The Right to Support: Severely Disabled Children & Their Mothers
Jennings, Sheila Kathleen
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The author examines how severely disabled children and their mothers, who are usually their primary caregivers, are treated by Canadian law and policy. She identifies and analyzes deficiencies in care and other supports the state makes available to them. She further provides an analysis of the role of the state as it increasingly privatizes responsibility for supports, including unpredictable and often complex forms of care, situating them in practice, with mothers. Caregiving mothers are required to provide what comprises maternally complex care, which may be medical, neurological or psychiatric in nature. Within complex care, visible and hidden costs have been off loaded onto caregiving mothers by government. Using conceptual frameworks from feminist standpoint theory and drawing on Paolo Freires theory of critical consciousness, the author analyzes legal cases, legislation and policies, as being founded upon a series of powerful myths. She assesses the paradigms that underlie current legal arrangements, in particular, the roles assigned to mothers of children with severe disabilities. Her analysis engages with administrative, tort and constitutional law, and includes a focus on the steps taken by the province of Ontario to end the voluntary care provision to mothers with disabled children through its child welfare jurisdiction. She shows where such practice may not comply with legal requirements in each of the areas of law she examines, building an argument that Ontario may not refuse such care to mothers. Legal reforms and other approaches that could enable severely disabled children and their mothers to achieve more just outcomes are presented as a series of recommendations.