In BC there are a host of services to help diagnose special needs and offer support to families. This guide explains where BC families can go to get help and what to do if it isn’t forthcoming.
Infants 0 - 6
Infant Development Program
This program is available free of charge across BC. All parents can use the service and can refer themselves or ask their GP to do so. Approximately 30% of the children are referred due to developmental delay, 30% referred are at risk for delay and 25% referred have a diagnosed disability. Infant Development Program services may include: home visits to encourage the development of new activities for the child and to support parents; developmental assessments and written reports; playgroups, parent workshops or support groups, therapy consultation, and a toy and book-lending library. For a list of Infant Development Units in BC, visit www.healthlinkbc.ca or check your phone book.
Aboriginal Infant Development
The Aboriginal Infant Development Program (AIDP) provides culturally relevant supports and services to families of children up to age three who have, or are at risk, of developmental delays. Find the service near you at, www.aidp.bc.ca/aidp-programs
Local health units
Local health units are for all new parents. They are great places to meet other parents, to have your child’s immunizations done, and access other medical and community services for children and families.
Early Intervention Therapy Services
This program provides community-based physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology and family support worker services to preschool children who have, or are at risk of, a developmental delay or disability. Services include screening, assessment, intervention, consultation, education and training to parents and community members, and service coordination. Community agencies provide these services in home, preschool, child care and community settings. Contact your local Ministry of Children and Family Development office for information on the service in your area.
Children & youth 6 - 19
In addition to special education services provided through school districts, the MCFD and Community Living BC provides child services that help families of children with special needs.
This program is intended to assist parents with some of the extraordinary costs of caring for a child with severe disabilities. The program provides assistance to families in two main areas: respite benefits allow parents to choose appropriate care options for their child and family; medical benefits provide a range of medical supplies and services. For more information, visit www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/child-behaviour-development/special-needs/complex-health-needs/at-home-program or communitylivingbc.ca.
The Government of BC offers two types of autism programs that provide funding for autism-specific intervention services for children and youth. For more information, visit https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/healthy-women-children/child-behaviour-development/special-needs/autism-spectrum-disorder/autism-funding or call toll-free, 1-877-777-3530.
Brain injury program
This program is available through the BC Centre for Ability, https://bc-cfa.org/, or call, 604-451-5511.
Child and Youth Mental Health Programs
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, speak to your GP or call you local child and mental health office (in the phone book), or visit www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/mental-health-substance-use/child-teen-mental-health Two excellent guides on child and youth mental health services and what to expect from your child’s school, can be found at www. bckidsmentalhealth.org.
Supported Child Development
The Supported Child Development Program (SCDP) assists families of children with extra support needs to access child care that meets family needs. The program is intended to serve children from birth to 12, with services for youth 13 – 19 years available in some communities. Call 250-338-4288, ext. 225, (toll-free 1-866- 338-4881), or visit www.scdp.bc.ca for more information.
Help For Children and Youth with FASD
Two services are available across BC to assist families of children and youth with FASD and similar conditions.
- Key workers can help families to understand FASD by providing education and information specific to the needs of the child, and connecting them to parent support services in the community.
- Parent support includes mentoring, support groups, and FASD training for parents and grandparents.
The FASD Connections at www.fasdconnection.ca provides more information on all aspects of FASD for parents, caregivers, professionals and others interested in FASD issues.
For information on services in your region, please contact your public health unit or health authority.
To receive Post-Adoption Assistance (PAA), you must have adopted a child from the MCFD and the child must have a designated special service or special placement need. If you adopt a group of siblings at the same time, you should be eligible for some PAA. An income test is used to determine if you are eligible. PAA agreements are negotiated for two-year periods and are in effect up until the child turns 19. PAA payments are not considered income for tax purposes.
The program has two components:
Specific service payments — to purchase services such as counselling, specialized training, medical equipment,.
Maintenance — This is money intended to provide financial assistance to families.
Disability Tax Credit
A tax-free benefit is available for low and modest income families who care for a child under age 18 with a severe and prolonged mental or physical impairment. Forms and information are available from www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/disability.html, or by calling, 1-800-387-1193.
Advocating for your child
Know your rights
Familiarize yourself with your rights and the rights of your child to receive services. Call non-profit agencies for help with this. They can be a great help and have often assisted thousands of people in the same way. Assume that the officials you meet are there to help, and treat them respectfully.
When dealing with education or government services, always prepare a list of questions before a meeting and keep careful notes of what has been said. Put all your requests in writing and ask for a written response by a certain date. Leave emotion out of your letters—stick to the facts.
At meetings keep calm, bring all relevant documentation about your child and previous meetings or phone calls. Ask a friend or family member to come with you for support. Don’t accept “no” for an answer—be prepared to negotiate and, if you need it, ask for time before making any decisions.
If you need to, go up the chain of command. Find a non-profit organization that has experience in the sort of issue that you are facing and request assistance.
If you are still having trouble receiving help try contacting the following people:
- Inquiry BC. Lots of resources and contacts which can connect you to any government office for free, 604-660-2421
- Call your MLA, he or she will have access to more contacts, or may do some investigation or advocacy on your behalf.
- The Representative for Children and Youth provides advocacy services to ensure that the voice and views of young people are heard and that their rights and interests are upheld in decisions that are being made about them.
- BC Ombudsman. One of the roles of the B.C. Ombudsman is to ensure that every person in B.C. is treated fairly in the provision of public services. Visit https://www.bcombudsperson.ca, or call toll-free at 1-800-567-3247 (all of BC).