Friday, September 14, 2012

Edmonton mayor recognizes Velvet Martin - Samantha's Law

Edmonton mayor recognizes Velvet Martin - Samantha's Law

Local advocate wins service award

Edmonton mayor recognizes Velvet Martin's tireless advocacy for the vulnerable
By: Scott Hayes

| Posted: Wednesday, Jun 06, 2012 06:00 am

St. Albert disabled persons advocate Velvet Martin recently earned an award usually reserved just for Edmontonians.

Martin spent years pushing for a new law to improve the rights of children with disabilities and their families after her 13-year-old daughter Samantha died while in a foster home. Martin’s efforts earned her an award for outstanding service from Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel during his annual mayor’s awards ceremony recently.

Martin said the honour makes her feel humbled.

“I hadn’t even prepared a speech. I just spoke from the heart when I went up … mostly about just the fact that the award actually recognizes Samantha,” she said.

Mandel gave Martin the award for outstanding service for advocating for the rights of children, youth, vulnerable persons and seniors in her community.

“I am inspired by these individuals and organizations who are building a more inclusive city where all Edmontonians can participate fully and share their gifts with the community. My congratulations and thanks to all the award recipients and nominees,” Mandel said in a prepared statement.

Samantha’s Law, the reason that Martin was able to receive the award, is an amendment to the Alberta Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act. It requires that participants in the Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program are recognized as legally distinct from children in protective services under the intervention model.

It means that the government needs to involve the families when figuring out funding for children with special needs.

“What Samantha’s Law did … it changed the way that the legislation looking at parents of children with disabilities focuses now,” she began. “Now you do not need to have your child move out of home in order to access the services. The services are provided to the family.”

She called the previous legislation an “archaic way of looking at individuals with disabilities.”

“When my daughter was born in 1993, we were actually forced to place her into an outside home for care because the government wouldn’t support natural families in home, which is totally crazy. Now what the legislation does is it defines children with disabilities in good homes separately from the child intervention model.”