Sunday, May 27, 2012

Programmes Supporting Vulnerable Women and Children: From Chilling to Heartening

Two programmes aimed at assisting women and children!

A heartening initiative launched by the Elizabeth Fry Society in BC to support the children of those targeted for oppressive sanctions such as criminalisation and imprisonment.  And a disturbing and coersive programme garners partial financial support from the public via a misleading fundraising initiative fronted by the corporate sector.  

Hospital for Sick Children and a Shoppers: Match Made in Hell
Shoppers Drug Mart supports the Motherisk programme at the Hospital for Sick Children in several ways.  The first is a special partnership between Motherisk and "WOMEN", a Shoppers  health programme.  Shoppers provides advertising via an online Motherisk column, in-store brochures and a Motherisk hotline for women who have concerns about toxins in their bodies while pregnant.  

Tree of Life Fundraiser: Funding Greater Motherhood Surveillance 
Then there is the national fundraising initiative by Shoppers Drug Mart called, "The Tree of Life" fundraiser, with proceeds going to women's health programmes.  Motherisk has by far received the largest donations of any women's health programme funded by Tree of Life. 

The Tree of Life Programme is described by Shoppers: "the Tree of Life campaign sees 100 percent of the proceeds donated to women’s health charities within individual communities, allowing women even greater access to services and information they need to stay healthy in mind, body and spirit"

Motherisk: Observing and Inspecting a Woman Near You
Motherisk is a national programme which runs a research laboratory.  One of the main functions of this lab is to surveil mothers through forced hair strand testing.  They do so in the name of supporting women and children!  Sick Kids describes the Motherisk programme: "treating the mother, protecting the unborn".  Sound a little like anti-abortion jargon?  A primary purpose of the Motherisk programme is to fulfill coersive court and Childrens Aid Society orders for women's drug use via hair strand analysis.  

According to Sick Kids, "the ninth annual Tree of Life campaign [2010] raised over $40,000 for Motherisk. This most recent contribution will support Motherisk research into the risk or safety of exposures during pregnancy and lactation, and help ensure the health and wellbeing of women and children."   "risk or safety of exposures" - sounds like a honourable initiative, until we discover that the exposure they are speaking of is drugs in most cases.  Motherisk is the only lab in Canada providing this service to child protection agencies, making the CAS one of if not the largest customer.  

How to Protect Women and Children Where Drugs are Involved?
If mothers were not made to feel threatened through disclosure of drug use, and were encouraged to seek help through the provision of factual information and truly supportive services, maybe, just maybe moms would speak up and seek out the assistance they need.  But no - not in Canada.  Here we prefer to threaten, coerce, terrorize, and force.  Even when this is the least effective strategy, I guess some of us just get off on instilling fear!

For a description of Motherisk as per Shoppers Drug Mart 

2010 Tree of Life Campaign

2011 Tree of Life Campaign

Elizabeth Fry Society: A Social Justice Approach, Supporting Families
The E.Fry Society is on the right track when examining how they can be allies to vulnerable women and children.  They have launched the community based "JustKids" initiative to raise awareness and provide support to kids with a parent in prison.  The idea came from a summer camp idea which served children with a parent in prison.  Many of the childrens comments on the experience centered around being able to speak freely with other kids in similar circumstances and without judgement on themselves or their parent(s).  It can't be understated how important it is for any child facing adversity to be free to speak about their experience.  Its a critical part of community building, and a sense of belonging and ownership to ones own life.

For more info on JustKids

To Learn More About Impacts of Parental Imprisonment

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