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Velvet Martin: advocate for children with disabilities

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Lukes Dad's picture
on Wed, 03/13/2013 - 14:11
Fight Child Protection Department Corruption: 
Velvet Martin: advocate for children with disabilities

Velvet Martin, a St. Albert woman, has advocated for the rights of children, the vulnerable and the disabled throughout her life as parent.

Her daughter Samantha was born in 1993 with severe disabilities. To access support and therapies from the provincial government, Social Services told the couple that was not possible unless Samantha was surrendered to foster care.

Martin discovered that under an archaic law, children with disabilities can be treated the same as children in abusive situations who need to be apprehended. Under this law, parents were seen as “unfit” and had no right to access services freely given to a child in foster care.

With no choice, and desperately needing the therapies for Samantha, she gave up her daughter as a ward of the court. Doctors recommended that the Martin couple move on. Basically the couple had no rights.

“But how can you forget a child and move on. It’s ridiculous. You can’t forget your own child,” says Martin, also a mother to four boys.

Before moving to Alberta, Martin studied law at the University of Toronto. With her legal background she decided to fight to regain custody of her child and change the law.

Initially, doors closed everywhere she turned.

“You get an attitude of ‘surely, you must have done something wrong.’ It feels shameful. I’m an educated woman. But what about all the other people who don’t have an education or are single and faced with this? How do people survive? Someone has to talk for them.”

While in foster care, Samantha suffered abuse, bruises and broken bones. At one point, a year went by without a visit from a social worker. Martin meanwhile was faced with layers of bureaucracy.

Finally after years of struggle, 12-year-old Samantha was brought home. Tragically, at 13, Samantha died of cardiac arrest.

More resolved than ever, Martin kept up the fight. In 2007, the Alberta government passed an amendment that provides for separate legislation for children with disabilities.

“I wanted to make sure there is a distinction, that support is given at the home level. If I had to do it over I would include parents with disabilities as well as children. I want them to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Although Samantha’s Law is only on provincial books, it has garnered national attention. In fact, Martin will be speaking at Our Canada Children Conference on May 17.

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Lukes Dad's picture

Alfredine Linda Plourde
 

I’ve known Velvet Martin since 2009, and I’m proud to nominate Velvet Martin for Alberta Volunteer Citizen of the Year. My name is Alfredine (Linda) Plourde, Author and Founder of Protecting Canadian Children. The group operates without funding or attachment; is strictly built upon volunteers, advocates, and independent thinkers. A movement with everyday people united by a common goal: To ensure that safety and well-being of children and vulnerable individuals in our community is paramount.

To say that Velvet Martin goes beyond the expectations of Volunteer would be an understatement. For more than a decade, Velvet Martin has performed numerous initiates for the survival of at risk children within the foster care System. As a volunteer striving for change amongst the most vulnerable where so many deaths of children could - and should - have been prevented.

Through internet and media depictions, I learned about a little girl named Samantha Martin. It was a moment I will never forget! Samantha - a beautiful little girl who is now an angel - was born in 1993 with an extremely rare medical condition. I immediately did research and was successful in connecting with the parents of the precious child and learning Samantha’s background. I had the honour and privilege to meet Velvet Martin, Samantha’s mother face to face for the first time in 2010 and later again that year when I invited her to be a guest speaker at my Conference in Ontario, Protecting Canadian Children. Since then, she has joined Protecting Canadian Children which is an organization comprised solely of volunteers. Select few have the required fortitude to successfully dedicate time and energy into a mission which essentially becomes a lifestyle.

We have partnered efforts with many similar minded organizations to unite in efforts of hope. Velvet is now the Spokesperson for Protecting Canadian Children and President of the Alberta Chapter. Her deep commitment in advocating for the rights of children, youth and vulnerable persons in local community and across Canada is evident by everything she does. For Velvet it is a natural outpouring because she sees every child is precious. Following the death of her daughter in December 2006, Velvet strived successfully to achieve an Amendment within the Alberta FSCD (Family Support for Children with Disabilities) Act. Policy and Procedures in Family Centered Supports and Services, Section 2-3, Manual Amendments now reads: "The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program to have separate legislation from that of child protection services.” Legislative Amendment is otherwise referred to as: “Samantha's Law”. http://www.child.alberta.ca/home/527.cfm

Putting her pain and her own needs aside, Ms. Martin's passion and determination for the welfare of all children became reality. She gives, lives selflessly as a very sensitive, considerate, strong, principled character. We all have a common set of values that everyone within the organization agrees on. It is not that difficult to decide, for example, that kindness, fairness, dignity, contribution, and integrity are worth keeping. Everything Velvet has done for the betterment of others, never had a paycheque attached to it.

Velvet has worked enormous hours through the night to bring possible lifesaving care to hard-to-reach communities ensuring the survival of children within the System is a reality worldwide. However, her dedication and passion for duty, responsibility and accountability has far exceeded the requirement of “volunteer”.

Velvet’s attitude is that everyone pulling together can make the System a better place, one of safety for the children. She is the inspiration to everyone around her and gives hope to other families in similar situation.

In an organization run strictly by volunteers, with full time employed people it is very often possible for negative issues to slip through the cracks because no one is consistently assigned to anyone for resolution, but for Velvet she takes each challenge as her own responsibility and follows through until it is resolved.

There is no finer example of honesty, integrity and commitment for justice. She inspires everyone around her with her dedication and caring. On behalf of Protecting Canadian Children and everyone who benefited from her phenomenal work and dedication, I nominate Velvet Martin for the Alberta Volunteer Citizen of the Year.

Thank you;

Alfredine (Linda) Plourde
905-906-9973

Alfredine Linda Plourde

Lukes Dad's picture

Velvet Martin..... Personally I think she should be nominated for Playboy Centrefold of the Year. If there was an award for the kindest, most caring, gentle hearted person, a Mother Theresa award.... she should win that too....

But luckily for Canadian children, Velvet's heart belongs to them.

I am sure there are others who can/will/have told you about Samantha's story, Velvet's endless campaigning for children's and parents rights, her devotion to a better system for families, her professionalism, I could go on and on.... did I say how good looking she is too?

My unique reason for nominating Velvet for this, The Alberta Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award is because of the kindness and support she has shown me from the other side of the world, I am in Australia.

I can relate to Velvet in many ways having lost my two year old child in foster care. Children are up to ten times more likely to die in foster care than in the family home, and the average age is four years old and under.

Like Velvet, I have gone on to campaign for a better system, and for children and parents to be heard, a voice for those who have no one. This happened to my son four years ago, and soon after I befriended Velvet.

Senator Nancy Shaefer, Bill Bowen.... They were the most respected in the world when it came to child protection reform, but have sadly passed on. They were my heros, and the heros of many other child protection reform "Warriors."

I can tell you now, Velvet is now my hero and the person I look up to the most in the world when it comes to this tragic area of Volunteering. Canada is leading the way in organised protests against the desensitization of parental values by governments around the world.

I know I do not speak just for myself when I say Velvet is the best volunteer/activist/campaigner there is, she is highly respected around the world by many of us, congratulations Alberta, your families are lucky to have this lady in your midst.

Michael Borusiewicz (Luke's Dad)

http://lukesarmy.com