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About Sickkids
About SickKids

November 20, 2009

SickKids launches free legal service for patients and families

By Beata Rydyger

November 19th marked the official launch of The Family Legal Health Program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) — the first of its kind in Canada. The program is a unique partnership between SickKids and Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO). It is a free legal service located at SickKids for patients and families referred by clinical staff. It offers legal assistance to address the non-medical issues that impact a child’s health or a family’s capacity to care for their sick child.

“The Family Legal Health Program at SickKids combines the efforts of clinicians and lawyers in the pursuit of better child health outcomes,” said Mary Jo Haddad, President and CEO of SickKids. “Clinical interventions are more effective and sustainable when the legal issues that can adversely impact child health are addressed.”

Haddad welcomed guest speakers David Scott, Chair of Pro Bono Ontario and special guest, the Honourable Chris Bentley, Ontario’s Attorney General.

“I am delighted to be here today at SickKids to celebrate the launch of this magical program,” said Bentley. “I cannot begin to imagine the stress that is felt by parents who have children being treated at SickKids while having to deal with life’s other challenges. Having access to this program will be a very useful tool for such families. I look forward to seeing this program evolve.”

The program is comprised of several components: training doctors, nurses and social workers to be able to identify cases that may require legal intervention; referring families to a lawyer whose office is at the Hospital; offering legal information to families who need it; and providing access to legal services, either by the onsite lawyer or through a referral, to pro bono lawyers or other legal services in the community. The onsite lawyer is available to meet with families in the office or, if needed, at the child’s bedside, enabling parents to focus on their child.

Since the onsite Pro Bono Law Ontario lawyer arrived at SickKids in May, there have been about 30 referrals each month. Cases have ranged from the families of asthmatic patients whose landlords refuse to address mould concerns to immigration and employment matters.

Funded by a two-year grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario, the program is managed by Pro Bono Law Ontario in partnership with SickKids and law firms McMillan and Torkin Manes Barristers & Solicitors, with the support of Legal Aid Ontario.

For more information about the Family Legal Health Program, please visit www.childadvocacy.ca/FLHP.