Charitable Choices: Dr. Michèle Hébert of Buds in Bloom

Buds in Bloom is on a noble mission to provide a strong foundation for connection and wellness to families raising children with neurodiversity, including those with disabilities. This invaluable organization offers a variety of programs designed to meet the unique needs of these families, whether through one-on-one interactions, small group activities, or online resources. We discussed with the Founder and Chair Dr. Michèle Hébert, who also corresponded with Parent Advocates and Core Team members, to discuss Buds in Bloom in its entirety.

Buds in Bloom

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

Buds in Bloom, a Registered Charity since 2021 # 76611 8079 RR0001, has the mandate of Connecting families to the Community. We provide one-on-one, small group and online programs as a foundation for connection and wellness in families raising children with neurodiversity–disabilities, mental health concerns or other diversities. Our three signature programs are under our umbrella called Connection Kick Start:

1. Parent Digital Storytelling: Families with similar lived experience co-create with a trained Storytelling Facilitator 4-minute short-films and then tell their story in a Group Share session. In this program, parents have the opportunity to reflect on their experience, both on their own, and with other families, to gain new insights, and ultimately to feel heard, honoured and validated. To listen to stories and view short films co-created by our parents and our Team visit our website.

2. The Resource Compass©: Thanks to students at the U of A, NAIT, SAIT, Mount Royal University and Lethbridge University, and members of our IT Committee, the Resource Compass© is a novel online app solution being developed to match children and families to community help that they need, when they need it; a new Families-in-Bloom Resource Hub with tips, tools and solutions on the way from healthy living to financial health resources.

3. Accompaniment: Family members are accompanied by one of our trained Companions to connect families to service providers in their geographic region. This one-on-one program gives each family the chance to bloom today.

All of these Buds in Bloom programs help Connect families to Community!

What problem does it aim to solve?

Buds in Bloom | Bourgeons en Éclat was originally founded in 2019 as a Federal Not-for-profit Corporation and was granted Registered Charity status in 2021. Our volunteer-run organization responds to the overwhelming barriers encountered when families seek help for neurodiverse children and their families; an underserved community across Canada. Our programs help Connect families to Community resources and services that they need, when they need them. Buds in Bloom is an innovative community-centred organisation for families raising children or youth at risk for autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADH-D), developmental delay, physical or intellectual disability, mental health concerns, medical complexity, or who require special attention–education, health, social integration or financial support. Thanks to our voting members, contributors, supporters, Volunteers and Core Team who give their time, talent and gifts, children and families experience Relief, Hope, Empowerment and Togetherness by participating in our programs. Because compassion is part of who we are.

When did you start/join it?

I began my journey to transform the status quo for families at risk for or living with a child who has a disability, starting with a deepened understanding about the widening gaps in help services from hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centres and recreation programs. In 2000, I discovered long wait times for children and families to seek and access help services in Quebec. In 2009, to help reduce wait times, with four other Directors, I founded a Not-for-profit Organization in Quebec: Mission for Immediate Intervention and Access for Children (MIIA). That year, the “Kids Therapy Now” benefit dinner raised funds to reimburse therapy programs for five children. Two years later, to meet the growing numbers of children and their families in need and waiting for help across the province, we changed the name from MIIA to Bourgeons en Éclat |Buds in Bloom, Not-for-profit children’s organization in Quebec.

In 2015, the organization vowed to help even more children and families, because long wait times in child health centers span across Canada. Hospitals, specialized schools, health providers and parents of our children, from across Canada, began knocking on our door, expressing that they too need help in solving the pan-Canadian wait time challenges. In many cases, caregivers feel obliged to become full-time coordinators of their family care, looking for help, yet not finding help, then finding help, then losing that help, because of ageing out of programs, budget cuts, and government policy changes, to name a few reasons.

Our parents and caregivers often need to leave their profession, losing a sense of their identity as a person, as a community member; losing their sense of connection and belonging. Families across Canada face daily challenges in navigating healthcare, education, social services and government finance support systems leading to a daily battle, advocating for the help that their child and family needs. So, that very same year, in 2015, our mandate changed to build community capacity. While continuing to provide parent support, a wider scope became our objective, by referring our children and families to established specialized service providers in several regions across the province of Quebec; this approach began to broaden our reach.

Since 2019, our head office is in Calgary, Alberta. Most of our volunteers and Team members reside in Calgary or elsewhere in Alberta, and others live in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

What made you want to get involved?

The children. With 28 years as a paediatric occupational therapist, I have had the fortune of meeting and helping diverse children and their families in the USA and Canada. Families raising neurodiverse children and youth experience both rewards and daily challenges. Today, as a researcher, one of the most common difficulties I hear families in Canada experience is wait times or being denied access to the help resources and services that they are eligible for and need, yet do not get when they need them, if ever at all. These experiences stem not so much because of a child’s diagnosis, disability or diversity, but rather because of our broken and disconnected systems of care; healthcare, education/schools, social services/mental health support, recreation/sports programs and financial respite support. Breakdowns occur in the in-between spaces where families help-seek. Tragically, in rare cases, the weight of inequity and inaccessibility to help can lead to a risk of death by suicide or suicide-homicide. Neurodiverse children and youth, and their families, shouldn’t be denied access to the help that they need. They shouldn’t have to face lifelong barriers in their help-seeking process–delays, repeating oneself, re-applying, and fighting with ‘systems’ daily. So, my volunteering and career both focus on creating community connection and belonging for our children and families. I contribute in a small but hopefully impactful way.

What was the situation like when you started?

Another way of depicting our families’ experiences is with this short story that I wrote in 2020.

Solving the Maze: Understanding the Journey and Opening Doors for Children with Disabilities and Families – October 9, 2020. By Michèle L. Hébert, PhD, OT, Founder and Chair of Buds in Bloom.

One door closes, another one opens? That’s not the reality for millions of parents in Canada. Have you ever driven to a destination, and the GPS says “Arrived”, but you’re at a dead-end with no one in sight? This feeling of hitting a dead-end happens every day to Donna, mother of 3 children.

She’s worried because her four-year-old son Carl is not talking. Donna’s doctor insists Carl will catch up. Donna knows in her gut that Carl needs help, and repeatedly attempts to see a specialist. One door closes after the other … Carl is not eligible… They need to wait… The proper paperwork is not ready… Two years later, six-year-old Carl is finally seen by a specialist, and is diagnosed with a neurodiversity. She’s told that he will probably need help his entire life. At home, Carl is having tantrums and refuses to go to school. After six months of Donna missing work and advocating for financial aid and therapies, two doors open! Then, suddenly, both doors close; the government abolished funding for these supports. Exhausted and overwhelmed, Donna fears for Carl’s future.

She’s not alone. This year, one million children in Canada will be identified with a neurodisability, throwing families into a lifelong help-seeking maze of dead-ends, unknowns, turns and countless obstacles. Some good news! There is community help and supportive policies around health, education and wellness. Yet, there are dead-ends there too. What if we could help solve the maze?

Our Team at Buds in Bloom aims to make help-seeking, also called navigation, easier for families, so that they get the right help, at the right time, with three goals: first, we work with families to thoroughly understand their navigation experiences; second, we increase awareness and bring to light dead-ends and propose solutions; third, we strive to make the difference by opening pathways across Canada. So far, Buds in Bloom has helped over 310 families. Thanks to these families and Parent Advocates, our Team is gaining insights on one hand, about how parent navigation is experienced every day, and, on the other hand, about how they overcome barriers and find solutions to the dead-ends they face. Through my research at the University of Alberta and volunteer work at Buds in Bloom, I aim to help communities build pathways in their own local contexts, ultimately, for existing help to be accessed by more families who need it and for absent help services that are needed to be co-created with families.

Together, we’re finding the keys to open doors. Child and family wellness is my focus–it drives my work. Imagine a world where open doors outnumber closed doors, and when families experience seamless navigation any day.

Buds in Bloom

How has it changed since?

Stemming from my volunteer leadership work commissioned at the national level, life-changing outcomes have ensued. I was invited to contribute to developing policy briefs as part of the Policy Compendium on a National Autism Strategy in Canada that is now opening the door for pan-disability rights (CASDA, 2020). Also, led by the Paediatric Chairs of Canada and Children’s Healthcare Canada, our collective efforts resulted in Bill C-19 passing in Parliament for those with diabetes type 1–including my stepson– to automatically qualify for the Disability Tax Credit/DTC (2022). I served as a parent advocate and engaged in conversation with Senator Chantal Petitclerc sharing both lived experience as a parent and service provider, in addition to research findings, including my own research on facilitators and barriers for families of children with neurodisability to access (or be denied access to) the DTC.

At a community level, we are broadening our footprint starting in Calgary and Alberta. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters and government funds, family stories created as short-films with parents

In our Digital Storytelling touches, moves and inspires connection and wellness. Since the initial pilot trial in 2020-2021, participants experienced decreased distress, and increased relief, hope, empowerment and a sense of belonging resulting in doubling the number of families helped each new year. This process is held entirely online, which worked well during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to be held online. This program fosters a sense of community connection.

 

What more needs to be done?

While we are moving toward an equitable direction for children and their families in Canada, much still needs to be accomplished on the ground and in family-friendly policy. With promise for our Digital Storytelling expanding its reach to help more families, and once our Resource Compass©, app solution is launched, and our Companion Program grows, our footprint and positive impact will be even more powerful.

How can our readers help?

In three ways: (1) Give. Your donation of $25 or more will bring Relief, Hope, Empowerment and Togetherness, and you get an income tax receipt. (2) Sponsor a child and family for $50 or Sponsor the cause by supporting one of our signature programs or an upcoming fundraising event. (3) Join the Team! We are looking to grow the Directors of the Board and volunteer team. Connect with us or leave us a telephone message at 403-258-0888 and one of us will happily chat live with you!

Do you have any events coming up?

For the 1st time ever, in Calgary Alberta, on Saturday, December 2, 2023, Buds in Bloom is hosting the 2023 Exhibition-Benefit – Night of Change. Three stories, 4-minute short films, co-created by parents with our trained Storytelling Facilitators will be screened. The Cocktail evening will also feature a Keynote Speaker, Musical Entertainment and a Live Artist who will make a painting as part of the Silent Auction. A unique opportunity for the community to celebrate the diversity of our families and children! Our goals are to (1) Build community connection, (2) Raise $20,000 to help more families and (3) Raise awareness about families. 100% of the proceeds go to making lives better in our families. If you would like VIP or General Admission Tickets to this private, exclusive event email.

Where can we follow you?

Website | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Youtube

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

While we have made many friends along the way, Buds in Bloom is especially thrilled about collaborations with Gateway Association which shares our values for inclusion applying creative collective work and leveraging our complimentary talents.

 

About Emilea Semancik 112 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to work as a freelance writer and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. Taking influence from journalism culture surrounding the great and late Anthony Bourdain, she is a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of books. You can find her food blog on Instagram: