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Vancouver: A life line for families with high needs children will be severed tomorrow, when the Esther Irwin home program closes its doors.

The facility, operated for more than 40 years by the Childrens Foundation, provides a specialized long-term treatment program for children 6-12 years of age with severe behavioural problems.

The program provides a spectrum of services, including two 9-bed residential units on Vancouvers east side, on-site classrooms for the 18 children and family counselling.

Although the Esther Irwin program had a six-month waiting list, the Ministry of Children and Family Development announced earlier this year it was pulling funding for the program because it was too expensive.

One of the residences closed at the end of May; the other residence closes tomorrow.

The governments decision to cut the funds and close the doors to this treatment facility is a colossal mistake, says Barry ONeill, president of CUPE B.C. Theres no question it costs money to provide this type of individualized treatment program. But the cost of not having this type of facility will prove much more expensive over the long term, he warns.

CUPE local president Derek Wong says foster parents, caregivers and staff are angry and upset the treatment centre is closing. The Esther Irwin home program has given hope to many families over the years that found themselves in situations that seemed all too hopeless, he says. He worries the closure of the home will have devastating consequences for high profile children and their caregivers.

About 30 CUPE members working as childcare and family counsellors, cooks, supervisors and housekeepers in the Esther Irwin program will be out of work.

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Derek Wong: 291-9611, extension 475