Local mom says dental program is `demeaning'
Georgetown woman doesn't mind being told her son has dental problems that need attention, but having to provide proof that the dentist did the work is going too far, she says. Emy Stockley believes that the aspect of the dental screening program administered by Halton Region Health Department requiring her to get her dentist's signature verifying that work has been started or completed on her child is an invasion of privacy. "Violated, humiliated and interfered with," is how she said she felt when she received the form requiring the dentist's signature after her son's teeth were checked at school last month. "Although I did appreciate the screening and notification, I feel that having to report back to the department, and the embarrassment of asking the dentist for his signature was interfering, intrusive and demeaning," she said. Stockley received a letter from Halton Health Department last month stating that her 10-year-old son Matthew's teeth had been checked at the school and he needed immediate dental attention. Stockley said she already had a dental appointment booked for her son the day following the screening, and the work was done. After receiving the letter she called Halton Health Department to discuss the program. "I don't have any objection to this screening," she said she told the official. "I have an objection to being enforced to report his treatment to the Halton Health Department."
She said she will allow her son to be screened again at school, "but again, I will not be demeaned, humiliated or forced like a child to get a dentist to prove that I have sought dental health for my child. I have done so of my own accord." She said the region official told her that, by law, she was required to report to the Children's Aid Society (CAS) that she hadn't returned the dental form. "I have accepted that the incident will be reported to Children's Aid and that the municipality justifies their intrusion on my private life and that of my children's lives because it benefits their ability to follow up with those in need of treatment, but I will not give up my right to privacy, my right to freedom from unreasonable interference in my private life." Gisele Franck, manager of dental health for Halton Region, said most parents are very happy with the dental screening program, which she said is mandated by the province. She said the goal is to ensure children's dental health is looked after. The form sent to parents includes an option they can check requesting financial assistance to cover basic dental treatment. "I think it's fair, it's a service mainly provided to the parents," said Franck. She said the region makes every effort to work with the parents. "If they provide us with the name of the dentist, we can call the dentist's office," she said. She said parents have 100 days to get the dental work done on their child and the health department follows up with a re-screening of the child. She said at that point if the dental work is not complete the matter is referred to the CAS. "Dental situations that are not treated are deemed neglect by law," said Franck. She said last year of the 16,000 kids screened across Halton, less than .01 per cent were referred to the CAS. Greg Flood, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Promotion, which oversees the program, said the signature of the dentist is a "legislative requirement." He stressed people shouldn't lose sight of the purpose of the program. "It's a very important program," said Flood. "It's about ensuring that youth are having appropriate dental services and that's why this program is offered by the government." He added the program enables parents who can't afford dental services to get them for their child. He said since the program has been administered by his Ministry he has never heard of a complaint similar to the one raised by Stockley.