Kristie PearceThe Windsor Star
Date Published: Saturday, April 28, 2012
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Years of violent outbursts and constant commotion made one Windsor family's future seem hopeless.
But that has changed since the Windsor Regional Children's Centre entered the White family's lives. The hospital's Family Learning Place nurtured Elvis White, 10, and his nine-year-old brother Brad after they emotionally struggled with the death of their mom in 2006.
The dark-haired boys stood with their father Joe as he spoke to the importance of supporting children's mental health Friday during a groundbreaking ceremony. A replacement facility for the Family Learning Place at Windsor Regional Hospital's campus on Prince Road is expected to be complete by early next year.
Joe said the help not only his children but he himself received from the centre has been unbelievable.
"I had nobody but now I have all the hope in the world," the recovering alcoholic said. "You people gave me my children back and taught me how to love my children."
The intensive treatment facility works with kids from six to 13 who have significant emotional and behavioural problems. The children are temporarily removed from their school or home and spend the day in a therapeutic environment developing skills and behaviours. On its last legs, the 1971 facility has a leaky roof, mould and its cinder block walls are not exactly kid-friendly, said Dr. Mary Broga, vice-president of the hospital's Family Mental Health Program.
Last year, the Ministry of Child and Youth Services approved $4.3 million and the Windsor Essex Care For Kids pledged another million. The new facility will be named the W.E. Care For Kids House in honour of the donation.
"We're ecstatic. We're just thrilled," Broga said. "We're really going to have an exciting kids campus back here."
The construction includes a new gymnasium and pool complex, which Broga said will be able to accommodate children with physical disabilities.
The facility usually has 14 to 16 children at a time but new programs now involve the whole family.
"We just don't have the adequate space for parents to come in," Broga said, adding a child's typical stay lasts anywhere from six to eight months.
Dr. Wilfred Innerd, the hospital board chair, called the old building a blot on the hospital campus that was not suited for its clientele - the children.
"No one will regret seeing the end of it," he said to a chuckling crowd.
Brad and Elvis both suffer from anxiety disorders and attend the centre during the day. Elvis was expelled from school in Grade 2. Since then his listening has improved and he is less violent, his father said.
Joe, 58, said after he lost his wife, Laura of 16 years, life at home was tough. The boys, then three and four, didn't know how to deal with their emotions and anger, he said.
"When we got involved with (The Family Learning Place) it turned on a spark of hope," he said. "They helped me raise my children in a positive way."
MPP Teresa Piruzza (L - Windsor West), Pina Rosati, chair of W.E. Care For Kids and hospital CEO David Musyj also spoke to the small crowd as piles of dirt were moved by truck behind them on the site.
Construction started in March. A time capsule that included a Timbit and ideas predicting the future written by children was buried during the ceremony.
"The work of Dr. Broga and her incredible staff with families who need their services is truly amazing," Innerd said.
(Please note that CMHO staff does not reply to comments that are posted on news stories.)