacy functions."

So the question is will the Campbell administration, if it remains in power after the May 2009 election, act on this suggestion to neuter the representative - whose present officeholder Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is seen as more of a critic than a watchdog.

2008 Progress Report on the Implementation of the Recommendations of the BC Children & Youth Review ("Hughes Review"). Representative for Children & Youth.

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Advocacy BC:

Let's be clear, those who work in child welfare and social services know that tragedies are happening every day. There is a reason those caring, dedicated and committed professionals are getting sick, burnt out and quitting in droves.

The tragedies are small and big. We have only to look at things such as the recent report completed by the Child Death Review Unit of the BC Coroners Service on the 81 young people in BC who committed suicide.

What about all of the kids who have child protection reports called in who don't get seen because the caseloads continue to be just too damn high for workers to manage, year after year, decade after decade? Child protection Intake wait lists. Opening and closing cases. Keeping kids out of care who should be there. Children farmed out to relatives who can't afford to care for them, but hey, at least they're not one of the over 9000 children in care. As the Representative has touched on, there are two populations of children in BC with little, to no, oversight whatsoever, children living with family under Child in Home of Relative (CIHR) and children living on reserve with family under the federal Guardian Financial Assistance. This has been allowed to go on for decades.

These are all tragedies and failures of the BC government and these are our childrens' lives and in denying them adequate protection and care, we are breaching their human rights and BC and Canada's commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. And I think it's time we stopped doing that. The kind of real world circumstances a government creates for its' children speaks to the core of the value that administration holds for them. It speaks to whether they are considered as having inherent human rights, are thought of as precious and cherished individuals and resources for the future health of a society.

Why put a "sunset clause" in the recommendations. Other provinces have Child & Youth Advocates with a longstanding function to monitor, review and critique government provision of child welfare services and outcomes for young people, why would that be any different in BC?

Clearly BC has always struggled to create an adequate and ethically managed and conducted child welfare system, under many different administrations. Perhaps, the argument might be made that it has never botched it's provision of child welfare like it has under this administration, which is ideologically bent on privatization and "devolving" the entire government. MCFD has quite arguably never spent so much money and had so few results and so little protection and safety for BC kids. Time, effort and money can be put into window-dressing, but the outcomes remain the same, or actually worse.

If MCFD was a corporation (and the BC Liberal government uses a corporate model) there would be no question that an ongoing and continuous lack of concrete results, objective measures and improvements in outcomes would inform decision-making as to the viability of the leadership and management of the organization. BC's young people and families have been waiting long enough for improvements, over 8 years now, with their circumstances in many respects getting worse, year after year. Fundamentally, it is time for a change of leadership.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Vancouver Events to End Homelessness

Little Mountain Art-In, 2nd Edition

Host: CALM – Community Advocates for Little Mountain
Date: Sunday, January 11, 2009
Time: 1:30pm - 4:30pm
Location: Little Mountain Housing Complex
Address: E. 33rd & Ontario, Vancouver, BC
Contact: 604-325-7209

Outdoor art gallery – artists and community members who want to stop the demolition of 224 homes and have them reopened to those in need of affordable housing.

Website: CALM

Community Advocates for Little Mountain
Will you stand with us? We stand for housing every Saturday

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Little Mountain Housing Redevelopment Petition
CALM

Sign the petition

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Public Forum on Homelessness - Vancouver - January 14th 2009

Co-Hosts: Libby Davies, Hon. Hedy Fry and Don Davies

Date & Time: Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From: 9:00am - 12:00pm

Location: Vancouver Japanese Language School Auditorium
487 Alexander St. Vancouver, BC

Description

This public forum will explore existing challenges and opportunities for addressing homelessness in the community, with a particular focus on federal policy and funding.

The goal of the forum is to send a strong message to the federal government to implement a national housing strategy and to step up their plan to address homelessness.

Guest speakers include:
Judy Graves, Tenant Support for the City of Vancouver
Dr. Michael Byers, UBC Department of Political Science
Jaimie McEvoy, Director, Hospitality Project
Laura Track, Lawer, Pivot Legal Society

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hope for BC's Youth with Addictions

With the opening of the Crossing @ Keremeos, BC’s youth impacted by addictions will now be able to attend long-term residential treatment in their home province.

Thanks to the tireless and Herculean efforts of From Grief to Action. The parent-run organization for young people with addictions is an inspiration and an example of “ParentPower”in action and collaboration with the Central City Foundation.

Kudos to the BC government for kicking in $2 million for the program. But a BIG thumbs down to the Conservative government for not stepping up with a dime. While they’re contemplating massive “bailouts”(aka corporate welfare packages) to those corporations bellying up to the taxpayer trough, how about a measly $300,000 to help young people like the inspirational and brilliant Roberta (see article below)?

Or how about a little demonstration of corporate social responsibility and a donation from some BC corporations who see the benefits to this program to complete the necessary capitals costs? This is the kind of tax donation that gives & gives lives back to so many.

With residential treatment, support and care, many youth are able to overcome their addictions, other issues and marginalization. Those of us who have worked with young people, families and adults impacted by addictions, concurrent disorders and poverty, know that this kind of residential treatment can help individuals overcome barriers to healthy living, help them meet their potential and contribute to the well-being of others and their communities. Way to go BC!

B.C. opens first long-term addiction treatment centre for
youth

Long-term residential treatment for young drug addicts to open this month
Lori Culbert, January 3, 2009. Victoria Times Colonist.

British Columbia opens its first long-term residential treatment program for youth this month, which means young people addicted to drugs can finally get help here instead of being flown to Central or Eastern Canada.

Forty-nine young people from B.C. have been sent to Quebec, Ontario or New Brunswick over the last three years to seek residential treatment, as part of a pilot project run by the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health boards. That is expected to stop January for drug addicts aged 14 to 24.

Roberta Watt was raised in Vancouver but when her drug habit got out of control in 2006, she flew to Montreal to attend an 11-month treatment program run by Portage, the same non-profit rehabilitation agency that will operate Keremeos.

Today, Roberta, 20, is a self-confident young women who is clean and healthy, working and studying, and just jazzed by life.

Little more than two years ago, you might have seen her on East Hastings and dismissed her as dysfunctional and despondent.

"I was such a sick little girl inside this addict: I'm lost, I'm lonely, I'm scared inside, but I have such a big ego that I won't let you see it," Roberta recalled.

She attributes her turn-around, in part, to Portage, whose philosophy is to encourage personal achievement with the support of family and friends, as well as peers who are also in recovery.

The Crossing at Keremeos is the result of nearly a decade of determined efforts by From Grief to Action, a group of Vancouver parents with children with addictions, and the Central City Foundation, a non-profit organization that is raising $6.5 million for the capital costs of the project.

The foundation is $250,000 short of reaching its goal.

The $2.4 million annual operating costs will be shared by the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health boards.

Heather Hay, Vancouver Coastal Health's director of addictions services, said the Portage program has had an "amazing" impact on the youth who have been sent east.

"They are instilled with hope, they are reconnected to community, many of them have been reunified to family, they have found something to do, either re-engaged with school or work," Hay said. "They have been able to find a place where they belong. They have improved self-esteem and developed resiliency to make improved life choices."

One of them is Roberta.

"I met her in treatment, I met her before treatment, I met her after. So I've seen her through her whole trajectory. It's amazing. She is just vibrant," Hay said. "It's not been an easy journey but she's worked hard, and she really has gained a a tremendous amount of insight. It's amazing."

DABBLED IN DRUGS

Roberta was raised in Dunbar by her supportive father, a successful businessman. She was a pretty girl with good marks and many friends, but began dabbling in drugs the summer before she started at Point Grey secondary.

"Before walking into the doors of high school for the first day I was already smoking pot," the frank, engaging young woman recalled in a recent interview.

Her father trusted Roberta and accepted her experimentation with pot, since she told him it was minor and that she was keeping up her marks.

"Our trust was so deep. We were a powerhouse team, me and him," she recalled. "But I became more selfish, and I abused that trust. He gave me an inch and I took a mile."

Roberta's childhood was not one of poverty, but it is no secret that drugs know no economic or geographic boundaries. Most people are driven to use by some internal or external factor.

In Roberta's case, one of the most compelling circumstances was that her own mother, who came from a dysfunctional background, struggles with her own drug addiction.

"Having an addicted parent definitely contributed. When I was in Grade 4, I went to rehab to visit my mom for Mother's Day," Roberta said, clearly torn between speaking openly about her troubles and not wanting to speak ill of her mother.

She believes now she was unable to express her "fears and feelings" as a young girl. As a form of self-protection, Roberta created a blissful front of a happy childhood and turned to drugs to keep up the facade.

The fact her mother is still using drugs is painful for Roberta, who cut off all communication with her mother two years ago when she started getting clean.

By age 13, she was hooked on ecstasy and had tried her mother's drug, cocaine. "I really wanted to know what had taken my mom, I really wanted to know what the fuss was about."

For her 14th birthday, a friend gave Roberta some crystal meth. "That was the end of that. Crystal meth ripped me and got me."

Roberta, who had loved school, dropped out in Grade 10. Her social life evolved from school friends to users in the Downtown Eastside. "Then I just let the whole downtown core consume me," she said. "Allowing people to take advantage of me whenever, however
possible. I was just this little 14-year-old girl. I really let them devour me."

Her dad was now terrified. He gave her more money, so his daughter wouldn't do anything desperate to get her drugs.

When she injected for the first time, the naive girl didn't understand the dire consequences: the high was much more intense and she needed more drugs to sustain that feeling.

She also didn't think she would be susceptible to the health risks.

"I was using people's dirty needles, I was using puddle water, I was using water from the gutter. I am really lucky I am healthy," she said. "I just thought, 'I'm young and spunky and hot, and I don't think [getting sick] is ever going to happen to me.'"

As her injection use increased, Roberta began disfiguring herself with the needles. She made hole after hole in her own skin, deriving pleasure from the pain.

Her addiction evolved into shooting heroin and her efforts to quit failed. In an emotional exchange, her grief-stricken father asked if he should prepare himself for Roberta living this way for the rest of her life.

It was a jarring conversation. Just after her 18th birthday, in August 2006, she agreed to go into detox, even though she thought she wasn't "fixable." However, while in detox for 11 days, she met people who inspired her to change. "For the first time in my life I'd seen people who had been to places that were much darker than the places I'd been, and here they were clean. So there was hope."

She kept herself busy with day treatment programs, meetings and night school, but desperately wanted to go to a long-term residential facility to ensure her recovery was firmly cemented. With the help of an outreach worker, a close friend and mentor, and her
sister,
Roberta lobbied Vancouver Coastal Health to send her to Portage.

"The intensity in which I found my addiction, I couldn't play around anymore. It wasn't fun. There were no parties left in how I used at all, whatsoever," Roberta said. "What I had to lose was so severe."

After several weeks of perseverance, Roberta left in September 2006 for Montreal and stayed for nearly a year before graduating from the program. "I slowly started unravelling my story, not only to them but to myself too. And it took me 11 months."

Being away from Vancouver wasn't devastating for Roberta, but it wouldn't suit every teen. Some respond better to day programs which allow them to live at home. "It's really challenging for kids, particularly in the early days, who are struggling with their own substance use issues, and may have never travelled before to be sent so far away," Hay said.

A facility like Keremeos didn't exist in B.C. any sooner for a couple of reasons, Hay said. Since taking over responsibility for drug treatment from the province in 2002, the health board had other priority services to address first.

And, secondly, it has taken Central City and From Grief to Action eight years to make this project a reality. The province has given $2 million to Keremeos, but the federal government has provided no funding, Hay said.

It is expected the first 20 beds at Keremeos will open in late January for girls and young women, and another 22 beds will open for
boys and men
by May.

It is anticipated that some of the program's past graduates will work as peer supporters to new clients in B.C.

SIMILKAMEEN CAMPGROUND

The facility is located on a 58-acre former campground in the Similkameen Valley owned by Central City, one of Vancouver's oldest charitable organizations, which donates money to causes and capital projects that help disadvantaged people, especially those in the Downtown Eastside.

The money raised by the foundation is being used to renovate 14 existing buildings, improve sewer and water services, and construct a new kitchen and school, said chief executive officer Jennifer Johnstone.

"Lives are going to be saved by this project," Johnstone said.

Dinah Watt, of Vancouver, is ecstatic about how her sister changed in Montreal. "When I started visiting her at Portage, it was just amazing. We could start rebuilding our relationship," said Dinah, 30. "I could just gush about Roberta because she is so strong. Recovery takes so long, but she takes on every challenge. She's become a role model for our family, the tables have turned. I lean on her now instead of her leaning on me."

It wasn't an easy road for Roberta, but it has so far been a successful one. There are still dark days, but she now surrounds herself with supportive people she can lean on while toiling to leave her old life in the past.

Roberta has remained in Montreal, where she is studying French, is three months away from completing her high school diploma, and has been working as a waitress for a year and a half.

"From me going from hustling some good dope from you, to me nowtrying to sell you some ribs or a pulled pork sandwich -- I'm doing well," said Roberta, who hopes to go to college and work with children one day.

Her relationship with her father was forced to change, but their bond is even stronger now. "He's still a major support for me, on so many different levels. Our dynamic is to a point that I never thought possible," she said, smiling warmly. "I'm learning how to live again, and I'm loving the journey."

lculbert@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

Resources

From Grief to Action - a support program for parents & families impacted by a child's addiction.

Children of the Street Society - offers a series of prevention and education programs for children and youth, caregivers and service providers to reduce the risk of child sexual exploitation.

Missing Children Society of Canada

Addictions Treatment Services

Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service

(604) 660-9382 (Lower Mainland)
Toll-free: (800)663-1441 (Anywhere in BC)


ACCESS CENTRAL - Detox Referral Line

Easy Access to Detox: 1-866-658-1221

Residential Treatment for Youth

Crossing @ Keremeos - BC, opening January 2009.

Hazelden – Youth Residential treatment program in Portland, Oregon.

Portage - Youth Residential treatment program in Montreal. Will be operating the Crossing @ Keremeos in BC.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Welcome to Advocacy BC

Glad you found your way here. You'll find different advocacy
resources, events & information, some media stories and opinion
on advocacy issues thrown into the mashup.

Feel free to comment and have some dialogue on postings.

If you want an event, or article posted, e-mail:
advocacybc@gmail.com

All the best in 2009.

Advocacy BC

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