Friday, March 12, 2010

For Love and For Justice / Part 134 / Zabeth and Paul Bayne

(Today's posting is a mild mannered statement of facts. If you take issue or have experience that contradicts the way the ACT should be practiced, write a comment. And while you are at it, read the comment by Anonyous attached to yesterday's blog.)

Children are protected by law in British Columbia, a law called Child, Family and Community Service Act.
Under this law parents must keep their children safe, get them medical care when necessary, provide for their physical and emotional needs as well as protect them from abuse whether it is physical, emotional and sexual, and must also not neglect or abandon a child.

Abuse of a child may be physical, sexual or emotional. Physical abuse is any action that hurts a child and perhaps leaves a mark, and could be generated by shaking or striking. It might even be extreme punishment such as isolation or withholding food, water and toilet privileges. Contrary to a familiar opinion, it is not illegal to spank your children but it must always be kept in mind that someone may report if you do spank. Sexual abuse is not specific and is any sexual act between a child and an adult. It can also involve threatening to have sex with a child. An adult cannot legally compel a child to look at pornography or view sexual movies, or make sexual photographs or videos of a child, or permit other people to have sex with a child. Emotional abuse occurs by ignoring a child, criticizing, and shouting at a child consequently making the child to feel despondent, anxious, isolated or wanting to be self destructive. It must be noted that if a child resides in a house where the parents hurt one another, that too may be cause for intervention by the Ministry.

Neglect results from not giving a child enough food, a safe living facility, apparel and medical care. Neglect might also occur by driving a vehicle while drunk and with a child aboard, or leaving a child with a person who is too inebriated or strung out to care adequately for the child. Neglect can also involve permitting a child to use alcohol or drugs. Leaving a child alone in a car or a house may also qualify as neglect.

In British Columbia, the law requires that anyone who believes a child is being abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused or neglected, must report this to the Ministry. Serious penalty can be imposed upon people who knowingly ignore reporting abuse or abandonment. For that reason, doctors, teachers, religious leaders, family members and friends and anyone else is obligated to report. The Ministry must consider the possibility that a report is erroneous. The Ministry may not divulge the name of any person making a confidential report.

The Ministry employs social workers to investigate such reports soon after receiving them. The Ministry engages Legal counsel who contend for the Ministry in Court.

Parents’ Rights, Kids Rights / A Parent’s Guide to Child Protection Law in B.C.

1 comment:

  1. Where the term "abuse" is used by child protection social workers, it would seem they have a vested interest in lowering the threshold or at least making it's definition as ambiguous as possible.

    In Canada, corporal punishment is allowed, because of a Supreme Court Decision that denied children's rights activists from making it a crime. For something like spanking to be considered abuse, the courts published a very clear view on the dividing line between what could be considered acceptable contact and what is not, and what could be labelled abuse and thus meeting grounds for charges under the section 43 of the Canadian Criminal Code.

    The Canadian Children's Rights Council was upset the Supreme Court of Canada "didn't support children's rights", but when I read through the 75-page decision, what I read is clarification what constitutes abuse and what is acceptable. Child Protection social workers by and large abide by this ruling, and reference to this decision in child protection cases if often relevant.

    Had the children's rights group suceeded in criminalizing corporal punishment, thereby lowering the threshold for what constitutes "abuse", this would have meant a large and immediate increase in business for child protection infrastructure in Canada.

    An article by Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff called "Corporal Punishment, Physical Abuse, and the Burden of Proof: Reply to
    Baumrind, Larzelere, and Cowan (2002), Holden (2002), and Parke (2002)" is interesting reading that does a good job of qualifying "abuse."

    A table in the article lists what would be "normative" for something like spanking, perhaps 2-3 spanks or hits, one episode per week on a child up to three years of age. In the "abuse" column, 20-30 hits, or four spanking or face hitting episodes per day, or applied to a three month old child, using excessive force such as all the strenth of the caregiver, and whether or not an object was used. The difference between the two, "Normal" and "Abuse" is large. Once defined, a judge or jury should easily be able to determine which category is appropriate.

    If a child protection investigator is NOT asking these types of investigative questions, then something is amiss.

    In the case of the Baynes, the Ministry identified a single event. Then, rather than also try to determine if the event was isolated or part of a larger pattern that would warrant the label of "abuse", Dr. Colbourne and other child protection support staff focused instead on a specific profile called 'shaken baby' and built a circumstantial case designed to bullet proof their diagnosis.

    with the frequency of the alleged offensive behaviour, amount of force applied, age of the child involved, location of the hitting, whether or not an object is involved, it is possible to build a fairly clear picture that any reasonable person could clearly see and label an act abusive or not.


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