Mother who left son with autism sparks push for Family Bill of Rights
Published Saturday, September 7, 2013 1:34PM EDT
The Ottawa mother who captured the country’s attention after leaving her severely autistic son at a government office five months ago says she continues to feel guilty, but knows in her heart it was the right thing to do.
The story of Amanda Telford's heart-wrenching decision to leave her 20-year-old son, Philippe at a government office in April struck a chord with many families struggling to care for those with developmental disabilities. In addition to autism, Phillipe has Tourette's syndrome, diabetes and functions at the level of a two-year-old.
At the time, Telford said she and her husband were absolutely exhausted and left Philippe at an office for adults with developmental disabilities out of desperation, saying that her son needed more than the couple could give him.
"We struggle with a lot of guilt over what we felt we had to do and a lot of anger over what we were compelled to do,” Telford told CTV Ottawa this week.
Now, the Telfords’ story has sparked a grassroots movement pushing for a Family Bill of Rights, which would help families with children who have developmental disabilities to face daily struggles and difficult decisions when they can no longer provide proper care for their children.
A strategist for the potential bill says that families like the Telfords have nowhere to turn.
"We want to examine what’s happening elsewhere … and put a proposal together to say these things belong in Canadian society," said Miriam Fry, who is also the executive director of an organization called Families Matter.
Organizations that work with families like the Telfords say autism support services typically disappear when children turn 18 or graduate from educational programs at 21.
Telford said her son has been in a temporary group home for the past four months. Although she says Philippe is doing well in his new home, he will be moved to another temporary location in a few days since there is no permanent space available for him.
Ontario's ombudsman, Andre Marin, has received nearly one thousand complaints from families like the Telfords and is expected to release a report by the end of the year or in early 2014 outlining concerns of families dealing with children who have developmental disabilities.
Telford says she is anxious to hear Marin’s findings, and anxious for other families to feel the same sense of peace she says she’s felt for the past five months.
With report from CTV Ottawa's Joanne Schnurr