To the editor:
As Minister for Children and Family Development, I would like to address some factual errors referenced during the May 19 town hall (“MLAs Ellis Ross, Karin Kirkpatrick address autism and childcare in Terrace town halls,” The Terrace Standard, June 1, 2023) on autism services to ensure that families have the most up to date information.
In 2016, the last full year of the previous government, the budget for children and youth with support needs was $303 million and it is now $528 million. Just this year, our government invested over $34.5 million to expand services for children and youth with support needs and an additional $6 million to fund pilot family connections centres. The total funding in Budget 2023 is the largest increase in these services our Ministry has ever received, and the funding will provide crucial supports to families such as respite and foundational therapies for children who are currently underserved.
We are opening three pilot family connections centres in the northwest, in Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers, and each will serve their surrounding communities. This means families in the northwest will not need to go far to meet with therapists or service providers. For those that are unable to access a centre, families can access therapies in their own home, in community, in satellite offices or virtually in order to meet the unique needs of their child or youth.
The pilot family connections centre model is intended to improve access to services, help reduce the burden of administration for families, and address the existing patchwork of programs that locks services behind a diagnosis and leaves so many families behind. We know that too many children in the province aren’t getting the services they need, particularly those in the northwest. This includes children waiting for an autism diagnosis, those whose families find the individualized funding model does not work for them and all the children with other support needs such as FASD.
For those it does work for, individualized autism funding will continue, as the Premier and I committed to last year.
I know that this has been a stressful time for some families.
We’ve been listening to families and advocates and are focused on ensuring every child and family has access to the supports they need to live a full, happy and healthy life and to reach their goals.
I will continue to meet with and hear from families, including families in Terrace, to ensure that this new system is built to better support all children and youth with support needs.
Minister of Children and Family Development