Apprehension as the last resort
In recent years the Ministry of Children and Family Development appears to practice a crisis-driven system of child protection. Given that starting point, the MCFD does not consistently sustain the honour of families and children’s best interests, specially when the apprehension of children is not treated as the option of last resort. Yet, a guiding principle of the Child Family and Community Services Act was to construct a safety plan for children that employs the least disruptive measure. It says in 2. (a) “children are entitled to be protected from abuse, neglect and harm or threat of harm;” and in 2.(b) “a family is the preferred environment for the care and upbringing of children and the responsibility for the protection rests primarily with the parents;” and in 2. (c) “if, with available support services, a family can provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child, support services should be provided.”
The initial investigation of the Baynes was reasonable but not all of the tactics, but beyond that, after the police stepped out of the case, there was no ongoing threat of harm and certainly not neglect. The Bayne family was the preferred environment for their three children and the Baynes were committed to protecting them. They proved that in many undeniable ways with their sons and at the time of their daughter’s injuries. Certainly if the Ministry had viewed this case through the grid of the CFCSA principles, it could at least have supported this family by plugging the parents into a services network so that each of the three children could remain home.
The removal of a child from the family home is a most serious and upsetting action to use with a child and the CFCSA recognizes this. To function effectively MCFD must always be big picture oriented and forward thinking at the administrative level so that the necessary resources are in place so the least disruptive intervention option is feasible for social workers. Social workers may find themselves today facing a couple of limitations. First, sufficient time to do an adequate assessment of the alternatives to apprehension and second the existing lack of supportive and preventative services. Section 5 of the ACT says that "A director may make a written agreement with a parent to provide, or to assist the parent to purchase, services to support and assist a family to care for a child... and these services may include (b) counselling; (c) in-home support; (e) parenting programs." Not developing those services is patently a breach of the CFSCA requirements.