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VANCOUVER - Employees of The Childrens Foundation, members of CUPE, are holding an information picket today to protest the governments decision to eliminate funding to the Esther Irwin Home, the citys residential treatment program for children with severe behavioral problems.

The information picket is being held outside the Esther Irwin Home, 2750 East 18th Avenue, Vancouver, from 9:00 a.m. 10:30 p.m.

The home, operated by The Childrens Foundation, consists of two long-term residential facilities on Vancouvers east side. One facility will close later today, the other on June 30.

Esther Irwin Home offers a highly specialized treatment program for children with serious emotional and behavioral problems caused by fetal alcohol syndrome and other disorders. It also provides family counselling and on-site classrooms for the 18 children who are 6 12 years old.

The Esther Irwin Home often is the last stop for many high profile children and the last hope for their families, says union spokesperson Bob Toop, adding the program has a six-month waiting list.

Although the program is a lifeline for many families with special needs children, the Ministry of Children and Family Development determined the residential program was too costly. Earlier this year it cancelled the contract with The Childrens Foundation to operate the Esther Irwin Home.

Toop, a CUPE staff representative, says there is no question the program is high-end. It costs money to provide individualized treatment plans, specialized classrooms and intensive family counselling, he explains. But the cost of not having this type of facility will prove much more expensive over the long run, he warns.

The CUPE members at Esther Irwin Home are part of the Community Social Services Sector, whose collective agreements were ripped up under the Campbell governments Bill 29. About 30 members, including child care and family counsellors, cooks, supervisors and housekeepers, will be out of work when the Esther Irwin Home closes its doors at the end of June.

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Bob Toop, CUPE Representative, 291-1940, ext. 276