a letter to the humane society

As I was perusing the net for summer jobs tonight, I came across a statement on the Humane Society Day Camp’s website that completely shocked and repulsed me.  Humane to animals, yes.  Humane to children with disabilities? I’m not so sure.

As a university student, I was investigating day camps to apply for for summer positions within the city and came across the Humane Society Day Camp.  I formerly thought highly of the great things I had heard of this camp from kids who attended until I came across this statement:

“Please note that our day camp programs are geared to children who are able to participate in group activities. We are not equipped to provide one-to-one supervision for children and may not be able to accommodate children with challenging special needs or behavioural issues.”

I think this is absolutely ridiculous, discriminatory and unfair to children with these sorts of special needs AND their parents, as an inclusion youth leader and a former childcare worker.  Inclusion for children with physical, social, emotional, behavioural and intellectual differences IS possible within camp programming, and can be provided in various facets to be tailored to the individual child and their needs.  Inclusive participation is not only highly beneficial to the social development of children WITH special needs, but also those without.  ALL children are ABLE to participate in group activities providing inclusive practices are in place, which can be provided through a variety of organizations or family provided respite care.

If I am incorrect in your policy, please correct me, but if I am incorrect then your website’s response to inclusion of children with special needs requires revision.  If I am not, then I stand by what I have written and I am unimpressed at the pure lack of effort in facilitating inclusive camp experiences to a specific group of children who could likely benefit from them the MOST.

Needless to say . . . I didn’t inquire about applying.

F**king ridiculous.

Or am I taking their “may not” as a will not, and thus making myself being the one being f**king ridiculous?  Am I the crazy one?

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11 thoughts on “a letter to the humane society

  1. I think you’re being too hard on them. Every organization has its limits – limited resources, limited staff, LIMITED FUNDING. Taking in a child with special needs requires extra resources that this organization may not have. I think it’s professional of them to say that up front. Growing up I went to a private school, which was a great school, but if you had severe learning disabilities or were too gifted, the school couldn’t cater to you and it would be in your best interest to leave. Not because the school didn’t want to or didn’t care. It just was only so big and didn’t have the resources for it. In situations like those, that is where the parent as an advocate comes in. In a perfect world, all programs would take all children. But they simply can’t. Maybe if a parent of a special needs child was able to offer the program the resources it would need to take on this child (i.e. a “shadow” that would attend camp every day with the child), the program would be willing to take them on.

    • Sorry. I wanted to ad…

      Look, they say it right there. “We are not equipped to provide one-to-one supervision for children and may not be able to accommodate children with challenging special needs or behavioural issues.” They do not have the resources for that. They are not equipped. Therefore, they may not be able to accomodate such children…

      • I get your point, but 90% of camps require parents to provide someone for inclusive programming anyways. This one is just seemingly not giving them that option.

        Another difference, which may not be the same as the US, is that funding for inclusive programming in public programming for children with disabilities is USUALLY provided not by the camp, but by non-profits. This includes inclusion facilitators and/or adaptive equipment that can be borrowed short-term from such organizations to not place further financial burden on a family of a child with special needs.

        I’m awaiting a reply from them and will update the blog when I hear back. Regardless, though, if what they’re saying is NOT what they mean, then they need to alter their statement’s pertinence to EXclusion and perhaps request that parents of children with disabilities contact them for more information on inclusive practices before enrolling their child, but ALWAYS give the parent the option to provide individual inclusion facilitators for their child up-front.

        THEY might not have the resources, but the COMMUNITY does. And I still think it’s ridiculous that they’re not even TRYING to be inclusive, because the way inclusive partnership here works is that it is little if ANY work for them as specific non-profits handle all the specifics into integrating a child.

      • I still disagree. Non-profits have limited funding too. Who are you to tell non-profits and the community that they have resources when they might not? Money doesn’t grow on trees, Kerri. I never understood the true value of money until I was financially independent. The world seems a lot different once you are working to support yourself. Everything costs money and every organization has a budget. If you want to provide one thing, you can’t provide another. Everyone has to make choices and prioritize. Therefore, no program can cater to absolutely everyone.

        And another thing, I’m sorry to tell you, but not every person can and should be accepted to every program. Are you made at Girl Scouts for not accepting boys? Are you mad at any of the world’s militaries for not accepting people with certain medical conditions? And to bring the discussion specifically back to Canada, which is supposed to be all inclusive and equal rights – If I were to go over there and visit you in Canada, you and I would not have equal rights. Because I am not a citizen of Canada (to no fault of my own, and you know I wish I was), I am not eligable for Canadian health insurance. I can’t work without a work visa. I can’t vote. I can be deported if I commit a crime. You can do all of those things because you happen to have been born with Canadian citizenship. And as much as Canada may think I’m a nice person and want to give me equal rights, it can’t. Because Canada doesn’t have the resources to give every nice person in the world equal rights, it has to prioritize. It has made the decision that giving rights and benifits to those who happen to have (or worked hard to get, which isn’t fair to those people) Canadian citizenship is more worthwhile than allowing everyone in the world to come in and drain Canada of its wealth and resources and not have enough to give to anyone. Same goes for any program. Sometimes you have to cater to a specific group in order to maximize your potential. The program is built for kids who can interact in group settings. If you can’t interact in a group, the program’s not built for you. That’s it. Just like Girl Scouts are built for girls. And if you’re a boy and want to join, sorry. Sucks to be you.

        I think you’re taking the word “may” way, way, way out of proportion.

      • I DO understand your points, but I feel that we’ve come a lot farther than that here, and that’s why I’m arguing this with them.
        I’m taking the “may” out of proportion, I agree, but letting anything slip is ridiculous for a variety of reasons. It could be because they’ve worded their policy on their website badly, and if so, they can change it, that’s great and I’ll update what I’ve written, and I’ll be friends with them again.

        To keep it on the same argument, I sent the same thing I wrote above to the parents of one of my youth kids, who live in a small town. Their local school wouldn’t accept their daughter who requires minimal support because they are an “academic school”. Oh, sorry, aren’t ALL schools academic? Aren’t they ALL supposed to be BUILDING society? She now goes to a school out of the area that is much less “convenient” for her, but will actually not turn her chances at an education down because she may require support some schools would deem “inconvenient”.

        Non-profits may have limited funding, yes, but they have SPECIFIC funding to allow for kids to participate in these sorts of programs. The parents request the funding as needed and are either granted it or they’re not depending on varying factors. They’re allocated specific money for respite services, and camp experiences count as both educational supports and respite services. This is the only program of its kind in the city, and it’s a highly regarded day camp. I’m not saying that it should be RESPONSIBLE FOR providing support for these kids, but it shouldn’t be exclusive based on special needs if the parents and supportive organizations are going to provide for facilitation. The funding/support workers need to be arranged in advance of the program by the parent [even as much as six months in advance for summer programming]

        Girl Scouts has the counterpart of Boy Scouts. The military is a safety issue, not an “inconvenience” issue, which I think is what the Humane Society is dealing with. It’s NOT unsafe for a child to attend a camp with proper supports in place–adaptations allow kids with the more severe spastic quadriplegia form of Cerebral Palsy like one of my friends from camp to do things like climb rock walls and go horseback riding. Not bothering to facilitate adaptations denies kids of potentially valuable experiences like this camp–which not only further’s a child’s education, but benefits the Humane Society in creating responsible future pet owners who will be the ones donating money to them as a non-profit in the future.

        I understand that you just can’t waltz into Canada and have benefits. I’m sure it would be similar if I wandered into Israel and got hit by a car or something. I understand that. You’re entitled to rights as a citizen of both Israel and the US that I’m not. It’s not like health care and stuff is a totally free ride — I pay taxes on everything I buy AND out of my paycheck, as do the parents of these kids with special needs, to HAVE government allocated funding for supports for kids with disabilities, in ADDITION to universal health care and the thirteen years of public school I went through. Everybody chips in so we can have what everybody thinks is a “free ride”. It’s not. I contribute to Canada, my family contributes to Canada, so Canada contributes to my care and development as a Canadian citizen.

        So while I understand your point, I still think that these things have a come a LOT farther in society in recent years for this to even be acceptable.

  2. I’m not saying that rights and responsibilities thing is a free ride. But I’m saying that only certain people are entitled to it to begin with. You are correct that I am a citizen of Israel and the US, but what if I WANTED to move to Canada and have the same rights as you right away, I couldn’t. And that’s it. I thought we believe in inclusion, eh? And not “separate but equal” – such as girl/boy scouts or separate sex education or citizenship to other countries. About the army, it’s not always a safety issue. It could just as easily be a “we don’t feel like dealing with that” issue. This day in age, most of the jobs in the army are non-combat. Yet, in the Israeli army at least, if you are allergic to bees or gluten intolerant, you’re out. Those people can hold down army desk jobs (or even combat positions, but whatever) just as well as anyone else, but they’re not given the opportunity to serve their country because the army doesn’t feel like dealing with it. And because the army (or the camp, etc) can be more efficient if they don’t have to deal with it. If you build a camp where the main activities of your camp are group activities – as this camp states is the situation – and a kid shows up who is incapable of doing group activities, then what are you going to do with him? It’s a waste of your time, the kid’s time, and the camp’s resources. Especially if that kid being there makes you less able to effectively run your camp for the kids who it is designed for. That kid should go to another camp where they are better able to deal with him. Just like how if I have a swimming camp and you can’t swim or I have an asthma camp and you don’t have asthma, I don’t need to adapt my camp to you. You just need to find another camp that better suits you. There are plenty of camps… There are camps that specialize in special needs kids who can’t interact in groups. And normally functioning kids who can interact in groups wouldn’t be welcome there.

    • It’s still a matter of them not wanting to deal with it for whatever reason. It doesn’t mean that if they DON’T deal with it, it doesn’t exist. It does, we all know it. We all know there are problems with poverty and immigrants to Canada not being able to get work experience. I’m talking about how this is sending things a step BACKWARDS when that’s not the way things are supposed to be going. It’s a social issue, just as all the others are, and unfortunately you have to pick your battles.
      I’ve picked this one, you’ve picked others.

  3. It would totally depend on whether or not they have in place a way for a parent to send a support person. When I was in college, I went to summer camp with a child with Cerebral Palsy. Without a one to one support person, she would have been unable to attend camp…in the woods…her wheelchair was not equipped, I had to carry her a lot. She was not capable of being toilet trained at the time, and it’s not a camp counselors responsibility to change diapers. She had limited capabilities of feeding herself. SO, her parents opted to pay ME, AND pay the camp for me to go…I was registered as a camper, and I slept in the bunk room, and all that jazz. However, if a parent doesn’t have the capability to pay for that, then it wasn’t the camps responsibility either. I also questioned how MUCH this child got out of camp…there was quite a lot she wasn’t able to participate in, even with my support. MAY NOT doesn’t mean “WILL NOT” but, if a child has a special or different need, then the camp might need to say “this isn’t the best place for your child”

    On the behavior front…there are times when a child with a behavior issue is a safety issue…and again, if the parents are capable of paying for, and paying a one to one support person, then hopefully the camp would entertain the thought of the child attending the camp.

    AND, you know what I do, and with what population I spend most of my time with, I am ALL for including kids to the potential they can be included. Unfortunately, that also means that I’ve seen kids that the potential is very low for inclusion…due to disability…not due to the desire of those working with him to include him…does that make sense?

    There’s nothing wrong with writing a letter…especially if it gets the “Powers That Be” thinking that there might be a way to include kids they otherwise would have turned away.

    • I’m still awaiting a reply from the Humane Society, but I’ve also discussed it with my coworker from two summers ago who did inclusion last summer. I don’t know what the system is like in the States, but HERE, if I am able to attend camp with my buddy from church, I am paid through social support services accessed by her family, and the support services also pay my way at camp [where I also would be registered as a camper]. As I mentioned to Elisheva, tons of adapted equipment is available for campers for free short-term rent, including rugged terrain wheelchairs [which may not be the case in your area, or when you were facilitating inclusion). I’m in agreement that the camp shouldn’t have to provide inclusive care and that it should be arranged through other venues, but their wording on this is completely wrong.

      I kind of don’t think it’s up to the camp to decide what’s right for a child, because who knows better than the parents, you know? And I think if a parent didn’t think their child were a good fit for the camp, they wouldn’t send them to it, point blank.

  4. Re: your pondering of what goes on in the States…there are laws to protect special needs kids. For organizations to be able to accept federal monies, they must not discriminate. Some camps specialize in special needs…this I know. They staff doctors and nurses plus they have all of the mobility aids, etc. However, inclusion kids, those kids that are included in non-segregated programs do NOT have the ability of turning them away. In this litigious country, that would be not too smart.

    Back in the day when I sent my oldest to private school, and she had difficulty there, they told me her problem was not their problem when I asked for services. Well, I left that place and she did well in public school. I didn’t want to fight with that first school. I probably could have but why? They wanted only the best and the brightest. Well that had that in my little girl but they just didn’t know it.

    Anyway, this place may have it limits. Just knowing that they don’t have the correct ‘verbage’ to describe their policy, what parent would want this for their child? I suggest moving on in terms of employment. You have standards, I wouldn’t want you to compromise them.

    • I totally agree. It’s ridiculously dumb to turn kids away. Not only are they risking reputation, but they’re losing money.

      I gave up on applying with them as soon as I ready their inclusion statement. If they can’t communicate what they mean properly, then I’m not going to deal with that in an employer anyways. Not to mention I’m also not going to compromise my standards, like you said.

      I’m sure there are better things to come than them anyway :).

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