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LETTER: Concerned citizen urges management to reconsider closing Community Living programs

Letter writer says even stakeholders were blindsided by the cancellations
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GuelphToday received the following letter from Donna Christie regarding a solution to the Community Living program closures:

The concern, hurt, dismay and "discussion", regarding the closure of the Community Living day programs and buildings, continue.

I am writing with a simple solution.

Community Living senior leadership made this decision and I have to believe that, at the time, they thought it to be in the best interests of the adults. Progressive, forward thinking maybe, a brilliant move away from what they see as segregation? May sound good in theory.

They were so intent to implement this idea for the good of all that they neglected to involve the very people (and their families) impacted by this change. The survey sent out certainly does not qualify as involvement.

Even some so-called stakeholders spoke up to say that they were blindsided by the cancellations. There was no directive from the ministry. So we know that this decision came solely from upper management. All with good intent, we must believe.

Now the adults and their families, and the community as well, have stepped forward to give input and it is crystal clear that the vast majority out there do not want nor believe in this change. No need to outline the reasons here - you have heard the presentations and read the letters and comments from so many by now. And as we continue to repeat, "who knows these special people better than their parents".

And let's remember, we know that the day programs do NOT lock away the adults and keep them from the community. They ARE regularly part of the community, with outings within the day program and community involvement outside of the program with family members, support workers, etc. - meaningful community involvement to whatever extent they desire and find comfortable. Not contrived, token placements in the community solely to prove "full citizenship".

The Community Living base is where their hearts and comfort level are, as well as their friends. Choosing to be with their group has somehow been misconstrued as segregation.

Since when do we refer to people sharing common interests etc. who come together in groups in such places as houses of worship, Legions, senior centres - on and on - as being segregated? What about Special Olympics? Is it on the hit list?

Let's not forget - it is a well known fact that the various private day programs out there are in demand, successful and held in high regard. Do all the people who love and support these day programs, as well as the CL day program, have it all wrong? That would mean that the vast majority has it wrong and only senior CL management has it right.

There is something lacking here that is at the root of the problem . . . RESPECT 

The decision makers have shown no respect whatsoever for the adults or their families. No respect has been shown to them throughout this process - no transparency or honesty, no disclosure of the ultimate plan but rather secrecy all along (even in the so called survey ) and now, as parents express justified shock and concern, and speak out with and on behalf of their adult sons/daughters, they are only heard but not listened to - dismissed with a very obvious air of  "we know better."

Thus, the adults and their families now have little respect for the decision makers, who treat them with such low regard. The decision makers do not acknowledge the fact that they themselves did not follow the philosophy set out in the new plan they created.

They preach that the adults must make their own choices and own decisions and clearly state that we must stop making decisions for them! Yet what did they do? It is almost laughable but not a bit funny. They have not been open to listening and learning and rethinking and that is so sad. A good caregiver, educator, administrator, policy maker, etc. is always open to listening and learning and can discover so much that way.

The simple solution   .......

Decision makers can stop and open their minds and their hearts to the outcry from those who truly know and are fully impacted by the plan, listen to them, learn from them and say, "well, now we understand and now we will change our plan". We all make plans and we all change them as we go along. There is no shame in that.  We ask the decision makers to please treat those directly impacted with the genuine respect they deserve.

And as the closure plan is cancelled and decision makers show that now they truly do understand and also truly care, they will gain back huge respect from all involved and from the community at large.

Mutual respect and the happy adults back at home base with their friends and the staff who understand and care and know how to program, provide and support. The right thing will have been done.

We implore the decision makers to listen and rethink their plan. They will be held in high regard for having done so.

Donna Christie