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LETTER: Ending the Day Programs at ARC and ADS

An Open Letter to The Citizens of the City of Guelph and Wellington County
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GuelphToday has received the following letter advocating for the day programs offered by Community Living Guelph-Wellington

An Open Letter to The Citizens of the City of Guelph and Wellington County 

Cc: Mayor Cam Guthrie, Mr. Mike Schreiner & Mr. Randy Pettapeace, members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the Honorable Ted Arnott, the Honorable Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community & Social Services

The recent unilateral decision by the Board of Directors of Community Living (CLGW) to immediately shutter the current day programs has left a large gaping hole in the service provided to adults living with developmental disabilities here in Guelph and Wellington County. Their attempt to bury this decision in a wordy, multiple page Strategic Plan document where the immediate ending of the day programs was mentioned in a single sentence demonstrates their callous, uncaring attitude towards the parents/caregivers and the very people they are mandated to serve. The fact that this announcement was sent via email is even more cowardly and shameful.

As stated in previous letters from other concerned parents, there is no mandate from the Provincial Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to close the day programs. In fact, in other regions, their Community Living Associations are slowly starting to reopen and provide the much-needed day programs to their clients. There were no budget cuts. CLGW has received its full 2020 budget allotment to administer both the ARC and the ADS (Adult Day Services) programs, even though our adult children have been without service since March 16, 2020. There is no budget cut in 2021 – the funds remain in place with CLGW to provide the day programs, the Board of Directors has simply decided not to.

Attendance at both ARC and ADS was voluntary. We were not forced to send our children to these programs – in fact, the exact opposite is true. Parents/caregivers were delighted with the services provided. The programs were delivered by caring, compassionate, trained professionals. Our kids were supported in a safe and caring environment, where their many complex needs were met. At no point in my daughter’s 11 years at ADS did I ever feel as though she was being treated as a ‘shut-in’ or being hidden from society. Her days often included trips to the walking track or Play Sense to work on her gross motor skills. Being with her friends and contemporaries on a daily basis helped her with her verbal and social skills and trips into the community, whether to the grocery store to pick up treats, picnics in the park in nice weather, attending movies and live theatre, taking part in the annual fashion show, lunches at the mall food court or simply going for ‘coffee’ were all part of a regular week. Music therapy with Katie, Thanksgiving turkey dinner and a Christmas party including a visit from Santa was always a big hit and resulted in the unique wonderful spontaneous joy you can only find in our kids. You would be hard-pressed to find this love of life, friendship, and sense of belonging elsewhere.

So many parents have advocated for and worked so hard to have these programs available in buildings built in our community specifically for our kids – their fund-raising efforts and donations from the community, have made all of this possible. I appeal to Mr. Joe Holody and Mr. Norm Jary to lend your voices to our fight to keep the ARC and ADS programs available in Guelph and Wellington County. You were both such wonderful champions for our kids. To parents of developmental kids currently in the school system, I implore you to get involved – once your child is 21 and leaves the education system, there will be no place for them to go.

CLGW has yet to provide any concrete plans on how they will replace the day programs other than to say that there will be a ‘gap’ in the service received and that they are still working on the logistics of implementing individual-based support. Should they not have had all these plans in place prior to pulling the plug on ARC/ADS? Parents will be forced to quit their jobs to stay home with their adult children. Once my savings have been depleted, how will I support my daughter?

Our children deserve so much more than to be sitting home, lonely and bored, watching TV or colouring all day.

Cathy & Megan Favaro
Guelph, ON