The Giving and taking of authority – To authorities

June 14th, 2011

If there is one thing that holds true in raising a handicapped child, it is that you deal with a lot of authorities: Family and Childrens services, special services at home, Revenue Canada, doctors and specialists, social workers, psychologists, Childrens' Aid and even the police.

When you raise two children with disabilities this list more than doubles because often they want to double-check that you're not overwhelmed, that you are providing proper support, that you are getting proper support, that you're not abusing or being abused.

In dealing with all of these people, you get used to your life being an open book; Consent to communicate or consent to share information is a form that you see all too often as one agency seeks to share with another, either for confirmation, enhancement of services, convenience or otherwise. You often end up telling some pretty personal information to an awful lot of strangers that most people would never even consider doing – all in the name of raising your children safely. This can questions such as:

And so on.

Personally, I am not much of a privacy hound. I have answered all of the questions above and many, many more to a great deal of government officials and will continue to do so for a great many years. Because these agencies are often interconnected and also because of the consents to communicate, the answers and information I provide are not only shared back and forth, but they're also verified as consistent – A fact that I can assure you is no accident. In my families case, the information always is verified as consistent for one simple reason: I am honest.

Not only am I not a privacy hound, but I have nothing to hide and nothing to be embarrassed about. More importantly: It makes life easier. It's easier for the officials doing their job, it's easier for my children to get services and frankly, it's easier on my pride and my conscience in knowing that I am an honest and honourable person.

Where this REALLY pays off, however, is when someone chooses to abuse the use of authorities due to a perceived slight, threat to their own authority or misunderstanding of what they think is right or wrong. It is a sad fact that one of the most common issues faced by parents of the severely disabled is the abuse of the police or Childrens' Aid by those who seek to intimidate or silence.

I faced this very recently – Yesterday, in fact: The principal of my childrens' school, Beachburg Public School, unhappy that we, as parents, would not bow to every whim and demand – unhappy that we would not be silent on perceived abuses or misuses by the school – decided to call the Childrens Aid in an effort to intimidate and silence.

That sounds like a dramatic – even an over-dramatic statement. However: Given the school in general and the principal in particular, a Michelle Belsher, has called the Childrens Aid four times AND the provincial police once; ALL cases have been dismissed as warrantless and groundless. When you've been told four times that you are abusing the system, that these parents have done nothing wrong, yet you insist on calling a fifth time, because you feel your authority is threatened – You have an issue.

Unfortunately – In many cases, parents of the handicapped or special needs can be overwhelmed, over stressed, over stretched or all three. When the “bogey man” of the CAS shows up at your door, the person initiating the abuse of official power expects you to shut up, cower and comply.

However: When your whole life is spent not only as an open book, but an honest open book, those same authorities, even the “boogeymen” will look back at the accuser and ask “What is your real motive here – Because protection of the children it is not – these parents already have that covered.”

Even when you are new to one particular set of bogey men, you can point them to all the other agencies you deal with and allow them to communicate. They will then find that, once again, the parents of the handicapped, who, often by need and definition, must speak out more often about abuses of their childrens' rights, are being silenced by small time authorities, such as a school principal, who simply do not wish to treat all children as equal human beings.

At the end of the day, most power and authority is taken by people not because they have the right – legally or morally – but simply because people give it to them. If the Childrens Aid shows up at your door and you are scared and intimidated – it is not because they have the authority to do that to you: It is because you have given them that authority. The solution ?

Don't give it to them.

Do not be afraid, do not cow, do not buckle. I'm not saying to be rude, belligerent or confrontational – In fact, being pleasant, polite and calm is not only the best way to deal with most authorities, it often resolves the situation to a favourable outcome much quicker than anger will.

It is no different with the police than with the Childrens Aid or with the Tax Man: Show them you have no reason to be afraid because you have no reason to be afraid.

You, the parent, YOU have the ultimate authority over yourself and your children. YOU are the expert on what is and is not best for them. Why on Earth would you give that authority over your most precious asset – your children – to someone else ?

The answer: Do not.

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