Frequently Asked Questions - Family Connections Centres

Last Updated: August 10, 2022

On this page we answer the most frequently asked questions from families, communities, sector partners and service providers on family connections centres.  This is not intended to represent all the questions we've received to date.  Further questions and answers will be added to this page, as needed.


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Cultural Safety

A: We heard in our 2019 engagement with Indigenous families and service providers that Indigenous service providers are most successful at providing services to Indigenous peoples. 

These engagements were instrumental in the development of the new CYSN Service Framework. These engagements included specific sessions done by Reciprocal Consulting, an Indigenous led firm, that worked closely with over 500 Indigenous families to help understand barriers to CYSN services. It is our intent to continue working with Indigenous peoples and Indigenous service providers to ensure that the new CYSN service approach meets Indigenous peoples’ needs and to fulfill our obligations to align our policies and implement our service transformations with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP.)

Reciprocal Consulting will continue to engage with Indigenous peoples and service providers to:

  • Share information about the new CYSN service approach as well as timelines regarding implementation and changes.
  • Obtain recommendations on:
    • Approaches to ensure that all services are culturally safe and trauma-informed;
    • Opportunities to expand CYSN services delivered by Indigenous service providers to Indigenous children, youth and families;
    • Geographic boundaries related to Indigenous service providers delivering CYSN related services to Indigenous children, youth, and families.

Reciprocal Consulting will use a culturally safe and relevant approach in the design and hosting of engagements with Indigenous communities, partners, families, and service providers across the province. 

  • Engagement includes the four early implementation areas in the Northwest and Central Okanagan.
  • In addition to engagement in early implementation areas, Reciprocal Consulting will conduct a minimum of 10 additional engagement sessions in other regions of the province.
  • Engagements will reflect a diverse representation of local communities (e.g. First Nations, Indigenous Peoples in rural and urban areas and Métis organizations).
  • Engagement session may be in person or virtual, or a mix of both.
  • A plan for sharing findings back to Indigenous participants will be established.
 

Q: Will there be funding for Indigenous service providers to deliver services to Indigenous Peoples?

A: Delivering services through the family connections centres in the early implementation areas will help us to understand the costs of the model and community demands.  This will allow us to determine how to fund the model and meet the diverse support needs of children and youth. Existing CYSN contracts with Indigenous organizations will not be affected in early implementation areas.

Our investment this year is for the early implementation sites, which will be operational in the 2023/2024 fiscal year.  Through that year we will analyze results, including budget and engagement with Indigenous peoples and services providers, so when we move to the provincial-wide rollout we will have a good sense of costs.

A: The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is committed to support and uphold Indigenous inherent and human rights and to implement and meet the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).  This includes reflecting on our history of colonialism, racism, and residential schools, and eliminating racism and discrimination to our systems of support.

We are committed to ensuring services and supports are culturally safe and trauma informed. Culturally safe services would be determined at the local community level with input from Indigenous rights holders, leaders, and service providers. Trauma informed practice will follow a strengths-based framework grounded in an understanding of, and responsiveness to, the impact of trauma. The Healing Families, Helping Systems: A Trauma-Informed Practice Guide for Working with Children, Youth and Families (TIP Guide) will guide this practice. 

A: We are committed to ensuring services and supports are culturally safe and trauma informed. An upcoming comprehensive consultation with Indigenous rights holders and partners will inform ways in which services can be provided to Indigenous children, youth, and their families by Indigenous service providers. Building upon and creating collaborative relationships with Indigenous families, organizations, and communities will provide flexible and culturally safe services, and support Indigenous led and focused programming. These consultations will take place over the coming months.

 

Q: How can you ensure you will have enough service professionals that can speak a variety of languages? Families are currently able to choose a provider that can understand their language, culture, and values. Will you have translators at the centres, and providers that speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, French, Filipino, Farsi, Punjabi, and other languages?

A: Family connections centres will need to provide inclusive and accessible services and supports and understand the needs of the families and communities they are serving. Many of the service providers that children and youth now have relationships with may wish to partner with centres or become staff of the centres or apply to become family connection centre operators. 

To ensure accessibility and inclusionary practices, the family connection centres will need to recognize the needs of their community demographics and identify strategies to support children, youth, and families. For example, family connection centre operators may hire translators if staff do not speak the language.

A: A key learning through consultations is that Indigenous service providers are most successful at providing services to Indigenous peoples. The ministry will continue to consult with Indigenous rights holders, leaders, families, and service providers to explore Indigenous CYSN services and supports provided by Indigenous service providers.

The ministry is committed to fulfill our obligation to implement and align policies and service transformation under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).  There is still more work to do and more conversations to have as we work together to ensure better services for Indigenous children, youth, and their families.​

 

Q: Will service providers be able to continue to deliver services on reserve? Will Indigenous children, youth, and families have to come to centres?

A: Indigenous organizations are best positioned to deliver services to Indigenous peoples, and we are committed to working with Indigenous rights holders, leaders, and service providers to make this happen. The family connections centres will use a blended approach to deliver services to meet the individual needs of children and youth. Centre operators must offer a range of flexible service delivery options such as in-person, virtual, satellite, in-home or outreach services.


Choice for Parents & Caregivers

A: Children and youth are at the centre of the new approach. Parents and caregivers, who know their children best, will have a central voice, working in partnership with their child’s support team in decision-making, goal setting, and co-creating a support plan for their child or youth. Family connections centre staff will collaborate with children, youth and families to ensure services meet their unique needs, and to ensure families and youth have the information required to make an informed choice on the services that work best for them. Education, information and guidance in several formats and languages to help families navigate supports and services for their children will be provided through family connections centres.

A: Under the new approach, services will be provided by contracted community agencies, in community, through family connections centres. Multidisciplinary teams will work closely with families to build a support plan that meets the unique needs of their child or youth. The family connections centres will open across the province in fall 2024 and offer a blend of in-person, in-home, virtual, and satellite services to meet families where they are, and will include a range of service delivery types including both group and one-to-one services, based on the child or youth’s needs. Within the new approach, family connections centres will also ensure that families get assistance in navigating the various services their child may need, and that professionals across all service streams are connected and integrated to support the needs of children and youth.

A: A positive relationship between children and youth and their team of support is key. Children, youth, and their families will be very involved and assist in creating goals in their support plan. All services are voluntary, and families will be at the centre of decision making and planning with their child at the family connections centre.

Many of the therapists and interventionists who currently serve families may choose to become part of the local network of complementary professionals that are serving local communities via the centres. In addition, there may be opportunities for sub-contracting by the centre or other options.

A: Services, and the frequency of those services, at the family connections centre will be based on the unique needs of the child, youth, and family. The centres will offer much needed flexibility for busy families – particularly for those children and youth who are school-aged. They will offer flexible hours and approaches, including services after school, providing virtual, in-home, outreach and centre-based services to meet the different and unique needs of families.

A: Ensuing that the voice and choice of families is an important part of this new approach. The family connections centres will have a clear and transparent process for addressing complaints and resolving questions and concerns as required in their contract with the Ministry.

 

Q: What if the family needs a specialist that is not available at their family connections centre?

A: The family connections centre will work with the family to identify what services they need to meet their child or youth’s goals and connect them with service providers outside of the centre where needed.


Waitlists

A: In the new approach, as soon as a family identifies that their child has a developmental delay, or they simply have a concern about their child, they'll be able to access a family connections centre and meet with a key worker who will set them up with a multidisciplinary team (physiotherapists occupational therapists, speech therapists, mental health clinicians etc.) tailored to the needs of their child or youth. They will not need to get a diagnosis, which currently causes significant delays and barriers to service, in order to get their child’s needs assessed, and to receive services.

Family connections centres will be able to use strategies to ensure services are provided in a timely way. For example, multidisciplinary teams of clinical professionals at family connections centres will also include allied professionals (e.g., therapy assistants, interventionists, and family support workers). This provides an integrated approach, helping break silos and enhance communication between the different service specialities while offering timely services. Service delivery methods will be flexible and can include in-person, outreach, in-home, satellite office spaces, subcontracted services and, when appropriate, virtual services.

The ministry will closely monitor service delivery data and work with the family connections centre operators to understand and oversee how services are provided.

 

Q: If we decide to wait until 2025 to move to the centre, will we be put on a waitlist?

A: Family connections centres will offer low barrier and timely access to services.  Services will be offered based on the needs of children and youth and families already receiving services will be gradually transitioned to their local family connections centres. This will allow time for current and new service providers to share information and develop transition plans.   

A: The new model for B.C. is fundamentally different from the one in Ontario. B.C.’s model focuses on providing needs-based access to services for all children, youth with support needs and families – including those with a diagnosis of autism, those waiting for a diagnosis, and those that do not have a diagnosis. In this way, B.C.’s model moves to dismantle significant access barriers for families.

Family connections centres will be able to implement strategies to ensure children, youth and their families are best supported and accessing the services and supports they need to improve their quality of life.


Assessments & Diagnoses

 

Q: ​ Why do I need to complete a functional needs assessment if my child already has a diagnosis?

A: The new approach is shifting away from accessing services based on a diagnosis, to a needs-based approach. Through family connection centres, staff will assist families in developing a support plan of services that are responding to their identified needs. Eligibility for Disability Services utilizes standardized functional needs-based assessments to understand children and youth’s developmental needs, and a family assessment of needs. The services are voluntary for children and families who are BC residents that have developmental concerns about their child or youth, where the child or youth has a perceived increased likelihood of a developmental delay, or a confirmed developmental need or disability.

Standardized functional needs assessments are used to provide an evaluation of the child or youth’s strengths, developmental needs, and need for support. Functional needs assessments assist in collecting information specific to the individual development, their relationships and their environments. This information assists in determining eligibility for Disability Services or Medical benefit supports, and more importantly, this information informs the necessary support and intervention strategies that are specific to the individual. A diagnostic assessment may include functional needs assessments as part of the assessment diagnostic process. Where the Vineland and PEDI-CAT assessment tools have previously been used as part of a diagnostic assessment process, the ministry will utilize these previous assessments to inform eligibility if they are completed within a relevant time span. The intent of the functional needs assessment is to determine the level of need over a given period of time across the childhood timespan. A diagnostic assessment, or having a diagnosis, is not required to access services, but is very helpful in informing the family’s support planning process.

 

Q: Will you be denying previously diagnosed children - or those considered ‘high functioning’ - because you don’t see them as a high enough need? Will parents have to pay out of pocket then?

A: All children and youth with support needs will be able to access services at the family connections centre. Services provided will be based on the needs and goals of the individual child or youth, which will be identified through a collaborative process between families and the clinical expertise of professionals working at family connections centres.

A: All children and youth with support needs will be able to access services at the family connections centre. Services provided will be based on the needs and goals of the individual child or youth, which will be identified through a collaborative process between families and the clinical expertise of professionals working at family connections centres.

Masking is complex, and the family connection centre professionals will have experience and training that allows them to understand and identify children and youth’s individual needs. Families will be able to provide information and collaborate with family connections centres professionals to support their child or youth.

Professionals will be required to create ongoing and trusted relationships with a child or youth and their families. The family connections centres teams will offer flexible services and adapt to support the child and youth.

A: No, diagnostic services are provided through the health system. However, family connections centres will be able to help with information and suggest best routes for these services and community supports.

A: Our priority is to make the transition to the new service model as seamless as possible for families. Communication and information are a critical part of this transition. CYSN social workers and the family connections centres will work closely with families during this transition. 


Contracts & Procurement

 

Q: Will the procurement process allow for proposals to deliver one particular service aspect, or will proposals only be accepted if they offer all services?

A:  There will be a single contract for family connections centres within a specified geographic area.  However, as part of that proposal/submission, the proponent will need to articulate how and where all the required services will be delivered. That may include the use of subcontractors to support one or more aspects of service delivery. For more information please visit BC Bid (gov.bc.ca)

A:  There are a variety of options and opportunities for creativity and innovative partnerships in this new model for operators. Satellite offices may consist of current agencies or subcontracts – family connections centre operators will need to consider the needs of their services areas, diversity of their geography and availability of physical locations in a community.

A: The ministry anticipates that many organizations and service providers may want to become part of the new system to continue supporting children and youth with support needs.

There are several ways for service providers to participate in the new approach. They may choose to:

  • Submit proposals to become family connections centre operators
  • Become employees of family connections centres
  • Create partnerships
  • Become subcontractors of the family connections centres (at the discretion of the successful proponent)

Planning is underway to ensure the transition to the new service delivery model reduces disruption for children, youth, and their families. Due to the implementation timing, some ministry contracts may need to be adjusted. Local ministry contract managers and procurement staff will directly communicate with the existing contracted service providers as adjustments need to take place.

Our priority is to make the transition to the new approach as seamless as possible for families. Communication and information are a critical part of this transition. CYSN social workers and the family connections centres will work closely with families during this transition.

 


Budget

A: The ministry’s annual investment in services and supports for children and youth with supports needs is $480 million per year, with 90% directly invested in services.

Budget 2022 includes an increase of $172 million over three years to better support children and youth with disabilities and other support needs. The majority of this funding is going directly to services for children, youth and their families, including investment of $10 million more annually to modernize medical equipment benefits for children with complex care needs. There is also funding to lay the groundwork for the new needs-based system of supports set for provincial implementation in 2024. In addition, this year the ministry is providing $7 million to support community-based organizations, service providers and advocates to support children and families through the transition to the new approach.   

A: Family connections centres in the new approach will be run by contracted community agencies in community. In the early implementation areas, the contracted community agencies will have budgets to reflect the needs of the local community area being served. The learnings from these early implementation areas will inform the provincial roll out of the family connections centres in the coming years. 


Locations

 

Q: Will the family connections centres be organized along the lines of school districts or in some other fashion?

A: Family connections centres will be organized similarly to the ministry service areas. Early implementation areas will be operating in:

  • Central Okanagan/Kelowna

  • Haida Gwaii/Prince Rupert

  • Terrace/Kitimat, and

  • Bulkley Valley/Stikine

We are also engaging with Indigenous People and rights and title holders to gather further information on the defined geographic areas to help inform provincial implementation. An Indigenous firm is doing that work.

A: The Northwest and Central Okanagan are selected as early implementation areas to increase access to services for children, youth, and their families. Family connections centres in rural and urban areas will provide insight on how to best implement the province-wide rollout of family connections centres.  We will be engaging with families and service providers in the early implementation communities to ensure they are receiving the support they need.

A: Data collection and analysis will allow the ministry to monitor, and assess the outcomes of the services provided to children and youth with supports needs. This will work to appropriately facilitate a child or youth’s development, improve their quality of life, and support their families.

A: The locations for the family connections centres will be determined through the procurement process. The new approach will establish more than 40 family connections centres throughout the province. In addition to the centre locations, the family connections centre operators may also establish smaller satellite offices, outreach services or other service delivery methods to ensure that families have access to services and supports even if they do not live close to the centres.

A: Family connections centres will be required to offer a blend of service delivery approaches, providing virtual, in-home, outreach and centre-based services to meet the different and unique needs of each individual child or youth, and their family.

 

Q: Will remote families will be pushed into virtual services, any assurances that in-person therapy and services will be prioritized?

A: Increasing access to services in rural and remote communities is a cornerstone of the approach. Service providers can explore creative solutions to meet the needs of the families and communities in their service areas. Family connections centres will be expected to offer flexible hours and a blend of service delivery approaches, including services after school, providing virtual, in-home, outreach and centre-based services to meet the different and unique needs of families.


Services & Supports 

A: Yes, with parental consent, the family connections centres will welcome additional information to support planning for the child. This will require collaboration between family connections centre staff and the family.

A: Family connections centres will provide core services and will be able to determine what additional services they can offer to support the needs of the children, youth, families, and communities in their service areas.

Core services are delivered under two streams which include developmental services and goal focused services.

Developmental services include:

  • Education and guidance, including information and resources about child development and parenting
  • Developmental screening
  • Developmental monitoring

Goal focused services include:

  • Therapies including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language therapy
  • Behaviour and skill building supports            
  • Support planning
  • Family support
  • Office space for Child and Youth Mental Health (CYMH) clinicians to meet with children and youth

A: CYSN workers will continue to work for the ministry in Disability Services. When a family is eligible for disability services a CYSN worker will be assigned as their primary support coordinator to support quality of life and coordinate services and supports with professionals at the family connections centres.

 

Q: Will my children receive the same level of support they currently receive?

A: Supports, services and therapies will be based on, and built around, the level of need for each child and youth and their family. Services will also be adapted to support the children and youth as their needs change.  

 

Q: How would a centre model change the ability to provide services during a pandemic?

A: Family connections centres will offer a blended approach to service delivery – including services provided in:

  • In-home
  • In-person
  • Virtually
  • Outreach where children are. Some examples: recreation centres or schools
  • Satellite offices

The new approach will allow services to remain available through lockdowns or other disruptions. In these situations, government will be able to offer support, direction and assistance when needed. The safety and well-being of children, youth, families, staff, and service providers -- including following Public Health Officer orders and recommendations -- will always be central to how services are delivered.

A: The ministry will closely monitor and evaluate through on-going reporting how family connections centre services are working to meet the needs of children, youth, and families.

A: No. Families will not have to be involved with a CYSN worker, or the ministry, to access services at the family connections centre. The family connections centres will be run by community agencies, not the ministry. A professional or medical referral to the family connections centre will not be necessary to access services, and families may self refer to the centre.

A: Yes. Each child or youth is unique and services and supports will be tailored to meet their changing needs, at different stages of their life. Family connections centres – and the services provided through them - will support all children and youth with support needs, and their families, including both neurotypical and neurodivergent children. For example, a neurotypical child may require physical or occupational therapy to support their ongoing physical development; a neurodivergent teen could develop goals related to building communications skills. 

 

Q: Will the new centres be serving the 'whole' family of a child with support needs (or just the child)?

A:  Yes, the ministry has heard from families, services providers, and others that services and supports for children and youth are the priority, and that families also require support. By accessing services through the family connections centres, families will find a range of services and supports that will help improve their quality of life. Here are some examples of what that support may look like:

  • Qualified and skilled inclusive childcare consultants and workers will support childcare providers in offering accessible spaces for children of all abilities.
  • An inclusive childcare worker in childcare settings will support one or more children and provide one-on-one supports if the child requires that care.
  • Family support workers will offer culturally safe, trauma-informed services and supports to vulnerable families.    

A: Family connections centres will provide services to children and youth with support needs, who have a developmental delay. The professionals at the centre will work closely with the family to better understand the child’s needs and provide services or connect families to appropriate services in the community.

 

Q: Will therapies offered in schools change?

A: Therapies offered to children and youth in schools remains the same. The relationship between family connection centres and school districts is important to provide a coordinated and seamless approach to services for children and youth.  

 

Q: Will families currently receiving physiotherapy, occupational therapy, or speech language therapy as part of the At Home program continue to receive those services in the new model?

A: Families currently accessing physiotherapy or occupational therapy through the At Home Program will have the option of continuing to receive services through this program until March 2025 or transition to accessing these services through the family connections centres when they open. Services will be based on the needs of the child, youth and family.

A: Therapies currently available through the School-Aged Extended Therapy program (SAET) will be offered through the family connections centres in the new approach.

Families accessing the At Home Program with a SAET benefit plan, and located in an early implementation area, can choose to remain with their current services or transition to therapy services through family connections centres.

Service providers can provide services and supports through family connections centres to eligible youth to age 19, and if a family remains on their existing SAET benefit plan, those services will end at the age of 18. Individualized funding through the SAET program will be sunsetting in 2025.

 

A: Family connections centre will work with children, youth and families to deliver services and supports based on their assessed needs.

SAET is offered on a 12-month period and families will be able to continue to access their open and valid SAET authorization for service until the end of that period.

Families currently in a SAET program who opt not to immediately receive services through a family connections centre can continue to receive funding until March 2025.

A: The new approach to delivering services to children and youth with support needs will reduce barriers that will allow all families with children and youth with support needs to access the services they need, when and where they need them. Families in the early implementation areas may choose to opt into accessing services through family connections centres or continue to receive individualized funding if they are eligible until March 2025.

A: There is no change to Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (PDHHS). PDHHS services will continue to be delivered as they are today, and not through the family connections centres.

A: Mental health supports will be provided as core service at the centres as part of the Family Supports, Behaviour Supports, and Educational Services. These services address overall development, including social and emotional well-being for children and youth from birth.

Clinical mental health services may be available for eligible children and youth at the centre. Services will be delivered onsite, through outreach or virtually. The family connections centres will provide space for clinical mental health professionals to work but will not be providing these services directly.

A: Children and youth with FASD will have access to the full suite of services, therapies and supports through family connections centres. The functions of the FASD Key Worker will become part of the suite of supports offered through the family connections centres. 

A: Planning is underway to develop a provincial approach for family connections centre staff and the families they serve will be able to access clinicians who have specialized knowledge and the skills that may not be available in their community (e.g., location or capacity). Children and youth who have long term, complex health care needs will continue to access medical equipment and supplies through the Provincial Services medical equipment program.

 

Q: Where do services like supported child development and infant development fit in the new model?

A: Inclusive childcare consultants and workers (currently known as supported child development) and infant development supports will be part of the new service approach through the family connections centres. Early intervention services include a range of supports, such as: 

  • Education and information about child and infant development  
  • Developmental screening and monitoring 
  • Therapies, such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech language therapy 
  • Behaviour supports from qualified professionals, including behavioural analysts, consultants, and interventionists.
  • Supports for families, such as peer-to-peer supports, coaching and life-skills programs, and 
  • Inclusive childcare consultation and supports 
 

Q: What will Aboriginal Supported Child Development (ASCD) and Aboriginal Infant Development (AIDP) look like the new model?

A: Consultation with Indigenous people, rights holders, and service provider communities will continue to determine how the new CYSN service approach aligns with the needs of Indigenous children and youth with support needs. Existing CYSN contracts with Indigenous services providers, including ASCD and AIDP, will remain unchanged in early implementation and will be included through the provincial implementation.

A: In this new approach there are opportunities for collaboration and partnerships for service providers and agencies through subcontracted services. Service providers with ministry contracts and professionals currently providing services to support children and youth may want to be included in the new approach.

Family connections centres will be hiring professional staff to meet the needs of the children, youth, families, and communities. The ministry is working with cross ministry partners to explore ways to strengthen capacity within the system to address the demand for more clinical professionals in British Columbia.

Family connections centres will align their staffing model, and compliment, to meet the needs of the community. Supports and services through the family connections centres will be delivered by qualified staff, in-person, in-home, virtual, and through satellite services to meet families where they are, and will include a range of service delivery types including both group and one-to-one services, based on the child or youth’s needs.

A: As part of the new CYSN service delivery model, the At-Home Program Medical Benefits will be restructured, streamlined, and simplified to better serve children, youth and their families who require equipment, supplies and certain health benefits related to their child or youth’s disability.

The changes to the At-Home Medical Benefits Program are a significant improvement over current programs and services and are anticipated to result in no out-of-pocket expenses for families. This is due to therapies being offered through family connections centres; respite offered by disability services; and increased funding limits for mobility, adaptive and biomedical equipment, and supplies.

When the new approach is launched, families will access adaptive and biomedical equipment, and supplies based on their child or youth’s needs. The program will continue to be administered by MCFD and the AHP Medical Benefits team at Provincial Services.

A: For families currently in the program, medical professionals will continue to support the requests for medical equipment and supplies (More funding coming for children and youth with complex needs | BC Gov News). New families will access the new Medical Benefits Program through the new needs assessment process.

The Province has invested an additional $10 million per year in medical equipment. This is the first increase in 20 years, and assists families in gaining access to cost-effective, durable, medically necessary medical equipment.

A: The services offered through the At Home Program will continue to be made available including:

  • Supports and services provided through family connections centres
  • Respite accessible through MCFD Disability Services
  • Medical Benefits Program delivered through MCFD Provincial Services

The At Home Program is being modernized and restructured into three components. These new components include Biomedical Equipment and Supplies; Health Benefits; and Mobility and Adaptive Equipment, which includes Budget 2022’s investments of an additional $10 million annually, significantly reducing out-of-pocket expenses for families.

In the early implementation areas, the new eligibility process will be used for new families and families currently in the program who would like to: transition to the new program, determine access to respite from disability services, and receive services and supports through family connections centres.


Autism Funding

 

Q: Why can’t the ministry expand individualized funding for all children and youth with support needs, instead of undertaking this new approach?

A: For many years, the ministry has heard from families, service providers and community partners, as well as the Representative for Children and Youth, Indigenous leaders, the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth and many others that too many children were being left behind by the current patchwork of programs, and that we need to move to a needs-based system to better support children and youth, and their families.

In the current state, many children and youth with support needs, including those with autism, are not able to access the level of support they need. For many, even if they have a diagnosis, services are not available in their community, and this is especially true for rural and Indigenous communities. Currently, over a quarter of children and youth who are eligible for the Individualized Autism Funding program specifically are not accessing it. Family connections centres will work with communities to offer children, youth and families accessible services and supports.

We know that early intervention is crucial for a child or youth’s development. A needs-based system means that children and youth will get support as soon as families have a concern, and will not be waiting for a diagnosis first. The new approach is designed to remove barriers by providing support early for all children and youth with support needs, with or without a diagnosis, making services accessible and easy to navigate for families, and ensuring services are available throughout the province.

 

Q:  With Autism Individualized Funding coming to an end in 2025, will family connections centres be providing funding for families of children and youth with autism to access distributed learning and/or independent schools?

A: As established in current ministry policy, tuition costs for distributed learning and independent schools are not an eligible expense for Autism Individualized Funding. This policy has not changed, and family connections centres will not be covering tuition costs for independent schools. However, through family connections centres, professionals (e.g., occupational and physio therapists, behaviour specialists, speech and language pathologists) will work with children and youth, with consent from the child or youth and their family, and actively engage public and independent school-based teams to ensure consistent approaches to supporting a child or youth’s individual education plan. In some cases, professionals from the family connections centre may also be members of the school-based team, a collaborative problem-solving team that works with classroom teachers to develop educational programs for students who may or may not have special education designations.

 

Q: What happens after September 2024 for families receiving individualized funding?

A: Families that qualified for individualized funding can continue to receive that funding until March 2025. Any child or youth who receives a diagnosis during or after September 2024 will access services and supports through the family connections centre in the community. In addition, children and youth who are still waiting for a diagnosis at this time will also access services and supports through their local centre.

The removal of diagnosis as a requirement to access services will enable children, youth, and their families to access needed services sooner through family connections centres.

A: All children and youth with support needs from birth to 19 will be able to access services to meet their unique needs. Services will be coordinated, tailored and flexible and will provide children and youth with expert intervention and therapies in a timely way and families are involved at every step.

Service delivery methods will allow for clinical services to reach more children and youth. This means services can be a blend of in-person, in-home, virtual, satellite services to meet kids and families when and where they are at.

A: We encourage families to continue to pursue a diagnosis because it can provide a deeper understanding of and for your child. Although a diagnosis is important, in the new system children and youth will not have to wait months or years to receive services or supports while waiting for a diagnosis. A diagnosis may also help your child/youth access services through other ministries and partners.


Respite

A: Families may choose to manage respite funding on their own (direct funded) or may choose to have funding administered by an agency in their community (agency coordinated) where it is available.

A: Changes to allow increased flexibility for respite during the pandemic have now been made permanent and will transition into the new service approach. For more information on respite and this flexibility please visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021CFD0067-002047

A: Respite will continue to be provided by the ministry through the Disability Services program. Family connections centres will be able to provide support and help families navigate accessing these systems. 


Cross ministry connections

A: We are working closely with our partner ministries and community partners to help ensure a smooth transition for families. The Ministry of Education will continue to provide and administer services they offer to children and youth in school.  Family connections centres will work with families to provide developmental and goal focused services and children and youth in the setting that works best for them as well as working in partnership with the child’s school or home life. 

A: Family connection centres will provide information and resources about mental health and addictions services and programs, such as services available through:

  • Foundry Centres
  • Online supports
  • Integrated Child and Youth Teams
  • Primary Care Networks
  • Other available community-based programs and services 

In addition, family connections centres will provide office space for mental health clinicians connected to such initiatives as the Foundry to meet with children and youth.  

 Consultation and Engagement

A: The ministry has been listening to the voices of many families, service providers and community partners, as well as the Representative for Children and Youth, Indigenous leaders, researchers, the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth and many others who have been calling for years for a needs-based system that will better support children and youth, and their families.

The ministry’s consultations began in 2019, before the pandemic, and we continue to engage regularly with families, advocates, organizations, service providers, Indigenous partners and rights holders, as well as others such as the Minister’s Advisory Council for Children and Youth with Support Needs, and the Indigenous CYSN Advisory Circle.

A series of information sessions were held between November 2021 and March 2022. Planning is also underway for engagement with Indigenous rights holders to learn how services can be best delivered to Indigenous children, youth and families in a manner that will meet their needs.   

A: As we continue to meet with and provide information on the new system to families, Indigenous partners, service providers and sector partners throughout BC, we consistently hear that we must ensure children, youth and families remain at the centre of our service model. 

Using a family-centred approach has helped inform all aspects of services and supports to be provided at the family connections centres.  This name change - based on the advice of our Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners and families - reflects our ongoing commitment and consultation to ensure children, youth and families remain at the centre of our approach.

 

Need more information? Call the resource line at 1-833-882-0024 or email your questions to MCF.Info@gov.bc.ca

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