Disabled parents fight to keep their baby

Having your child taken away from you is a parent's worst nightmare. For this couple, it could be a reality.

By Kristy Woudstra
Disabled parents fight to keep their baby

Image by G.M.Vozd/iStock

When I heard about a couple in Ontario who are fighting to keep their baby from being taken away by the Children's Aid Society (CAS), my temper flared. (That's my cue that I just got a whiff of injustice.) "Hold on," I cautioned myself. "You don't know the whole story." So I started doing a little research; and what I learned only flamed my anger.

Maricyl Palisoc and her partner, Charles Wilton, both have cerebral palsy (CP); a condition that affects motor skills. Last month, Palisoc gave birth to their son, William, (he is CP-free). That's when the CAS swooped in, questioning the couple's ability to physically care for William.

Most of the questions seem to lie around Palisoc. In the past month, she has proven that she can breastfeed and hold her son and change his diapers. As for Wilton, he is a para-Olympian who set three world-track records for our country. Enough said.

The CAS allowed Palisoc and Wilton to take William home from the hospital only after the couple hired 24-hour care by an "able-bodied" person. (By the way, the CAS was unable to define "able-bodied" in a CBC interview.) The couple already have 24-hour help in their assisted-living building should they ever need it, but that was a moot point for the CAS.

Hiring 24-hour care isn't cheap — $2,000 a week. A program co-ordinator with the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities has been footing the bill from his own pocket for the past month.

I don't understand how the CAS can even consider taking away baby William from his parents. Not only can they physically care for William, they are doing so in a loving environment.

Why should a baby be put into government care when systems are in place to help this couple? Especially when they don't need much help in the first place. The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies even states that its logo represents: "protecting the best interests of the child while working with the strengths of the family and collaborating with services in the community." I don't see any collaboration here.

This really hits home for me. I can relate on some level to the threat of having my child taken away. After my ex walked out and before we had a separation agreement in place, he threatened on several occasions to take away my daughter. His threats were empty, of course, and based on nothing. (After just over a year, he stopped showing up to see our daughter all together. We haven't seen him in almost four years). But I remember the fear of wondering: "Could he actually do it? Could he actually take my daughter?" The fear that rises from that threat is indescribable.

Palisoc and Wilton meet with the CAS today to find out what the next steps are. I hope that, like my ex, the CAS will back off. I don't want my tax dollars to fund the needless separation of a child from his family. I'd rather see this family supported by their community. After all, doesn't it take a community to raise any child?

This article was originally published on May 03, 2012

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