Did you know that in 2004, Alberta was the first province in Canada to create independent legislation for supports and services that would be used by families and children with disabilities? The Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD) Act was developed to outline the supports that families who have children with disabilities can receive through the Government of Alberta. Families who have a child that lives with disability may need added support for their child to become included in the community as well as preserve the well-being of the family. The program is designed for families who have children under the age of 18 and it assists approximately 10,000 children each year.
How do you start receiving support through FSCD? First, you must determine if your child is eligible for services through the program. The child must be under the age of 18 with a medical diagnosis of disability or have a condition that could lead to a disability in the future and/or are waiting for a diagnosis. Medical documentation of a child’s disability should come from a medical professional who can make a diagnosis such as a physician, psychiatrist, physical therapist etc. Once you send in your application, a worker from FSCD will determine what supports are needed for your child through an assessment of needs. This may involve your worker visiting your home to meet your child to understand their needs and determine the appropriate resources. You may not like the idea of a stranger coming into your home to assess your child, but the process is meant to identify the best ways to help your family. One way to get through the meeting is to go about your day as planned and provide as much detail about your child as possible to ensure the worker understands your vision.
“These supports are essential to get the family through regular daily activities, relieve stress, and give parents a break.”
Next, FSCD strives to deliver a family-centered approach when developing an Individualized Family Support Plan which is used to plan for services while keeping in mind the individual needs of the child and family. Through conversation with the family a plan is developed with goals centered around the young person to clarify the assistance needed at home, school, and in the community. Families are eligible for two types of services: family focused services and child focused services. Family focused services can include counselling, financial support related to clothing and medical appointments, and respite services. These supports are essential to get the family through regular daily activities, relieve stress, and give parents a break. Child focused services may include: aide supports, financial assistance towards medication and other supplies, specialized services with other professionals who can offer support (ie. speech pathology), and temporary out of home living situations. Children who receive these services are often given opportunities to grow and participate in community especially through programs offered in community settings or through an agency. Remember to ask a lot of questions about the options that are available for your child to participate in after school activities, sport activities, weekend respite, and summer camps. The services are important for parents and children to become as independent as possible because as their child ages supports change and preparing early can prevent issues when transitioning to adulthood. Ultimately, children and young people living with disabilities should begin practicing skills that can be used as an adult to avoid getting lost in the system.
A study conducted by the Government of Alberta Community and Social Services department in 2016 gathered information from almost 2,000 families in Alberta about their experience with FSCD which concluded that FSCD had a 90% positive impact on the family and a 92% positive impact on the child. The FSCD and PDD 2016 Guardian Survey was sent to 8,370 families but it would be interesting to learn how families utilizing FSCD are impacted by supports in 2018. It is crucial for families to have supports in place for their child, but each situation is unique, and the supports should be tailored around the needs of the family and child. It is great that children and youth have access to individualized funding to create a full life and increase their quality of life.