Today I read two stories about government assistance for babies and the families that care for them. After reading these two reports, I found myself thinking that Canada does not welcome its newest citizens as well as it could. I will start with the story of how Finland welcomes babies and it was posted on facebook by Dr. Judy Patterson. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22751415
As a mother myself, I was intrigued by the account of how all expectant mothers in in Finland receive a box containing the necessities for their new daughter or son, a tangible expression of the country’s concern for that child and, with some items like a picture book, its hope for that child’s success. Notwithstanding that Finland also offers universal health care and a full suite of infant screening to ensure the ongoing health of its newest citizens, the BBC story detailed some very personal accounts of how mothers of several generations reacted to this social service.
Apart from providing everything from clothing to a makeshift bed, the Finnish baby box also provided an opportunity for the Finnish government to impart to a family some of the values of their culture. For example, the items are in unisex colours and patterns promoting and encouraging gender equality.
The second story is from Ottawa, where last night, Ottawa Public Health tabled a budget that proposed cutting services for babies and their families: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/programs-for-newborns-at-risk-as-ottawa-public-health-tables-2015-budget
Because of a provincial freeze in funding to municipal public health programs in Ontario, Ottawa Public Health will no longer be able to check in with new parents or provide antenatal courses. Such programming is the backbone of preventative care for marginalized families. While Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, says the check-in calls will continue for some at-risk families, many families will no longer have access to services. To offset the need to adjust because of provincial budget cuts, more information will be available to families online. It will give new Mums and Dads something to do on sleepless nights with a colicky baby.
Think about these contrasting stories and ask yourself which government sounds more caring to you: the one that welcomes new citizens and their families with a gift of warm clothes and bedding and even a book, or the one that sends a worried parent to the internet?