Mother tells inquiry about disabled daughter's 5-year wait for a home

A Nova Scotia mother testified Wednesday she’s been waiting since 2013 for the province to find her disabled daughter a spot in community care.

'All we want is to be supported,' says Barbara Horner

Barbara Horner said her daughter has been waiting five years for a home. (CBC)

A Nova Scotia mother testified Wednesday that she's been waiting since 2013 for the province to find her disabled daughter a spot in community care.

Barbara Horner told a human rights inquiry that she's met or directly corresponded with four ministers in the Department of Community Services since the early 1990s.

She said all promised her help in caring for her daughter, Mallory, who is non-verbal, blind and uses a wheelchair. But help never came.

"All we want is to be supported," Horner said.

Horner was called as a witness by the Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia. The group is an intervenor in a board of inquiry examining the cases of two intellectually disabled people — Beth MacLean and Joseph Delaney — who have been forced to live for years in hospital-like settings instead of homes in the community.

While Mallory has long lived with her family, the lawyer for the disability coalition said her story shows how difficult it can be to get a placement in a smaller community-based home with support staff.

'Parents have given up'

Horner, a director with the Huntington Society of Canada, testified she put her daughter on a waiting list five years ago, but didn't bother to search for a home herself because she believed it was a waste of time.

"She was well-informed," said Claire McNeil, the coalition's lawyer. "She knew that there weren't the level of options that she wanted her daughter to have.

"That's an illustration of a phenomenon that exists in Nova Scotia. Parents have given up. They don't bother putting their name on the wait-list."

Lawyer Claire McNeil said parents often give up on finding a home for their adult children. (CBC)

McNeil said families don't know how long the list is, or how long they should expect to wait. 

"When parents are reaching the age of mid-60s, 70s and 80s, and their adult sons and daughters are still living at home, I think they've given up. They just stop asking because they don't get anywhere."

Horner also detailed in her testimony Mallory's placement between 1989 and 1993 at the Dartmouth Children's Training Centre. The mother said the family has bad memories of her time there and were made to feel "small" in her life and discouraged from getting involved. 

"I saw children being tied to toilets and left alone," she said. "I saw children lined up naked to take showers."

One day in 1993, Mallory's parents were called about a burn she had received. Horner testified that she was told her daughter had been drooling and that staff at the centre used a hair dryer to dry it.

Horner said she immediately took Mallory to the IWK Health Centre, where doctors treated her for second-degree burns. Mallory has lived with her parents since then.

The Disability Rights Coalition won't call anymore witnesses. Lawyers for the province will begin introducing their witnesses on Monday.

Walter Thompson is chairing the inquiry and will likely release his decision in the fall. 

Read more stories from CBC Nova Scotia