What Is British Columbia’s Upcoming “Family Connections Hubs” System?
The Current Issues for Children with Disabilities in B.C.
Approximately 30,000 children with disabilities across British Columbia are accessing aids. However, this number does not reflect the flaws of the current system and who is being left out. Currently, families of children with disabilities need a diagnosis to access funding.
Getting a diagnosis can take a few years, leaving families waiting while they should be getting help. Waiting years can be brutal for a child’s development, considering how many milestones they could be missing in the process. Even when a diagnosis is given, this does not guarantee that the services offered are accessible in all areas.
In short, the current system does not adequately provide for the needs of children with disabilities and their families.
Mitzi Dean, the Minister of British Columbia’s Ministry of Childhood and Family and Development, is aware of such issues. Since 2019, she and the Ministry of Childhood and Family Development have worked towards what is now known as British Columbia’s upcoming “family connections hub” model.
Under the proposed family connections hub system, families of children with disabilities will have access to various supports in their local communities, with no diagnosis required. The implementation of this new system will be able to accommodate 8,300 more children and their families.
What are Family Connection Hubs?
British Columbia will have its upcoming family connection hubs program province-wide by 2025. These hubs are meant to support children with special needs (up to age 19) and their families. These hubs are places people can access locally throughout the province, with the first set to open by winter 2022 or 2023 for individuals in the Northwest and Central Okanagan Regions.
What Services are Offered?
Through family connection hubs, families can access a variety of services offered by professional therapists and consultants. They provide developmental, goal-focused, and disability services.
- Developmental services will help with referrals and services, as well as assessing children’s abilities and needs within the context of their family, school, and community. It will also provide education and guidance to families through multiple formats and by translators if needed.
- Goal-focused services will help families in identifying and removing barriers, help identify and explain certain behaviours, and make plans to meet their goals. This includes offering therapies such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech language therapy.
- Disability services will help families by providing necessary assistive equipment, respite and in-home supports, counselling, and transition planning for children who are reaching adulthood.
When Will Changes Happen?
Families can still access existing programs until 2025, so those programs will not be replaced quickly. Existing programs will close in the future but are still open for intake until the transition happens. For example, The Autism Funding Program will remain open for new intake until September 2024, but autism services will be transitioning to the family connections hub program by 2025.
Consultation will continue until spring 2022 to gather input on what families want through this transition. After consultation is completed, the ministry will move forward by increasing medical benefits that will cover full costs of necessary medical equipment like wheelchairs.
More than 40 family connections hubs are planned for the province, with the first few set to open in winter 2022 or 2023. The first family connections hubs will open in the Northwest and Central Okanagan regions, with three locations for the latter and one location for the former.
The period between fall 2024 and spring 2025 will be the full transition period across British Columbia.
Dean, Mitzi. “DEAN: Hub Model Will Provide Care for Thousands of B.C. Families Left without Support.” Abbotsford News, 3 Nov. 2021, https://www.abbynews.com/opinion/dean-hub-model-will-provide-care-for-thousands-of-b-c-families-left-without-support/. Accessed 12 January 2022.
Holliday, Ian. “B.C. Announces Transition to Community ‘hub’ Model for Supporting Children with Special Needs.” CTV News, 27 Oct. 2021, https://bc.ctvnews.ca/b-c-announces-transition-to-community-hub-model-for-supporting-children-with-special-needs-1.5641178. Accessed 8 January 2022.
Ministry of Child and Family Development. “Frequently Asked Questions – Family Connections Hubs.” Province of British Columbia, 21 Dec. 2021, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/child-behaviour-development/support-needs/family-connections-hubs/faq. Accessed 12 January 2022.
Ministry of Children and Family Development. “Improved System Coming for Children and Youth with Support Needs.” BC Gov News, 27 Oct. 2021, https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021CFD0067-002047. Accessed 10 Jan. 2022.
Ministry of Child and Family Development. “What to Expect During the Change to Family Connections Hubs.” Province of British Columbia, 1 Dec. 2021, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/child-behaviour-development/support-needs/what-to-expect. Accessed 8 Jan. 2022.
Sheppard, Brock. “MCFD’s Autism Funding Changes and Family Hubs: What You Need to Know and What You Can Do — Blog.” AutismBC, 6 Nov. 2021, https://www.autismbc.ca/blog/mcfd-changes/. Accessed 8 January 2022.