Mother of severely autistic teenager leaves son at government office
An Ottawa couple made a heart-wrenching decision today to leave their severely-autistic son at an Ontario government office. Amanda Telford and her husband say that caring for their developmentally delayed son has left them both ill and at the breaking point.
At 19, their son Phillip has the body of a full grown adult but functions at the level of a two year old. Phillip Telford has autism, Tourette Syndrome and insulin-dependent diabetes. He requires 'round the clock care; care that his exhausted parents can no longer provide.
“You need more than what we can give you right?” says Amanda Telford to her son, as she stands outside the office of Developmental Services Ontario, an access point for adult developmental services.
“And you know we love you?” says Telford, a social worker, “and do you love us?” Her son nods in agreement.
“It was an absolutely brutal decision to make,” says Telford, hours later in an interview inside her east end Ottawa home. Telford says she and her husband can no longer keep their son safe.
Early Saturday morning, Phillip slipped out the locked door of their house and wandered four kilometres, across two busy streets to a restaurant. On Monday, Telford says her son got into medications that were securely stored and swallowed 14 pills. She took him to the Montfort Hospital. Just hours after they returned home, Phillip again slipped out of the house and entered the house of a stranger.
Services for adults with developmental disabilities are stretched to the limit. And so are the aging parents looking after these adults.
“I did everything within the system I could think of to do and I really felt I had no other recourse.”
That decision, though, prompted social services to call police. Two police cars were outside the Telford home when CTV news arrived at the house. Telford says social services considered Philippe abandoned.
Organizations that work with families like the Telfords say the system is in crisis and parents are desperate.
"Offspring are being left in (hospital) emergency rooms, in government offices,” says Miriam Fry, with an organization called Families Matter. It’s a parent support group for families with children with developmental disabilities.
“There have been cases of murder suicide. It is definitely a crisis.”
Francine Groulx, with the office of Developmental Services Ontario, where Telford left her son, said in an email:
"We are dealing with the situation today making sure that there is a safe solution for the short term for both the young man and his family."
What will happen in the long term remains unclear, though Amanda Telford has some sense a plan may be in the works.
“There does appear to be a glimmer of hope at the end of all this,” she says.
The office for Ontario's Ombudsman launched an investigation in November into services for adults with developmental disabilities. So far, they have received more than seven hundred complaints.