The File of Kristine Gravel- McKeague & her baby daughter Pénélope Ottawa 2009

I have to say that my “Slow Blog” is beginning to look like a fast one!

This, like my second Blog post were examples of cases that I presented at a talk I gave in 2011 at The School of Nursing at York University entitled Making the Link: Public Policy and Mothers of Children with Disabilities in Canada (pictured here on the right after I had presented this talk (with Dr. Nazilla Khanlou).

Truth be told I’m purloining my own earlier work!

To provide a bit of background about Kristine whose photo appears above, she’s a married Mum & has a supportive spouse. When Pénelope came along Kristine had a child already. She was therefore an experienced mother.

Also note worthy in the context of this Blog Post, Kristine holds a degree in Sociology and Childhood Studies from Roehampton University in England. She’s a family support worker at a major community service centre. She had studied infant massage.

What more training might you need for motherhood you ask?

And indeed, Kristine believed that with her professional skills, her specialized education & her solid social support system, and her deep love of Pénélope that she could cope with being a complex care mother. She found in her case that was not so however.

When she sought state assistance for care and support for Pénélope she came up against some controversial provincial care policy.

Kristine had asked the province (the then Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services) for a placement for Penelope in a care centre where she, Kristine, would continue as Pénélope’s Mum, making all decisions for her daughter’s care. This became thorny and the care facility stated they needed custody to be able to make medical decisions for Pénélope since the baby would be in their care. Kristine was advised that she would have to enter into a legal process and relinquish custody of her daughter to the Province in exchange for the care and services they both badly required. Moreover, as Kristine was to learn, this loss of custody would legally be deemed to be available as a result of the legal abandonment of Pénélope by her parents under the child welfare provisions.

Thus, state wardship was offered in lieu of voluntary care. This is a curious situation since state care would not be in the best interests of Penėlopė & accessing it this way surely engages Kristine’s constitutional rights under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was a lose-lose for mother & child.A bigger conversation than this post allows here.

As well, the state wardship option was not designed to support this mother’s mental health, and in fact this approach to care has had, and continues to have, just the opposite effect on women’s mental health.

Indeed this very thing was claimed in a lawsuit brought against Ontario by another mother, Anne Larcade, in an Ontario Court in 2002. I will Blog about the 2006 Ontario Court of Appeal decision in the Larcade case another day. For now suffice it to say that Anne Larcade, in both a Maclean’s Magazine interview and also in The Star online, where asked Ontario “Where’s The Humanity?” That was many years ago now in solid piece of journalism by Tanya Talaga. It is a questions mother’s in such disputes continue to ask across Canada. See

Interested in that now? You can look at the article Appeal Court Overturns Disabled Children’s Lawsuit by Karen Howlett in the Globe & Mail from November 26, 2006.

Anne was a single working mother of two. She was not in a minority as a single caregiving mother in North America. Most children with disabilities are being raised by single mothers, as disability rights scholar Levine showed in 2008).

Moreover, the Literature tells us that among employed married middle aged Anglophone parents of children with disabilities with diverse diagnoses 42% of parents demonstrated symptoms of psychiatric distress (Thurston, et. al, 2011). The solution for mental and emotional distress in Caregiving Mothers is not child loss. It is child support.

I note that both mothers, Anne and Kristine, ultimately obtained care in Ontario, without child loss, after each entered into a dispute with the province and each presumable entered into negotiations for care with them as well. Not all mother’s are capable of that. What about them?

The above photo of Kristine & Pénelopé was featured in Parents of Disabled Kids Face Agonizing Choices by Author & Journalist Tanya Talaga in The Star at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s