Disabled couple fights for right to care for newborn son
Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, May 2, 2012 9:03PM EDT
A new mom and dad in Mississauga, Ont. who both have cerebral palsy are fighting to keep their newborn son at home, after social workers threatened to take the boy away over concerns about their ability to care for him.
Maricyl Palisoc and Charles Wilton became parents to a healthy baby boy named William last month. But before the child was even born, the social worker at the hospital had called in the Peel Children's Aid Society.
CAS workers told the couple they were not convinced they could care for William and threatened to remove him from their home unless they found an "able-bodied person" to offer 24-hour care.
The couple has now met that demand, but wants to be given the right to care for their son on their own terms.
Linda Soulliere, of the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities says the whole situation is unfortunate and is the result of misunderstanding about disability.
"I think a lot of it is attitudes and perceptions and a lot of misunderstanding about what cerebral palsy is," she said in a telephone interview.
The personal support workers the CAS demanded cost $2,000 a week and a staff member at the Coalition has dipped into his own line of credit to pay the fees. But Soulliere says her group is confident Maricyl and Charlie can manage just fine without someone watching over them 24 hours a day.
"We feel they should be given the chance to be parents," she says.
"And they deserve the chance to have some privacy. Right now, the attendant is there all the time. I think they deserve the opportunity to spend some time alone with their child."
Soulliere says the couple already receives a few hours a day of care from support care workers at the building, which is run by a group called AbleLiving. All they would need, she says, is a few more hours a week of care, which AbleLiving says it's willing to provide.
"I'm not saying they don't need some assistance. And they do get it through the AbleLiving program. But they are able to do a lot more than people give them credit for," says Soulliere.
Charles uses a power wheelchair but has good upper body strength, she says. Maricyl is more mobile and while she has some hand mobility issues, she's still able to change diapers, breastfeed, and other daily activities.
Soulliere says the Children's Aid Society is an "admirable organization" that helps many children who need protection, but she wonders whether people have jumped to the wrong conclusions about Maricyl and Charlie.
"Their speech is affected and when speech is affected, it's much easier for people to assume their cognitive skills are affected, but that's not the case," she says.
"They're both really intelligent people, but because their communication skills are not there, people tend to talk down to them like they're not as bright."
The couple is due to meet with the Children's Aid Society on Friday. That's when Soulliere's group plans to present their ideas for a care plan, in hopes that all sides can work out an arrangement.
Until then, though, Soulliere says Maricyl is anxious and losing even more sleep than most new mothers already lose.
"She's scared of losing their child. She loves her baby," she says. "She wants to be given the opportunity to be a good mom. That's all she wants."