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For Emiliano’s Family, Finding Support Has Always Been Hard

Nadine Widjaja’s short documentary helps show what life is like for families with complex children.

Katie Hyslop 14 Jan 2021 | TheTyee.ca

Katie Hyslop is a reporter for The Tyee. Reach her here.

For the parents of children with complex needs, the pandemic didn’t highlight how poorly their kids are supported by the B.C. government. They already knew.

A recent report from the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth called out the Children and Family Development Ministry for “the ongoing and deeply unsettling story of a piecemeal system that has never provided adequate and equitable support” for kids with complex needs due to cognitive, developmental or physical disabilities.

Even foster families, who are paid up to $3,000 per month to care for kids with complex needs — often because parents are overwhelmed by the 24-7 care their kids require — say it isn’t enough.

It’s one thing to read these critiques, however, and another to witness the struggle families face firsthand.

Nadine Widjaja, a 19-year-old Vancouver Film School student, has shone the spotlight on families of disabled children in a new short documentary, Emiliano.

The film focuses on the family of five-year-old Emiliano Hernandez, who has cerebral palsy, a sleep disorder and other medical complications. The family was featured in the representative report as a case study on how government services fail to support families like them.

Only Emiliano’s mother, Diana Salcedo, can work to pay the bills, as his father, Cesar Hernandez, serves as his full-time caregiver while helping raise Emiliano’s seven-year-old brother, Jeronimo.

Widjaja, who met the family through the film school, uses her lens to show the love and laughter the family share together. But she also highlights the financial, physical and emotional stress the parents face.

Now finished her documentary, Widjaja is fundraising to buy the family a wheelchair-accessible van so Emiliano can continue attending his frequent doctors’ appointments now that he has outgrown his car seat.

Children and Family Development Minister Mitzi Dean promised to roll out a new framework for supporting families of kids with disabilities this year.

We will have to wait until budget day 2021, however, to find out how much new funding will come with it.  [Tyee]

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