News / Edmonton

Edmonton mom with lymphoma fighting to get autistic teenage daughter in a group home

Edmonton woman struggling to find help and suitable living space for her severely autistic teen daughter.

This Edmonton mom says the province lacks group home spaces.

Kevin Tuong / Metro

This Edmonton mom says the province lacks group home spaces.

An Edmonton woman is at a loss to find a different group home for her severely autistic teenage daughter and is calling for the province to invest in better services.

Laura, whose name Metro is omitting to protect her daughter’s identity, is fighting lymphoma and cannot handle her 17-year-old daughter's violent eruptions at her own home.

But conditions for the teen – who Metro will refer to as Cassandra – at the independent group home where she’s lived for two years are not much better.

Cassandra has allegedly been slapped and bitten by other teens there. And, a week ago, someone threw a knife at her that barely missed her head, according to Laura.

When Laura first arrived at Cassandra’s current group home two years ago, she claimed she saw urine and feces on the floor and had to call a provincial health inspector.

Meanwhile, Cassandra abused a staff member recently by hitting them with a chair, Laura alleged.

Laura has been trying for six months to find her a new group home, but says she can’t find any openings.

“What are we going to do with her? I can’t have her beating up staff, I can’t have her beating up me. So where’s she going to go?” she said.

“My hands are tied.”

Indeed: Laura said the last time her daughter came home, Cassandra beat her and gave her a mild concussion. After that, Laura had to cut off her weekend visits.

Laura initially reached out to Metro after reading our story earlier this month about a woman who was struggling to find mental health resources for her suicidal teenage son.

She said her daughter has also threatened suicide on multiple occasions, and has similarly struggled to find help.

The woman has not only sustained physical injuries – she was left fearing for her life after she said Cassandra pushed her down the stairs when she was going through chemotherapy – but said the situation has contributed greatly to her depression.

“It’s hard for your child do be hitting you, because you think, ‘What did I do wrong, why are you acting like this, why are you being like this?’

"You don’t blame anybody but yourself, because you brought that child up and you think, ‘I screwed up somewhere,’ ” she said.

Laura is calling for more resources to treat mental illness in Alberta and more training for police, hospital workers and group home workers to deal with people like her daughter.

“It’s not just the child’s life that’s in danger, it’s everybody around them,” she said.

Laura and her common-law partner initially moved to Edmonton from Grande Prairie because there were more group homes in the city, but she said those spaces are disappearing – and she’s apprehensive about the quality of care available at the ones that do exist.

“(The province is) not going to shut them down because they need them,” she said.
Cassandra has found some help from a behaviouralist through Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FCSD).

When she legally becomes an adult in July, however, she will have to find a new one through Persons with Developmental Disabilities.

Laura said there’s a two-year waiting list.

A spokesperson for Alberta’s Human Services Ministry said fewer than 70 children and teens in Edmonton are accessing out of home placements through FCSD like Cassandra is.

More on