Monday, May 31, 2010

COMPELLING REASONS TO BE FAIR / Part 205 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Without question this is a complex case. There are so many strands of information. So many factors to consider. So difficult to be impartial when you have an understandable bias for the social worker or for the Bayne parents. So many compelling reasons to be receptive to interaction of viewpoints. So many reasons to be fair.

The Baynes were not served notice about the Temporary Care Order application prior to arriving in court back in 2007 for a presentation hearing. Let's just say they were uninformed and uninitiated. There in the court room they were informed of the MCFD intention to keep the children in care under a TCO. This application was achieved without the Baynes' involvement or possibility of contesting the presentation. Further, MCFD did not follow protocol thereafter and renew the TCO every three months. It is possible that this was done surreptitiously and if so, disclosure has never been made. The likelihood is that the proper steps were not taken. When, after two years, MCFD notified the Baynes at a scheduled meeting, that MCFD was now seeking a Continuing Care Order, the Baynes pointed out the failure to follow due process with regard to the TCO and that the Baynes' rights had been violated, this was unanswered and ignored as though unimportant. The MCFD's claim was that the CCO was the decision of choice now because the children had been in care for so long already. This meeting was recorded by an invited observer. (While good social work goes on at the front line, it is this type of self-serving and patent wrongheadedness with respect to its own governing rules that has marked the management decisions throughout the Bayne ordeal.)

It can be argued from evidence presented in court that Dr. Colbourne, the specialist of the original SBS diagnosis of the Bayne child was initially, not 100% certain but that she believed this was a shaken baby. It can also be argued that she altered her diagnostic opinion in the summer of 2008, at least she added 'impact' as causative. Why she made this adjustment is unknown but she may have concluded that her 'baby shaking' opinion was deficient as a stand alone cause. Besides, the National Center for Shaken Baby on who Board of Directors she sat for some time had in the years of this case added 'impact' as a causal link to shaking. By May 2008 she had received three of the Baynes' experts' reports which pointed to 'impact. ' Those experts were Dr. Gardner, Dr. Galaznik and Dr. Innis. Since the MCFD case for either TCO or CCO rested chiefly on that diagnosis, this diagnostic shift was discussed in John Fitzimmon's correspondence to lawyer Finn Jensen in which because Dr. Colbourne's examination may have missed the child's skull fracture, the question was posed about Dr. Colbourne's credibility in court.

Nine days after the removal on Oct 31, 2007 the MCFD told the Baynes that it had already concluded that a second medical opinion would not be sought. It had concluded its investigations. Dr. Cochrane the neurosurgeon and Dr. Poskitt were two of the original doctors drawn into the case near the start but both declined to testify for the MCFD, Dr. Cochrane excusing himself early.

At the presentation hearing in December of 2007 Zabeth Bayne recounted the only plausible explanation for her youngest child's injuries that she and Paul could consider, injuries that warranted taking her to several hospitals for a diagnosis and for treatment. That in court submission concerned the accident of one child falling on the smallest. She posited this without opportunity for disclosure of the medical reports, or opportunity for second opinions. To date, at no time has a judge heard the evidence of the experts who disagree with the SBS diagnosis. That will come as the case concludes August 9-13, 2010. However, with that disadvantage in 2007 and because the Judge was waiting for RCMP investigation results, the Judge ruled, granting an Interim Order. Subsequently, RCMP dropped the charges against the Baynes and the file was discarded for lack of evidence to proceed.

The fact that Colbourne added the 'impact' factor is a critical one for MCFD, because if substantive evidence for 'shaking' by either one of these parents is already lacking in this case, and it is, it is an unsupportable leap to suggest an impact to the child other than the one the Baynes themselves reported at the very beginning – one of their active children fell on the youngest infant while she lay on the floor in the care of her parents, who like any other parents were multi-tasking while monitoring their new daughter. Why, when only weeks old was she placed on the floor when two small boys were playing in the house? Reasonable question. A reasonable response is that it has never been uncommon for an infant to be placed on a blanket on the floor where it is assumed she will be safe even in a home with other children. Would these parents repeat this? - probably not. But this was not neglect or abuse.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

AN APOLOGY WOULD BE GOOD / Part 205 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

With respect to three Bayne children and their best interests, and with respect to their parents Paul and Zabeth Bayne, our Ministry of Children and our legal system are tediously approaching the point at which the only and the best thing that MCFD child protection service workers can do is to apologize.

After which the Baynes shall shut the door and MCFD shall go away forever.

Yes the case details are complex and the medical features and opinions problematic. Yes the children's births were premature and their development slow and that complicates perceptions. Yes, the case at first glance is similar in appearance to other abuse cases that social workers must work. Yes, these parents defy the norm in that they research and appeal and write letters and do blogging and gain an audience. Yes this case may have a uniqueness about it. All the more reason to be circumspect. Someone else might say, all the more reason not to do stupid things. Oh, that was me.

Seriously, I believe this case will be an embarrassment to social work done by the Fraser Valley Region of the Ministry of Children. It must make conscientious social workers wince. What will become noticeable as this court case concludes is the array of disturbing illustrations of merciless treatment of parents by this team of professional social workers. Throw in sundry instances of clumsiness, incompetence and imprudence and the news media will fill e-pages with the story when Judge Crabtree rules.

Why would you not consistently inform parents in advance that their child(ren) have a doctor's appointment or an eye examination or a school concert. Why would all the customary expectations not be accommodated to Paul and Zabeth? Why do things which collectively give the appearance that you dislike these parents so much that you won't provide common courtesies unless a Judge enforces them? Why does MCFD legal counsel repeatedly seek delays? Good grief, the optics are reprehensible. I suppose that's because the reality is worse. I didn't think I could speak meaningfully to reform yesterday. Today I can. Social Work in BC has to be re-characterized with compassion and courage. If some of you who are engaged in social work are going to tell me that these qualities do exist, I will be gratified because I have not observed it here.

This case comes down to this. In spite of the parents' explanation of an in-house accident in which one child fell upon an infant, Dr. Colbourne diagnosed the smaller child's injuries as consistent with a shaken baby. She notified MCFD and RCMP. No criticism, that was her job. She was legally bound to do that. She was called to testify for MCFD in court that on the basis of her examination of the child and the reports of other colleagues in other specialties, this was a non accidental injury and that the child had been shaken. However, after some deliberation the Judge told her that she could testify to the medical examination results because she was qualified to do that and that would be entered as evidence. But she could not testify as to cause, or whether this was accidental or non accidental because she lacked qualifications to interpret those outcomes and her opinions would not qualify as evidence.

Yet, in October 2007 the MCFD accepted this medical assessment and never reconsidered it. MCFD bought the entire package, non accidental injury, shaken baby, parents guilt. Never seriously considered conflicting opinions from other medical professionals that were provided to them. The Colbourne diagnosis drove the MCFD agenda, its communications and interactions with the Bayne parents. It has dictated MCFD attitudes and treatment of the Baynes ever since. The Baynes have been regarded as adversaries. When visiting the children, parents have been persistently disciplined, “don't talk about the past. Don't talk about the future. Don't take photographs” (oh yes recently the judge compelled MCFD to permit this.) “Don't help your child to go to the bathroom. Don't do hand signals to your child.”

Judge Crabtree has been processing all of this and I am convinced this new Chief Justice is going to royally scold the MCFD.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Judge Crabtree listened yesterday. They return to court soon to present more specifically their request for more increased visitation privilege including unsupervised time. Not a closed door. Main Court case completion dates August 9-13, 2010.

CHANGED MY MIND / Part 204 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

I was going to offer some practical ways to reform B.C.'s Child Welfare System. What an arrogant cockeyed notion that was. I don't know what I was thinking. Despite some of the good guys trying to do something good here and there, the system is so broken, practical ways are futile.

I painted this scene once in acrylic and it didn't work, so I conceived it again in oil, and well, it works.

For the past fifteen years people more informed than me have been offering systems corrections but when the concept itself is flawed – well give it up. Oh no, this outfit needs to be re-conceived. Did you hear me. This province needs an entirely new concept.

On this blog I have appreciated the challenge of delving into the B.C. MCFD policies, practices, structure and leadership yet it is not my first priority and besides it's disillusioning. What prompted me to become involved is well known by now. It was one family's struggle to be restored as a family. The more I learned about Paul and Zabeth Bayne's specific case, the more concerned I became that they were not the only B.C. residents whose lives have been consumed to regain status as a family not to mention to restore stability, happiness and peace.

I have openly acknowledged the benefits of social workers who deliver services that truly protect children and resource families. But the overriding concern that owns me is the potential for wrongful accusation of abuse and neglect on hotlines to the MCFD. Anyone can make a confidential if not anonymous phone call to report the suspicion of neglect or abuse. In fact it is the law in B.C. that a person must place such a phone call when there is a suspicion of either abuse or neglect. The gravity of the suspicion is not the caller's concern. That is the social worker's job. By law, social workers must then investigate the family that is reported.

While it may not seem likely that someone would do this, the potential exists for someone to fabricate a story that results in investigation and at the worst might result in charges being laid mistakenly. There is a greater likelihood that some neighbour will misread apparent indicators in an innocent family and begin an avalanche of trouble for a family. The Baynes were victimized by a phone call with what I assume was authentic concern but was soaked with inauthentic foundation. Regular family medical exams and reports validate that. Those children were never pale or thin because they were unfed, neglected or unloved. Those children were living with the challenges of all premature children and they were healthy as far as their doctors were concerned - doctors who were actually trained to make those judgments. Did the local MCFD SW care enough to get it straight, to actually record evidence. Evidence, not suspicion. Evidence, not hearsay. Without a balance between evidence and reported suspicion, written lines later on are incriminating.

A report of a suspicion or a concern is not the equivalent of probable cause but it is treated that way by social workers until they have proven to themselves that there is no factual basis for the suspicion. I would like to see a statical percentage for the number of children who are removed by MCFD workers without probable cause of abuse. I was astounded to read in one U.S. study that 60% of the removed children were taken without probable cause. Further, 50% of the call ins were found unsubstantiated. It appears to be a system that is without the due process of law in the sense that innocent families can feel as though they are being harassed. Is that the way it is in British Columbia?

Social workers usually want to enter the family home to observe and to interrogate caregivers/ parents and children if possible. To allow this to happen always exposes the family to risk. Parents need to become alert to ways to protect themselves from fishing expeditions by social workers. This is why I believe child welfare laws need to be reformed. Legislation, while protecting children should also protect families. Social workers should be compelled to abide by the same regulations that guide law enforcement officers. As long as social workers continue to operate with the level of power granted by the ACT then the privacy and parental rights of all BC'rs will be jeopardized.

So what would your new Concept include?
I'm going back to my easel.

Painting image "Pacific Coastal Lake" is copyright of Ron Unruh and not to be downloaded without permission

Friday, May 28, 2010

PHOTOS SAY "WE ARE FAMILY" / Part 203 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

The photos speak for themselves. This family needs to be restored. The children need to be given back to their parents. The photos were supplied to me by Paul and Zabeth Bayne with permission to use them. This post is a virtual replay of #163. It is simply so compelling that it deserved another look. What lovely children and how much they long to be a family at all times, not only on two afternoons per week.

Today, at 1:30 PM at the Chilliwack Court House the Judge will rule on the Baynes' request for increased visitation. By the way, the Court case proper will be completed from August 9-13, 2010.

Zabeth Kristensen and Paul Bayne were married on June 3, 2001.

As a dating couple intending to be married, they began attending the church that I pastored. As an accomplished pianist, Zabeth’s skills were soon contributing to the musical worship in the church. Zabeth and Paul asked me to officiate their wedding ceremony. During the premarriage counselling sessions I found them to be thoughtful, moderate, clear-headed people. Having counseled hundreds of young couples through the years, I found Paul and Zabeth to be comparatively serious about life, faith, choices and values. Because our church facility was a large one and their wedding party was small they made arrangements to be married in an historic and attractive local church.

I officiated the wedding of Zabeth Kristensen and Paul Bayne. They were married in the sanctuary of Cloverdale United Church, Surrey, B.C. on June 3, 2001.

In October 2001 I left my congregation to take other responsibilities elsewhere and my contact with the Baynes concluded until on September 2009 I learned that for almost two years they had been living without their children. Then I began to learn their heartrending story. That was seven months ago.

Their son Kent was born to them first. Then came Baden but far too early. He was so premature that he looked like a small toy inside his protective and life supportive incubator. No one needs to question their commitment as parents because they were daily for hours at a time attending in hospital to their needy, tiny boy. Finally he could come home. He came with the attendant concerns and complications of preemies. They nursed him well and consistently. At last came Bethany. They enjoyed her in their home for only weeks before the accident which caused her injuries which were diagnosed at Children’s Hospital, Vancouver, as resulting from being shaken. The diagnosis is much disputed. Ten experts disagree with it. RCMP dismissed this matter. The Ministry of Children took the three children into care, that is, removed them from their parents’ care. And that is where we are today, with a regional office insisting upon Paul’s and Zabeth’s culpability as abusers, and now seeking in court to have permanent responsibility for these three children.


Bethany at three months of age.

Bethany at two and one half years of age in mommy's arms.

Kent's kindergarten photo. What a great shot of a neat son, whom Paul and Zabeth were unable daily to watch grow up from a wee boy and then finally to take him to school.

Baden was one pound and fifteen ounces at birth three months earlier than expected. He was so small that a mom's hand seems enormous beside him.

Baden is a sweet fellow, not without some medical issues now and again from his premature birth - From a toddler into this playful son. That's what 2.5 years will do.

Mommy and her children - visiting always in a neutral location and never at their own home together where they belong.

Paul and his sons now. How much have they missed together? How much has he had to pack into brief 2-3 hour visits two times per week? How many weekends without them?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Strong Leadership for MCFD #2 / Part 202 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

The importance of Good Leadership in British Columbia's Ministry of Children and Family Development – Part 2 of 2

I have led a national organization with distinct provincial district entities and I know about governance and structure, cooperation and outcomes. I have heard social workers speaking about reform to MCFD and decrying present practices and leadership. I fully expect someone to tell me that I don't know what I am talking about with respect to this organizational advice to MCFD. I have to try. I don't like puzzles. I have not got the patience to sit with all the pieces and fit them together. Besides, the MCFD is more complex because some of the pieces are missing in this Ministry claiming to be in transformation. Some MCFD staff lead me to the following conclusion.

It may be that one of those missing pieces is the wise use of staff ideas. MCFD will benefit if Victoria and the regions see the value of mobilizing staff, social workers, the whole MCFD community, toward creativity and initiative on behalf of the MCFD mission which is child safety and family health and development. The theory is that great ideas to improve service delivery exist among the people who are doing the work with children and families.

Victoria must also create a learning organization and nurture professional development of its staff. MCFD Victoria should then maximize reasonable rewards for outstanding work at every level as well as communicate clearly that some conduct will not be tolerated.
We pay a lot of money to provide leadership to our Ministry of Children. Social workers within the system will know whether this comment is apropos. In a Ministry like that which concerns children and families, we must have leadership that (1) makes it safe to tell the truth, that (2) supports a subordinate's professional growth, that (3) trusts a subordinate and is an enabler toward success. We need leadership at top positions that (4) assigns the missions but does not prescribe the means by which these should be accomplished. Social workers are wired and trained and gifted and they need to be released to dispense service to the best of their ability. We need leaders who (5) know how to build competence among their staff to assess situations with immense wisdom and then to take initiative to develop adaptive solutions. We need leaders who (6) mentor rather than intimidate.

Yesterday, I stressed truth telling. It is so easy to be so diplomatic, so politically correct that truth is soft around the edges. The essential reason for telling the truth in an organization like MCFD is to maintain trust up and down the chain of command. Truthfulness among leaders at every level of MCFD removes dishonorable incentives to look good at the expense of being good. The source of the power to command others is spirited self-respect, critical obedience, truth-telling and integrity. These have a profound emotional impact on the leader and those being led. Nothing destroys trust in the chain of command so quickly as a leader’s exploitation of institutional power to coerce a private gain from subordinates. The key is to use power in conjunction with what is true. Everyone watches the trustworthiness of those who handle power above them and this has enormous affect within the MCFD organization.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Strong Leadership for MCFD #1 / Part 201 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

The importance of Good Leadership in British Columbia's Ministry of Children and Family Development - Part 1 of 2

Organizations that are managed by regulatory frameworks like MCFD don’t work well without strong leadership. Does the MCFD have strong leadership? Most will say, yes of course. “Strong” should not be understood exclusively in terms of training, experience, authority and decision making power. We have a deputy minister, and regional directors who are strong in that fundamental sense. “Strong” must be defined with significantly different qualities as well in order to make an organization framed like the MCFD to become a stellar performer. For this, 'strong' becomes synonymous with 'good'.

I have led a national organization with distinct provincial district entities and I know about governance and structure, cooperation and outcomes. I have heard social workers speaking about reform to MCFD and decrying present practices and leadership.

Good organizational leadership will not ignore or minimize the importance of staff beliefs and values or they risk implementation problems. How are we doing? Strong/good leadership is eager to hear and act upon staff opinions and suggestions. If staff realize their views do not matter, then implementation becomes lethargic; at worst, staff undermines or sabotages the policy or program. A strong/good leader has the ability to motivate others and to inspire confidence. How are we doing?

Strong leaders acquire influence by telling the truth, by exhibiting passion, by fostering idealism and by affording opportunities for action. Strong leaders are good leaders. Truth-telling can serve as a wake up call to everyone in the MCFD. I'm not saying leaders are untruthful .... Just follow this logic. Up and down the chain of command, truth telling is a barometer of the organization's health. How healthy is the MCFD right now? Passion is the raw energy of leadership and without passion it is impossible to overcome challenging obstacles. A certain passion exists in the Deputy Minister's office to affect the transformation goals she envisions. I have no information one way or another to determine whether similar passion can be found in the regional offices. Further, when speaking of passion it is critical to note that idealism keeps this passion pure. Without idealism, passion can focus on wrong priorities or objectives and become destructive. Misplaced objectives are self protection, covering tails after questionable decisions, winning court cases at any cost. Good leaders not only act but they also motivate others to act. Good leaders are not out exclusively to develop a laudable reputation for themselves as charismatic leaders without whom the organization fails. Rather, good leaders encourage and motivate others to take initiative because that freedom energizes the organization.

Such energy leads to creativity that is free. It is in house. Essential and invaluable creative energy could be gained within MCFD internal community collaborations and in unit or office cohesion groups. But it is so hard within a regulatory (restrictive) framework to grow a learning organization. If top management will endorse them rather than punish them, empowered groups will produce creativity and a culture of learning and professional development themselves. Social workers want to be effective in their work and satisfied that they have genuinely helped children, parents and families. Learning organizations make a consistent effort to become better at achieving their mission, and 'better' will be good for all of us.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TWO HUNDRED AND COUNTING / Part 200 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

When I began my GPS blog site it was with the intention of expressing my interpretations of ordinary life and world occurrences. I decided that a biblical theology had informed my worldview for decades and this would doubtless be reflected in my blog posts. It never occurred to me that I would ride one theme for as long as I have written about Paul and Zabeth Bayne and their quest for family redemption. Now I have written 200 daily posts related to them.

Having been a clergyman for over forty years you know I do not casually use 'redemption' in the above context as a reference to salvation. Rather, it is 'rescue', from an entrapment that is as riveting a story as the LOST television drama that aired its final segment on Sunday. For Paul and Zabeth the redemption issue is a settled matter for they devoutly believe in the Saviour of the Bible – Jesus, the incarnate God-man, Son of God who came into the world to lay his life down as a ransom for soiled humanity. Soiled in the sense that, if God is God, perfect in all that pertains to deity, humanity cannot approach him for relationship apart from Christ's substitutionary sacrifice. Paul and Zabeth have placed their faith and their hope of personal redemption exclusively in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Their family redemption/rescue is still undecided, at least as far as we know. Will the children be released to return to their mother's and father's house? This makes the story so compelling.

As with the extended fictional drama of LOST, viewers are waiting – waiting for the Judge to make a ruling. No one knows whether any of us who love the primary characters, will be as content with the conclusion as most people are content today with the final episode of LOST. You may think that the identity of the protagonists in this story is a matter of interpretation, that is, whether they are the MCFD social workers and managers or the parents of the three children. As an author I write the story with Paul and Zabeth being the principal protagonists. But this is not a fabricated script. This is reality. When journalists record the news, most of us want it up straight. We don't want a journalistic slant, a leftist or rightist or moralistic pitch. The reason why in my account Paul and Zabeth are the good guys is because I believe their story. If these two people were child abusers and refused to admit their criminality, an outcome that places the three children in another family home where they will be reared with security and opportunity for advancement, would translate into the MCFD team being the good guys and everything they have done would be viewed as good and the final result would be good. Yea team. However, if these parents did not harm their child and have never harmed their children, and have been maintaining their innocence in the face of allegations and court orders; if the medical examinations were correct but the conclusions were in error and; if all the medical data applicable to these children was complex enough to have been misjudged by the professional experts to whom the MCFD listened, then the parents are the good guys and when they are vindicated all the fans will cheer. Yea redemption.

But if despite their innocence, and despite the misrepresentation of their characters and conduct, their children are not returned to them, then this is nothing short of a Stephen King horror.
I can't believe it, 200 and still counting.
This is Part 200. Consider this! Two hundred days, 200 blog posts. And the Baynes have been (952) 946 days without their children. I stand corrected as per comment below.

Lost logo - ABC
Call to Repentance by Stephen Sawyer

Monday, May 24, 2010

I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS / Part 199 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Don't miss the Comments Section following today's Post.

I ask so many questions.
I don't have answers for them.
The children were removed as a protective precautionary measure following a serious injury to their youngest child in the autumn of 2007. Risk assessment was done initially and later, both informally and then more officially with a filed document. In every case the assessment reflected badly upon Paul and Zabeth as parents because at no time in two and one half years has the Fraser Region branch of MCFD viewed them as no risk parents who can care for their children without supervision. Yet that assessment differs dramatically from Zabeth's own mother's assessment of their parenting skills and commitment that she saw up close and personal. I published her letter May 22. Now, after all of that time, 2.5 years, MCFD believes it can justify the removal of all three children and leave these parents impoverished of their offspring.

Harming a child means that you are a risk to re-offend, whether or not there is enough evidence for criminal charges to be laid. MCFD has a responsibility to adjudicate the risk factor. However, once that comprehensive risk assessment has been done, it is accepted social work practice to develop a Risk Reduction Plan. The purpose of this is to reduce the highest risk factors. The plan is customarily accomplished in consultation with the child if old enough, and with the family and others who may become involved in the plan. Social workers have access to a MCFD Risk Reduction Planning process and documentation. With it the social workers identifies the risk factors to be addressed; describes measurable outcomes of the plan; describes strategies and services required to achieve the outcomes; and specifies a date for reviewing each strategy. It is crucial that the social worker involves the family and child(ren) and service providers and others who have a role in the plan insuring that all understand what is expected of them.

The social worker is authorized to take protective measures that are based on the level of risk that has been identified. The measures must be adequate to ensure the child’s protection and be the least disruptive to the child. Among the available protective options to the social workers are providing protection services to the child at home for which no court order is required; applying for a protective intervention order according to (Section 28, CFCSA); applying for an order to ensure necessary health care (where risk to the child is limited to a medical issue); arranging for the child to stay with family or friends; developing a voluntary care agreement with the parent; applying for a supervision order; and removing the child. These options are categorized as risk reduction.

Programs and plans exist within our society to assist the recovery of people from all sorts of dependencies, maladies, emotional and relational issues, and unacceptable behaviours. All of these seek to reduce the possibilities for re-occurrence and reoffence. How in two and one half years can the authors and reviewers of the Bayne Risk Assessment fail to develop the Risk Reduction Plan whereby parents, as demonstrably worthy, loving, responsible and conscientious as are the Baynes, can be restored to their children? Efforts are made to rehabilitate even convicted criminal offenders. The Baynes were not convicted of an offence. They have been circumstantially suspect by MCFD. So why, would MCFD personnel not make every effort to reconstruct the Bayne family life? Why? If it suspected that the parents are a risk, why not try to reduce the actual risk? Is it because the parents must first confess to harming the child? Is that when such remedial help is offered? Or is it possible that the MCFD management does not have the resources, either in tools and programs, or funds, or in compassion and will? I am telling you, I want to believe in the goodness of people involved in this work. Yesterday, a community worker assured me that most people are good. Yet damaged people and saddened former social workers tell me with expletives I have deleted that so many in the system are far from good. Who can I believe?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

IDEALISTIC IMAGINATION IN TORMENTED TIMES / Part 198 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Read the Comments that follow the post

In my ideal world, the employees within a government ministry paid by the people of British Columbia and charged with the responsibility of caring for a sector of the population are humbled by an awesome sense of obligation. Each treats the task as a privilege to make a difference.

From the moment that the legislation comes down to inaugurate a ministry as crucial to societal well-being as assisting families and protecting children, that Ministry becomes a symbol or radical change. This Ministry becomes a virtual new and emerging movement of humanitarian love and economic aid and physical and emotional security. Its representatives inspire confidence and hope and trust runs deeply among all levels of the ministry and between the personnel and the public. Any established patterns and methods from a prior initiative are abandoned. The dreamers and designers of the Ministry determine not to attend international symposia or family and child welfare conferences in the United States or the UK. They choose to reject the formulae of other provinces and countries where the results are suspect. The philosophy of ministry and the practical logistics are newly dreamed, designed and implemented. Critical to the design and implementation of the services that will be offered is an engagement with the multi-faceted culture that is British Columbia. A decision is made early not to transform distinct cultures into one homogeneous identity but to respect the various expressions of family and values and life. There are negotiables and non-negotiables. Among the non-negotiables are the self-evident values of the worth of individuals, of children and of families, the paramount commitment to protect children, and the resolute determination to make families work. In everything that is negotiable, that is, how parents raise their children, whether protectively or with liberty, with or without conventional diets, with religious instruction or not, with trendy clothing and hairstyles or simplicity, this Ministry determines not to make it difficult for those who are seeking to do their best. The Ministry becomes willing to adapt for the sake of helping parents and families to succeed. Child removal becomes a true last resort after every effort to equip parents is exhausted. The Ministry takes the approach of being as pliable and adaptive as possible so that confrontation and competition disappear when dealing with parents and caregivers and families.

This future cannot be experienced without embracing and experiencing change. The reality of change is the promise of altruism. In my ideal world, the Ministry is staffed by an army of selfless, self-denying, public-spirited, self-forgetful, considerate and generous public servants. Only in this way can the future of British Columbia become better than the past that we have been experiencing over the last several years and witnessing in the news these last several weeks . I watched Premier Campbell's enthusiasm during the Olympics. I loved the spirit of the Olympics and thoroughly enjoyed the images of competition and success and the stories of athletes and teams and countries. I would endorse Campbell for another term if he could become enthusiastic about comprehensive transformation as I have described. That would be a more lasting legacy than fourteen gold medals, an Olympic Cauldron and an Athlete Village.
I know: "When the spark of brilliance meets the cold stream of reality, idealism is often the first casualty."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A LETTER TO ALL OF US FROM GRANDMA / Part 197 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Diane Kristensen is Zabeth Bayne's mother, and the grandmother of Zabeth's three children. In case we forget, the two and one half years that these children have been in Ministry care with limited visitation opportunity for family, has profoundly affected the extended family. Another impactful factor is reading less than flattering comments about the people to whom she is close and whom she knows well. She wrote a letter to me asking that it be included as one of the many on site comments. I felt it deserved to be read as my post today.
"I am Kent's, Baden's and Bethany Bayne's Grandmother.  I have witnessed first hand the joy and excitement of their parents, as they waited and prepared for each one of them before their joyful arrival into this world.  They were treasured and loved from their very beginning.  They were born prematurely each having special concerns.  Their Daddy and Mommy provided for them in every way, with joy and dedication.
       Baden was particularly premature.  But, with selfless care and concern his parents spent three months in the Hospital with him as he matured.
       The children were always fed.  Organic foods were fed them whenever possible.  They always received extra vitamins and minerals according to their ages.  Even today at the visitation Zabeth continues to give them vitamin D drops and fruit and vegetable chewables.  A loving mothers care.  Zabeth baked her own bread, so as to eliminate undesirable additives.
       They were always dressed appropriately for the weather conditions.  While in care this has not always been the case.  At times this has been a great concern for the whole family.
       Their home was filled with piano music, which the little ones enjoyed so much.  Plus, throughout the week several piano students would arrive for their weekly lessons from Zabeth.  They showed interest in the children, and the children were happy to see them.
       The family enjoyed being outdoors in nature together.  We have albums of happy pictures for all to enjoy.  Pictures at the lake picnicking, by the river throwing rocks, at the zoo enjoying the animals, walking on the nature trails ,and playing in the play grounds, etc. etc.
       They spent time in the library twice a week as a family.   They were taught to enjoy and take care of books.
       The parents planned a future for them in music and sports to enjoy.  They taught their children spiritual truths from the Scriptures and instilled in them right from wrong.
       Each child had and still has their own bedroom, at their home with their Daddy and Mommy.  They are filled with so many delightful toys.  Their parents provided them with their own puppy.  At the present time they have  two little bunnies waiting for them at home.  They have named their bunnies, and have played with them at their Birthday celebration and visitation, until we were no longer allowed to bring them.
       Paul and Zabeth and Kent and Baden lived with us in our basement suite so as to save their money, to purchase their first home, which they were able to do.  During this wonderful close family time we never witnessed any abuse.  They have only showed love and concern for their family.  I took advantage of them living with us and enjoyed sewing clothes, and stuffy toys for my precious Grandchildren.
       Due to Baden's prematurity Zabeth had him enrolled in several special classes.  I personally met some of these Child Development workers,  as they came to our home and worked with Baden.  Paul and Zabeth worked with Baden during the week with all that was suggested to them by Infant Development.
       Due to the unfortunate accident in their home where the middle child bumped heads with the baby, the parents sought help from five different Hospital Doctors.  Each of these professionals had a different opinion, making it impossible for immediate and accurate treatment.  Their delay caused increased challenges.
       Please note that the children are on the slender side by heritage.  The family is not obese.  The children after being in Social Service care for almost three years and under emotional and mental stress, have lost weight and now merely maintain their weight, as they grow in height.  They are not gaining normally.  They came from a home with so much love, and have been torn from one house to another, not understanding why they have been taken away from Daddy and Mommy and their Grandparents.
       Anyone who says negative things about this wonderful little family is not willing to find truth.  But, rather guesses and forms unsubstantiated opinions.  I pity you, and those to whom you listen."

photo 1 is Zabeth and the three children during a visitation
photo 2 is Paul reading a story with his two sons

Friday, May 21, 2010

I AM NOT NAIVE / Part 196 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

There have been forty thousand page hits to this GPS blog since I began to write the Bayne saga in October 2009. Among several hundred daily readers are regulars from B.C. and other provinces but also from the U.S.A. and the UK. Predictably friends and supporters of the Baynes follow the daily episodes. Social workers and foster parents read occasionally. A significant number of MCFD and BC government offices, in Hope, Chilliwack, Vancouver and Victoria consistently glance at the stories. Some journalists take a peak. Despite my desire for the reunification of the five Bayne family members I responsibly use as objective a lens as I can, given my vested interest.

Here is my connection. I officiated the wedding of Paul and Zabeth Bayne years ago. Our paths separated and then last September I was made aware of their wounded lives. I learned as much as I could about the loss of their children into the care of the Ministry. Since I am a writer I began to record that about which I could be reasonably sure. It became an education for me as I poured over the histories not merely of this case but others, and the history of MCFD. I have daily maintained email contact with the Baynes, chiefly to be an encourager. I have occasionally attended court sessions. Regardless of your intellectual position on this case you must acknowledge the anguish of sincere parents whose lives are ruptured by loss and helplessness bordering on hopelessness. Their spirits scarred by suppositions and allegations about them in a forum of opinion in which they have no opportunity for defense.

Zabeth expressed to me recently when reading comments on this blog site, “It is so hard to read this and know that what they are seeing is misinterpreted and that my children are suffering so much. Tears are flowing now and I am so tired and I long for the day when we don't have to defend ourselves and we can just love our children and support them with all their developmental needs as we were once doing and for which our family doctor commended us as exemplary parents as she stated on a Global TV interview. She saw us all the time. We were in the Neonatal follow up program. We lived daily for our children and loved it.”

I am not naive. I did not know either Zabeth or Paul well ten years ago. I don't know everything about them now. I certainly knew nothing about their family life, their parenting skills, child rearing practices, personal habits or issues back in the fall of 2007. I would not defend their innocence and advocate the return of their children on the basis of a distant familiarity. I have needed to objectively process the relevant details and evidence, admittedly through a grid of some empathy, and take a position and I have.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

THE GOVERNMENT HAS WITHDRAWN / Part 195 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

I take no pleasure in writing this. I wish it was different. The people of British Columbia are irate, disgusted and distrustful of the Ministry of Children and Family Development but most particularly with the people who manage it, Ministry Polak and her deputy du Toit. They are the government, and people would jettison this government now if there was a chance. I am not making this up. Comments left on my blog are smoldering. Comments on CBC's story are a unanimous inferno. Everyone is tired of this continuous cirque de la critique. We want to be governed by people whom we can respect and from whom we can expect consistent candor and honesty, civility and mercy.

As expected Mary Polak is wearing the bulls-eye and is taking the hits from the public and the press. Cynical and scathing remarks announce her incompetence and call for her dismissal now or her election defeat later. She is being journalistically stripped of her Honorable dignity and she may be undeserving. She is a genuinely good person.

What she may merit is an outstanding performance award to be given at the ACTRA Award ceremony in February 2011. She has been playing her role perfectly and following the script to the letter. She has pretended that she has power and is in control. Her Deputy has that. She has been defending her Deputy Ministry Leslie du Toit with whom Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond had the difficulties that hit the news fan this week. The ACTRA may be grand consolation for Polak because it is possible by that time, that Campbell will shuffle Polak out of this position if du Toit pulls another ill advised stunt that Polak must defend. Of course I have seen Mary Polak being interviewed, defending the actions of her Deputy Minister. I have listened to her controlled and calm answers. She has little choice. Du Toit is not accountable to her. Polak inherited du Toit who was one of Campbell's favourites. She was an import brought in to transform an impaired MCFD. She has expertise in child welfare whereas Polak does not. Polak can be told anything. She is a politician in no position to dispute with a seasoned senior level civil servant. If someone should be receiving scrutiny it is du Toit who has exhibited exceptional guardedness, even unwillingness to disclose MCFD information as manifested by the uncooperative posture that took the MCFD to court last week. That court ruling must be an embarassment because the amendment notion was a bonehead move politically. Of course then we heard the immediate post ruling defiance that government/MCFD would still seek the legislative change that could inhibit the Representative of Children and Youth.

Someone used some common sense yesterday. A wise decision on Wednesday. CBC ran the story at 3:15 PM informing the people of B.C. that senior public servant Allan Seckel released a letter saying that the government will withdraw the amendment that would restrict children's rep. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's access to cabinet documents. Interestingly, the letter was addressed to former judge Ted Hughes, who on Monday wrote an open letter to Premier Campbell asking him to do precisely what the Seckel letter expresses. Hughes took his unusual step because of his concern that the necessary watchdog office of children's representative would be compromised or rendered powerless by MCFD's proposed amendment. The representative was one of the many recommendations Hughes made to the Premier in his 2006 review of the MCFD. Campbell agreed in 2006 that this objective and independent set of eyes was crucial to the integrity and effectiveness of the Ministry.

Read more:
And read people's comments after the CBC article

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

DOUGLAS HEWSON CHRISTIE / Part 194 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

He is the Baynes' Lawyer.

Doug Christie may appear enigmatic with his western hat and boots and long tailed coat and upturned shirt collar, but he is not an enigma. Far from mysterious, if you spend even a brief time with him you will hear what he thinks. He speaks his mind and in that sense is transparent. He is articulate, astute, conceptually adroit. He like to listen and he wants to be heard. Inherent to his personal, philosophical and professional DNA is a commitment to freedom of speech.

Recently, on April 8, 2010, Christie was invited to speak about free speech at the University of Ottawa. Here is some of what he said (all of it is on his blog called Authenticity.)

“I have learned to talk about free speech but never practice it.”
- “I have to even be careful how I speak about Freedom of Speech.”
- “So let me just speak about freedom of speech. I have come here to praise freedom of speech, not to bury it. I do not want to be cynical or bitter. But since 1984 when I took up the cause of freedom, I have become aware of the price to be paid for this precious legacy of freedom.”
- “My office has been vandalized, repeatedly; my name has been defamed in the press; I have been the target of spurious complaints to law societies, I haven been banned from the precincts of parliament.”
- “The Roman maxim: “Audi Alteram Partem” was over the door of the law library at McGill University where I once spoke. I entered through that doorway to face a hostile screaming mob, much like Ann Coulter faced. They had never met me. They could never hear me. Why did they reject me before hearing me? Why not hear both sides? Sometimes all sides need to be heard. Until they are, how can you really form an intelligent and informed opinion?”

He was born April 1946 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Douglas Hewson Christie, Jr. and is known as Doug Christie, and he is a Canadian lawyer and far-right political activist based in Victoria, British Columbia. He graduated from the law school of the University of British Columbia in 1970. He is best known for defending individuals accused of Nazi war crimes or racist, anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi activity, persons such as James Keegstra, Ernst Zündel, Terry Long, former leader of the Aryan Nations in Canada; Malcolm Ross of New Brunswick who, like Keegstra, was a teacher fired for anti-Semitic activity; three alleged leaders of the Ku Klux Klan in Manitoba; Rudy Stanko of the World Church of the Creator; Tony McAleer after he was charged with broadcasting hate speech over the phone and online; John Ross Taylor of the Western Guard Party and Aryan Nations; Imre Finta who was alleged to be a Nazi war criminal and collaborator (see R. v. Finta); Doug Collins, a late newspaper columnist brought before the British Columbia Human Rights Commission for antisemitic and racist comments; Paul Fromm, head of the far-right "Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform" and "Canadians for Freedom of Expression", and participant in neo-Nazi and racist gatherings, who was fired from his job as a teacher for his political activity; Lady Jane Birdwood, a British follower of Oswald Mosley and distributor of hate propaganda; Wolfgang Droege of the Heritage Front; David Ahenakew, who has acknowledged making antisemitic comments in a 2002 interview with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

You make a mistake to assume that Christie must share the opinions of all these clients or he would not represent them. You don't understand the man. Another quote from his speech to the University of Ottawa will help to define his motivation.
We have inherent rights to survive as a free people only to the extent we articulate, manifest with rigorous debate, and listen to, all opinion with an enlightened and critical mind. Let us not presume we are possessed of all knowledge before the discussion starts, and set a limited agenda for social and acceptable speech.”

Christie is general counsel for an organization called the Canadian Free Speech League (CFSL). You will have to ask him why he took on the Bayne case against the Ministry of Children. I can only surmise that as he learned that their protestations of innocence were not even being heard by a Ministry that took their three children yet there was no supporting evidence that they had actually harmed one of the children whom they brought to the hospital for care, his fairness alarm was set off. RCMP gave up their investigation of the Baynes almost routinely back in October 2007 but the Ministry has presumed risk if not guilt for two and one half years because one doctor rendered an understandable but contestable opinion that the child had been shaken. And the Fraser Region of the Ministry has not been interested in the opinions of a dozen medical experts whose assessment of the same medical evidence disputes the foundation of the Ministry case that seeks not to unite but to prevent the Bayne family.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Judge Hughe's Letter to Campbell / Part 194 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

On Friday, the court ruled against Campbell's Ministry of Children in upholding Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's suit. Campbell and the MCFD broke the law. That's what Judge Griffin ruled.

Turpel-Lafond required and requested materials from the government in order to complete her audit of the Child in the Home of a Relative program. She was within her rights to ask and to have the materials. The government had refused to release these specific documents and had also introduced legislation that would limit future information access retroactively to March 30, 2007. Turpel-Lafond sued the government on grounds with which B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin agreed on Friday. Judge Griffin ruled that the Children's Representative was given access to cabinet documents when her office was created, and that it's clear from the law that Campbell and other politicians at that time placed a higher priority on protecting children than preserving cabinet confidentiality. Griffin ordered Campbell to give Turpel-Lafond the materials she had requested.

Judge Ted Hughes was called upon by Premier Campbell to conduct an independent review of the Child Welfare program of B.C. Ever since former judge Hughes authored the 2006 scathing review, making scores of recommendations upon which the government has acted, Mr. Hughes has appropriately maintained silence on MCFD matters. Hughe's review led to the creation of the office which Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond now occupies. After Friday's ruling it was hinted that Mr. Hughes might have something to say on Monday.

Well on Monday Mr. Hughes spoke - broke his silence today. Clearly he perceives a potential greater conflict down the road if the Government and the Ministry will not allow the Children's rep to do her job.

He underscored that in 2006 Mr. Campbell had supported the sweeping powers granted to this representative so that objectivity and independence could be assured in evaluating the progress and outcomes of the Ministry. Such powers for this office were an “integral and critical part of what both you and I were attempting to achieve,” Hughes expressed to Mr. Campbell. He mentioned that proposed changes to those powers will result in a “substantial impairment” of her ability to carry out her work as well as to “strike a negative blow to the heart” of efforts to repair public confidence in the system.

The government response on Friday was one of compliance with the present ruling but intention to pursue a protocol "that allows appropriate access to cabinet documents so that independent officers of the legislature can do their work." That still reflected control and lack of disclosure. So, Mr. Hughes has suggested that if Mr. Campbell refuses to withdraw the legislation, that the Premier should table the legislation to allow for mediation on a number of issues not least of which is that nonadaptive relationship between Turpel-Lafond and Lesley du Toit, B.C.'s Deputy Children's Minister. Hughes maintains that “this unfortunate and unacceptable relationship is standing in the way of the full repair of the child welfare system of this province which my 2006 report was intended to achieve.” “For obvious reasons I encourage you to take a leadership role in such a (mediation) initiative. We have to remember this is all about our kids — of that we cannot lose sight.”

As Lindsay Kines and Rob Shaw of the Times Colonist noted on Monday, May 17, 2010 1:03 PM, that Hughes suggested that just as Campbell sought Hughes’ help in 2006, the ex-judge would offer his services again, free of charge, “if you believe I could assist again."

The Times Colonist has provided a pdf document of the entire letter which Mr. Hughes sent to premier Campbell.

File photo credit Staff, Times Colonist

Monday, May 17, 2010

TURPEL-LAFOND IS A WEE BIT IMPRESSIVE / Part 193 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Linday Kines, Canwest article in the Sun and elsewhere began like this. “B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell's office broke the law by refusing to release cabinet materials to child watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond..."

A brief statement issued by the government stated that it will abide by the judge's decision while continuing to pursue a protocol "that allows appropriate access to cabinet documents so that independent officers of the legislature can do their work." Well isn't that tidy. It means that for the time being the Ministry will supply the documents originally requested by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, but it will later present a protocol procedure for legal ratification that will effectively strangle attempts at gaining disclosure of articles that allows independent reviewers to cabinet documents.

The B.C. Representative for Children and Youth is not an employee of the provincial government but is an independent office of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and does not report through a provincial ministry. The work is based on the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child, and upholds the following values: (1) Children have a right to be protected and kept safe; (2) Families are the best environment for raising a child; (3) Parents and extended family have the primary responsibility for a child; (4) Decisions made about a child should include their own views and input.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's story is a fascinating one. The youngest of four girls born to a Cree father and Scottish mother on a reserve in northern Manitoba, she grew up in poverty, endured harsh physical mistreatment, and was surrounded by domestic violence and alcoholism in her home—a mirror of the upbringing experienced by many of the children she now encounters. She is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and at age 35 Turpel-Lafond was the first Treaty Indian to be named to the bench in Saskatchewan. She was already enrolled at Carleton University, Ottawa when she was 16 years of age. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton University, followed by a law degree from Osgoode Hall, a master’s degree in international law from the University of Cambridge and a doctorate of law from Harvard Law School. She also holds a certificate in the international and comparative law of human rights from the University of Strasbourg in Strasbourg, Alsace, France. She is married and has one son and three daughters. Her husband George is a former Vice-Chief and Tribal Chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council. In November 2006, Dr. Turpel-Lafond was appointed British Columbia's first Representative for Children and Youth, for a five-year term. Prior to her Saskatchewan judicial appointment, Turpel-Lafond was a lawyer in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan and a tenured professor of law at Dalhousie University Faculty of Law. She taught law at the University of Toronto, the University of Notre Dame and other universities, and held the position of Aboriginal Scholar at the University of Saskatchewan. She has been a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria law schools.

Her five year term will be up in 2011. Even if she desires to continue, one wonders whether Campbell will renew the contract with her when she is as committed to honesty and fair play as she is. Perhaps by then the Supreme Court of Canada will need another judge and she is under consideration.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

SHE WON – WE WON / Part 192 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Let's call it the Turpel-Lafond Ultimatum. She called them on it. They stuck to their arrogant guns as though they are exempt from the law. Well, they are not!

This high-handedness has buried this Government Ministry in thick suspicion and criticism for the past two decades. I thought diplomacy was the way to deal with these bureaucrats but they don't respond to that. The MCFD has too much power. Rein it in.

We should blow a few party horns. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's suit against Premier Gordon Campbell's government, specifically the Ministry of Children and Family Development was upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court Judge on Friday. But party horns are not what this is about nor are they appropriate, and Ms. Turpel-Lafond's own reaction to the decision rendered on Friday speaks to the honourable response by an reputable representative. “... I feel completely vindicated by the court,” she said. “All of this could have been avoided if the documents would have just been provided to me some time ago.”

Turpel-Lafond requested the documents so she could complete an audit of the Child in the Home of a Relative program, which serves about 4,400 children who are unable to live with their parents. The program was suddenly replaced with a new program this year, and Turpel-Lafond wanted to know what led to cabinet’s decision. The government not only refused her request, it brought in legislation that would retroactively limit her access to cabinet materials to March 30, 2007. The government wanted Turpel-Lafond to sign a protocol document in order to have any documents but this would have given the cabinet a veto over her requested reports. She refused to sign any protocols. She routinely deals with sensitive information about children and families without violating anyone’s privacy, she said. “The suggestion that I would obtain any material and use it in an inappropriate way is, I think as the judge said today, completely groundless.”

Justice Susan Griffin sorted this out in short order, no hesitation, no delay. She listened to their cases on Thursday and gave her ruling on Friday. It was a resounding rebuke and we should applaud both Ms. Turpel-Lafond and Justice Griffin. Campbell and his government ministry were rebuked for breaking the law when they refused to release cabinet materials to the public's watchdog on child-welfare. Griffin put it this way. Campbell's and Polak's offices “failed to comply with their statutory duty” when they withheld the necessary documents. Turpel-Lafond was herself a provincial court judge in Saskatchewan and she knew that the judge's ruling that the premier has breached his legal duties was highly unusual.
The way the Judge saw it was that when Turpel-Lafond's position was created, the Representative for Children and Youth was given sweeping powers and that was intentional. “This could not have been an oversight,” Griffin said.

Judge Ted Hughes wrote the 2006 review of the B.C.'s child-welfare system and one of the recommendations was the creation of an independent watch dog position. It will be very interesting to hear on Monday what Judge Ted Hughes says. He indicated he would make some comments on this matter. Interestingly he was in court on Friday to listen to Justice Griffin's decision.

Appreciation for Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist
Story in Times Colonist by Lindsey Kines provides full coverage

Saturday, May 15, 2010

RIGHTS OF BIOLOGICAL PARENTS / Part 191 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

The rights and entitlements of Foster Parents are now represented in a document signed by the Minister of Children and Family Development and the B.C. Federation of Foster Parent Associations. The Rights recognize the commitment, skill and contribution of foster parents to vulnerable children and families in British Columbia. You can view the Foster Parent Rights document here.

I know of no document that similarly lists the rights of birth parents in an orderly manner although these rights are recognized randomly in the ACT.

During my brief yet emotional brush with the impact of the MCFD's ability to interfere with a family of five, I am convinced biological parents are the least understood and the most stigmatized participants in the child protection process. There has to be a legislative and Ministry effort to safeguard the rights of the birth mom and the biological dad. There has to be greater protection for them written into the intervention process. More than that there must be a renewed emphasis on doing all that can be done to protect the family unit. The MCFD has not expended every effort to assist Paul and Zabeth to regain their children and keep this family together. All of that effort has come from the Baynes themselves against the concerted effort of the MCFD to thwart this outcome. There are five people without any choice in this matter. Five people who do not want to be dissolved as family but whose futures are being controlled by others. Three of these are children who presently are in the care of the Ministry. The Ministry is not the owners of the children, but it appears they may as well be called that. I do not think most people understand the desolate feeling of having a child taken away from you and to speculate, to envision having a child, three children taken away forever is a nightmare. Yet that horror is the outcome toward which the Ministry is moving this family of five. I have a problem with that.

(ART: "Return of the Forest" by Robert Genn)

Friday, May 14, 2010

TRANSFORMED – NOT QUITE / Part 190 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Allow me to capsulize one family's experience and then provide you with the MCFD Transformation Goals to determine success or failure with respect to the Baynes.

The Ministry's initial response in 2007 to the Bayne's injured youngest child was appropriate and consistent with protection protocol. Even the removal of the two older boys fit this formula. Because the children are still not at home and it is now May 2010, the Ministry is no longer respected or trusted by the segment of the public that is familiar with the family and the case. Some former Ministry service providers are openly critical of the Ministry's actions in this case. The optics of the Ministry's non compliance with some aspects of the governing Act's prescriptions, the lack of disclosure to the Baynes with regard to aspects of their childrens' care and health, medical care, the unresponsiveness to requests from the Baynes, speaks to a confident and empowered staff, perhaps over confident. The ministry gives the appearance of being controlled by compliance to rules rather than compassion. Administrative and clerical red tape and processes have created an interminable delay of justice for the Baynes. The Bayne's issues are primarily with the Fraser Region of the MCFD and the larger MCFD identity has been largely unresponsive to them which may be understandable but not at all comforting. Services and resources to the Baynes have been non existent and the Ministry may blame the Baynes for being uncooperative or problematic. What has not been generously factored however is the couple's innocence of wrong doing and their horror of having their family ruptured for so long. A partnership of trust and respect has never been developed between these parents and this Ministry region. The basic needs of this family has never even been on the priority list of this Ministry. The family has been ignored and the emphasis has always been on protection.

Yet, when Leslie du Toit took on her role as Deputy Minister in 2006, she rallied her team around the following Ministry Transformation Goals.

“The following goals will guide us as we move forward and are based on our New Relationship with Aboriginal People,
feedback from our planning workshops, the Premier, the province's Five Great Goals, and various external reviews.
1. To establish a value/principle-centred ministry that is respected and trusted by the public, service providers, and
those whom the ministry serves.
2. To ensure a confident, professional, empowered staff of MCFD.
3. To ensure a system which is responsive to the needs of children, youth, families and communities, not driven by
compliance to rules.
4. To prevent the use of unnecessary red-tape, processes, procedures and rules which slow down transferral of
resource and effective service delivery.
5. To devolve service delivery to regions and communities together with the required resources.
6. To ensure that Aboriginal services are governed by and delivered to Aboriginal people by Aboriginal people
7. To have greater focus on prevention and early intervention services.
8. To ensure that importance is given to the full array of multi-disciplinary services to children youth and families.
9. To ensure effective, innovative, and integrated service delivery to children, youth, families and communities.
10. To ensure sufficient human and financial resources for all services.
11. To sustain partnerships of trust and respect.
12. To provide effective management and resourcing of day-to-day service delivery during transformation, ensuring
the continued protection and well-being of children and youth.
13. To meet the basic needs of families and communities as a priority.
14. To ensure community engagement and the shifting/sharing of power with communities and families with regard to
decision-making and service delivery.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

TURPEL LAFOND IS OUR MCFD WATCHDOG / Part 189 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

In the words of Ralph W. Sockman, “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”

Minority player Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is demonstrating a level of courage that should evoke in the public a rush of confidence and support because she is taking the Ministry of Children and Family Development to court for a justifiable reason. That government ministry with the majority hand, recently acted in a manner that may be an embarrassment. MCFD system operations are well secreted from public eyes and Turpel-Lafond is our watchdog.

After years of performance questions and criticism, the MCFD was reviewed by a select group chaired by Hon. Ted Hughes a few years ago. Among his many recommendations in the Children and Youth Review was the creation of the Office of an objective representative for children and youth. Mr. Hughes was convinced that an independent officer of the legislature could provide valuable perspective on child services and help to improve British Columbia’s child-serving system. The Review was quite critical of the management of the Ministry of Children and Family Development yet Mr. Hughes was powerfully supportive of the work of front-line child welfare workers employed by MCFD.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is British Columbia’s first Representative for Children and Youth. The mandate of her office is articulated in its own act, the Representative for Children and Youth Act. The Act presents a range of powers, duties and functions. There are four sections. • provide advocacy services for vulnerable children and youth and their families respecting designated services. • investigate critical injuries and deaths of children receiving child welfare services. • monitor and evaluate services to children, youth and their families to ensure their effectiveness and responsiveness, and thereby raising the degree to which the child-serving system is accountable publicly. • Finally, conduct evidence-based research that enables us to make recommendations aimed at enhancing the future development and delivery of services for vulnerable children and youth in BC.

Her office is in our (the Public's) best interests. She is B.C.’s independent child welfare watchdog. Candidly her role should be regarded as being in the government's best interests if it wants to enhance so many levels of its service to our communities. Yet Ms. Turpel-Lafond is compelled to fight for her independence right now. When B.C.’s independent child welfare rep. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond sought cabinet documents to complete an audit, the BC Liberal government introduced legislation denying her access. She filed a court petition last Tuesday saying she had hit the wall in her efforts to get government information she needs to gauge how well protected children are in B.C.

Children’s Minister Mary Polak called the petition a “waste of scarce resources” and said Turpel-Lafond’s access would be blocked unless she signs a “protocol agreement” on confidentiality — an agreement Turpel-Lafond refuses to sign. Come on Ms. Polak, don't get sucked into this protectionist posture. Who is advising you?

You should read the stories all over the press and online ….
- In the Coquitlam Now News , May 12th article “Information critical to protecting kids
- “Minister defends decision on access to documentsAccess granted to B.C.'s representative for children is 'unprecedented': Polak By Jennifer Moreau, Burnaby Now May 12, 2010
- Children's rep is fighting for independence”, By Paul Willcocks, Times Colonist May 12, 2010
- B.C.'s child-welfare watchdog gets early court date for petition against B.C. Government", By Rob Shaw, May 6, 2010 and Vancouver Sun
- WHAT IS MCFD TRYING TO HIDE?, May 03, 2010, Tracey Young, MSW RSW

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

MCFD Staff Shortage / Part 188 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

A New Series: MCFD child protection is not working for children and families. The system is broken. The Bayne Family is currently the high profile display case that illustrates where and why the breakdowns repeatedly occur. An analysis may prescribe corrections.


Families matter. That's the primary reason I mention child protection staff shortages. Of course the shortages have implications for MCFD administrators and for social workers, and that matters. However, it is how these shortages impact the families already involved with MCFD and others inevitably to be entangled with MCFD that truly matters to me.

There are over 9,000 B.C. children living in the care of the Ministry. More than fifty percent of these are Aboriginal. Consider the potential for hundreds of families to receive inadequate service by an understaffed, under resourced MCFD.

An independent review of the B.C. child protection system was published in 2006 under the title 'The B.C. Children and Youth Review (The Hughes Report). It bears the name of his author, Justice Ted Hughes. Shortage of child protection staff had several implications for Hughes. It is not easy to fill the positions left by departing social workers. Child protection social work is not everyone's dream portfolio. Hughes called it the most difficult government job. In speaking to the skill set required for child protection work, the Hughes report mentioned formal training, toughness, warmth, intelligence, compassion, decisiveness and determination are requisite. That's an interesting but plausible list and it strikes me that if social workers are hired who lack half of those protection skills, the service provided will be inferior.

One of MCFD's responses to the Hughes Report was the addition of 180 positions in child protection and mental health services but that was negated by a provincial budget projection in February 2009 calling for a decrease of 185 jobs. Social workers have their own concerns with staff turnovers but so do the parents whose children are in the MCFD system. Parents have at times had to work with an array of social workers and this discontinuity is not merely frustrating to parents but discouraging because relationships, service, understanding, history and data gathering are interrupted.

Resource: Two informative study projects 'Hands Tied' and 'Broken Promises' produced by Pivot Legal Society of Vancouver, a non-profit legal advocacy organization. Pivot Legal Society, 678 Hastings St East, Vancouver, B.C. V6A 1R1 Canada, Tel. (+1) 604 255 9700 /