When a system created to help people ends up hindering

Every child needs a family, but not every family can raise a child.

It’s a statement that is both profoundly true and in many ways, tragic.

And it was proven true in the case of Corrina Paul, who was put up for adoption at an early age and spent her teen years in the foster care system.  There are of course, many loving and caring foster families and group homes that play an important role in raising productive, principled members of society.

But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

After meeting with Paul and her supporter for months, I attempted to share their ordeal (see pages 4 and 18). I’m not entirely satisfied with the result, but I do believe it’s a tale that shines a light on a system so overburdened with red tape and paper shuffling that it ends up hurting the same people it was created to protect.

To make an (extremely) long, convoluted and complicated story short, here is a woman who has never felt loved in her life. After being put up for adoption at an early age, as if that isn’t traumatizing enough, she then lands at a foster home where she experiences, according to her, sexual and emotional abuse.

After years of living in group homes, having had both good and bad experiences,Paul finally meets someone, a former youth care worker, who not only cares for her, but is helping her get past her old emotional issues and vulnerabilities. But the problem is that Paul is an extraordinary circumstance. She needs 24/7 support (more on this in the story). As a result, the woman she lives with can’t work and care for her at the same time. She’s been trying to get funding so she can hire a caregiver during the day while she works, for six months. And it’s proven to be the most frustrating experience she’s imagined.

Part of the reason the process has dragged on so long is because the province has a lot of checks and balances and policies and procedures it must adhere to. For example, Disability Services (the provincial agency that funds people with disabilities) does not hire staff for individuals directly. Instead, it puts in place what is called a funds adminstrator, who hires, supervises and pays the caregiver, while also making sure they abide by provincial and federal regulations.  This makes sense, as providing direct funding to the caregiver could leave room for oversight or taking advantage of the situation.

But a one-size-fits-all approach is not always effective. Paul’s situation is quite unique. Because she needs 24/7 support, finding a support program in Fort Saskatchewan for her is impossible. But she’s also formed a strong family bond with the woman she lives with, who is her supportive-decision maker (she actually calls her mom). In a situation like this, you’d think it would make sense for Disability Services to simply fund the woman she lives with as support staff, as that’s what she’s been doing for six months free of charge.

But they can’t, because rules and regulations.

There are two sides to this story – one is that Fort Saskatchewan doesn’t have enough services to help disabled people in unique situations. I don’t imagine this is news to anyone.

But the other, more important story is how rigid conformity to regulations can result in a complete lack of action and decision-making. I don’t think anyone at Disability Services is happy with Paul’s situation. But the fact is that constant deferral and inaction has now resulted in this family possibly having to relocate from Fort Saskatchewan because the caregiver can no longer take care of Paul for free.

It’s evident the system is not working properly when the same rules and regulations designed to help people leaves them slipping through the cracks.

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