LETTER: Local, global youth will pay pandemic toll

Dear Jason, Thank you to the Picton Gazette for acknowledging the concern for our special needs children in the county.

This pandemic has etched a terrible scar across humanity, with nearly 2.5 million global deaths. But the price paid by our children and grandchildren remains incalculable: indeed UNICEF is warning this pandemic could produce “A lost generation”. Close to home, and as you noted, our Prince Edward Lennox & Addington social services (PELASS) shared with council that, while the pec child population is roughly 30 per cent of the PELASS catchment, the number of PEC children served by PELASS special needs resourcing is well over 60 per cent. And has been growing for at least the last three years.

Even before COVID-19 , there was evidence that south shore children in the county were scoring very low in the early development indicator. At least when the child services network was in operation. And it is relatively common knowledge the Hastings-Prince Edward area has had the largest number of foster-care & group home beds in Ontario. In addition, some of us involved with the Reaching for Rainbows project have been struck by available data regarding such indicators as teenage pregnancy and inequitable wealth distribution. For years the County had the highest rate of teen pregnancies in Ontario; about 100 births per year by mothers 18 or younger.

PEC only slipped into second place on such pregnancies in the last couple of years. Of course, there could be mitigating factors for these concerning numbers.

Could it be Lennox & Addington children are accessing special needs programs in Kingston?

Are Napanee and Amherstview populations more transient than County residents?

Is there an “Upside” in that our children might be more connected to relevant services?

All possible. But unfortunately we just don’t know. What we do know is threefold: special needs children with developmental and physical disabilities are hit even harder than other kids by the consequences of covid19, they are often lost in virtual settings and require face-to-face learning to avoid regression; young mothers and their children are especially vulnerable, their children deserve the social supports their mothers didn’t have; and we must pay more attention to our not-for-profit, charitable and volunteer sector while better supporting our childcare and social services.

Bill Roberts

Councillor

Sophiasburgh (Ward 6)