Sunday, July 25, 2010

Public Health Care: A Message to Americans

I'm watching the hue and cry over Obama's public health care plan, and all I can do is shake my head.
I'm Canadian. We've had public health care since the 1960s. And not the half-assed kind Obama is talking about, either - we go much further than that. With the exception of dental care and prescription drugs, no one pays anything to get medical treatment. The government pays it all. If I were to collapse in the supermarket and spend three weeks in intensive care, my only monetary loss upon discharge would be lost paychecks. I'd actually lose less money than if I'd spent those three weeks in my own home. And it doesn't matter how much money I make - the same service is available for a homeless guy sleeping under a bridge and for a millionaire who owns several companies.
We do not have euthanasia, or anything close to it. 'Your Grandma' actually lives longer under such a system, because you don't have to pay for her respirator, or pacemaker, or lengthy hospital stays. The patient or the family can refuse treatment, but that's true anywhere. And informed consent is a big deal to doctors.
When we first got public health care, people came in to the hospital with easily treatable conditions, such as fallen wombs and hernias, that had languished untreated for years. Many of these people had been rendered unable to work, and went back to work once they'd gotten treatment. Now, we tend to think of untreated hernias and such as something that happens only in third world countries - I was shocked to realize that it happened in the USA.
Our economy has not collapsed under the pressure, and we're not as wealthy a country as US is. In fact, our economy has been booming lately, and our dollar is currently on par with the American Dollar. Most Canadians have a decent standard of living - some are quite poor, some are very rich, but most are in between. It's a fine place to live.
So when I watch the hue and cry over public health care, all I can do is shake my head, and wonder why they don't just look to the north.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Giving a Child Away

A recent news story describes how a 7 year old boy, recently adopted from Russia, was put on a plane and sent back to his home country by his adoptive parents. The boy apparently had serious behavioral problems, including fire-setting. Though I don't know much about him, I'm guessing he has Attachment Disorder, which is caused by loss of caregivers and/or extremely unsuitable caregivers.
Given that he's just gone through another example of the kind of experiences that probably caused his problems in the first place, this boy is likely to have been greatly harmed by this action. Studies have shown, however, that this is often a vicious cycle - kids who experience frequent placement changes in foster care often develop behavior problems as a result, and one common cause of placement changes is behavior problems. And if you're already having trouble trusting, it's even harder to get over something like this.
But I'm not one to say that you should never give up an adopted child. This particular example is quite innappropriate, since as far as I can tell they didn't even bother to notify anyone that they were sending the kid back. But if you go through the proper channels to ensure the child's safety, it is sometimes justified to give the child up. However, you should only do this if it benefits that child or another child in the household.
For example, my parents cared for their niece and nephew. They didn't adopt the two, but nevertheless planned on the placement being long-term. Most likely, they'd have kept them until they both moved out on their own. One of them, in fact, did, although prematurely - she ran away from home around 16-17 years old and didn't come back. The other one, however, my parents gave up.
They gave him up not because he was hard to look after (which he certainly was). When, in his late teens, he was charged with sexually assaulting a classmate, my parents suddenly reinterpreted my quiet and subtly worrisome behavior, and realized that he could be sexually abusing me. They'd put an alarm on my bedroom door, so they probably had concerns earlier, but the counselors kept reassuring them that I wasn't in any danger from him. This incident made my parents realize that they were wrong, that he was a danger to me. So they separated us, by sending him away.
And that was the right decision, even though it likely hurt him, and even though it taught me that my parents' support can be conditional. As it turned out, he was abusing me - he admitted it a year later, and when asked at that time, I told them about it. (I also revealed that his sister had abused me as well.) I got counseling from a young age, and learnt that my parents would protect me. And I didn't get any further abuse from him.
Recently, a guy my Dad knows kicked his teenage daughter out of their home. She's been going out with a drug dealer, driving drunk and getting into lots of trouble. At one point, they found cocaine in their house, that she was storing for her boyfriend. Part of their concerns was legal, since they could be charged with possession if drugs are found in their house. Part of it was how viciously this girl had been treating her mother, and how much difficulty she'd been having with coping. And partly, it's that she has a younger brother, whom she has been verbally abusing and who has been getting more and more depressed lately. He's expressed fear for his safety, and they're hoping he can get better now that she's out of their home.
It's sad that this problem has gotten so bad, and that they've been unable to find some way to help their daughter. But under the circumstances, I think they're right in kicking her out (though it would have been better to put her into some kind of care). My heart goes out to her brother, and his safety and well-being should be a major concern for them.
Note, however, that both of these cases involve teenagers. I think it's a lot more serious a decision to send a 7 year old child away. A teenager can live on their own with difficulty, and as such are less dependent on caregivers if they have them. A 7 year old is highly dependent on a caregiver, both physically and emotionally. Their behavior would have to be very extreme, and the caregiver would still have a very high duty to ensure their safety.
Another issue, that this case makes no mention of, is the issue of support. Was this boy getting counseling? Were his parents getting counseling? It's virtually impossible for an untrained parent to handle a child with serious emotional problems without fairly extensive support. And many of these parents get less unofficial support - who wants to babysit a kid like this? Who wants them to come and visit their home, or spend time with their kids? My parents said many people congratulated them on what a good thing they were doing in taking in their niece and nephew, and then refused to do anything at all to help.
Given that, official supports become even more important. A counselor to help the kid heal and advise the parents, and keep an eye on any other children in the home. A respite worker for when the parents reach their limit, because parents are people too and they really do have limits. A school system that is trained and able to handle that child (so the parents don't need to pick up the slack all the time), keep their classmates safe (even if that means them not having any) and educate them to the best of their ability. And that's the bare minimum, more supports are better. Most importantly, everyone involved should keep in mind that not only are they there to help that child, but the child's family as well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Changing Life

I feel bad about not posting here as often as I used to. I know when this happened - it was when I started university. Such a good thing for me, but it's really cut into my time. Most of my 'facts and opinions' writing urges get expressed through essay assignments, and I don't get as much time for recreation as I used to, either.
But it's not just that. My focus has shifted. I don't feel the urge to jump into advocacy so often lately. Partly, it's that I'm more interested in fiction now - I've been hanging out a lot at TVTropes, and working on my stories. If something fires me up lately, I'm more likely to think up a story about it than a blog entry.
It's also that I'm seeing it less black and white. Rather than wanting to proclaim my own opinion, I've been wanting to understand the opposing views more. This is valuable, since better understanding will help me figure out how to reach those people, and show them what I see. And it enters into my writing, too, as the opponents in my stories get less one-dimensional, more complex and real. If I understand them, I can write them. I can put them in my worlds, and show the impact of their words and actions.
And most of my stories don't have a good guy and a bad guy. Just people with differing goals, needs, perceptions and desires, who come into conflict naturally because of how they differ. I don't always show the way to peace, either - sometimes, there is no way to peace. Not all stories end happily. I just try to paint the interactions, and use that to communicate my message.
My own life has become more important, too. It used to be that I didn't really care that much what happened to me when I got into advocacy. But now, I have classes to do well in, a career to aim for, a way to change things hands on, instead of just pontificating about them. And I have friends, who support me, teach me and admire me. The internet isn't so central to my life now, my self-expression now has many routes.
I may seldom blog, or I may stop entirely. But I will keep true to myself, and to my goal of making the world a better place. I plan on doing research that will help many people, asking questions about how it feels to be disabled in our society. How does an autistic child feel when his/her parent rattles off the child's impairments to a stranger? How are that parent's attitudes communicated to the child? Do nonverbal children notice and care if someone talks to them as if they were toddlers, and how do they express their reactions? What impact does abuse have on a person who is also the target of discrimination, and who naturally interprets information differently? Is FAS really the cause of serious behavior problems, or are those the result of the pain and loss these kids often suffer? Questions like these can be answered by research, and the answers are important to disability rights issues. So I will ask them, and I will find the answers.