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."


  1. As long as the B.C Government continues to model it's "Child Protection" activities after Ontario, the future you envision will never happen. Even J.J Kelso is turning over in is grave because of the travesty his original vision has been warped into todays twisted system. The truly sad part is that most SW's even in Ontario where it started have no idea who he is. God willing, perhaps we will see change. But, as long as the public as a whole is more concerned with the HST than Saving Children from the Government, that for all intents and purposes is supposed to be doing just that, change will never happen. What's truly sad is that the Public as a whole could save more money by reforming the CFSA versus halting the HST. God Bless all the children suffering separation from their parents for usually the wrong reasons.

  2. Ron,

    I have read a lot, but not nearly all...not even half, but to date I've found your posts fair and balanced - even if not altogether accurate. But I am afraid todays post is simply insulting to front line (FL) social workers, not only in BC but the world over.

    All FL SW (this includes team leaders, consultants, quality assurance etc) approach their jobs most definitely "humbled by an awesome sense of obligation. Each treats the task as a privilege to make a difference."

    The designers you allude to (Victoria, I assume you mean, no doubt) definitely need to give their heads a shake a lot of the time. However, when you write "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" as your model for great social work/child protection it reminds me that you really don't know of which you speak in this blog entry.

    Tell me, have you ever heard of the Family Development Response approach? It matches the ideals you mention exactly. It is used to great effect, and is being spread as quickly and thoroughly through MCFD front line, promoted by the designers of MCFD, as the ONLY way to practice child protection. Please, do some research into this approach. It is a new one. It faces resistance from those set in their ways. The new, the idealistic, and the particularly open minded experience it to be the perfect approach to families.

    Please, don't believe every child protection report is faced with a remove now-ask later approach. Removal is the LAST resort, ALWAYS. Google "my social worker did a great job." You will find nothing. No one talks about the good jobs social workers do in media, because its not "a good story."

    Please Ron, I understand your extreme frustration, disillusionment, and lack of trust in the system right now - but your experiences are not encapsulating of a Ministry full of selfless, emotional, human beings.

    The attached web page is just one example of how much SW's put families in the forefront of their minds.

  3. Hello Community Worker. You wrote informatively. You too speak with balance and an open mind which makes me receptive to your literary criticism and advice. Wow, and I thought I had written such an inspiring piece today. Admittedly I am relatively uninformed. I am self taught when it comes social work and it is a crash course. The last thing I mean to do is to offend those who are fulfilling the highest ideals of their profession and of my not so well stated idealism. Thanks for reminding me of the level of commitment with which your colleagues approach their jobs. I have not heard of the Family Development Response approach to which you make reference. I will look for this and read it. Good point you make I'm sure, that credit for jobs well done by social workers is thin. I appreciate your reminder.

  4. Community WorkerMay 23, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    Cheers Ron. I want to point out I am not arguing the children should be returned or not. I am thankful they have such a strong advocate either way. No matter what happens the parents will need spirituality, in this case, Christian backing. And so will these children. Here are few links to FDR:

    (I just googled these - anyone can find them). While a family who uses FDR programs is completely voluntary, it is only appropriate in certain child protection cases (Fraser Region). The Family Development Response "approach" is not voluntary for SW's and is being re-enforced Fraser Region-wide, and certainly Vancouver Region as well. (I can't speak for the other regions, but I have no doubt it is there too). Not to say a lot of SW's don't fight it as it's a pretty sweeping change in practice.


  5. Community Worker! the links are helpful, thanks.

  6. Community Worker says: "Google 'my social worker did a great job.' You will find nothing. No one talks about the good jobs social workers do in media, because its not 'a good story.'"

    If social workers really were doing a good job, there is no reason whatsoever why people wouldn't be saying so. There are clearly people who are complaining about the bad job social workers do, however. And why is it that just because one blog seeks to improve the MCFD that there is a continual whining about how social workers don't get recognized for the good work they do, etc., etc. There is clearly, as numerous parents and this blog itself demonstrates, a problem with the MCFD. Why can't it be criticized, or the people who work for it criticized, without a constant immediate rebuke.

    And as far as this Family Development Response goes, what the MCFD says it is going to do and what it actually does is - as too many parents have discovered - are often two completely different things. It`s all very well and fine to quote the law and talk about all the wonderful programs the MCFD has, but what is the reality. The reality is that there are still far too many parents being treated badly, families being torn apart, and children being shuffled from foster house to foster house. Deal with that, instead of continually complaining about how you don`t get enough credit.

    If I were a social worker, and people were making legitimate complaints about my profession and my employer, I would be doing everything I could to fix things, instead of complaining because I wasn`t getting enough compliments.

    Before you fix what is wrong, you have to admit it is wrong. It seems that MCFD employees can`t do that. The employees I would respect would be the whisteblowers - we know there are major problems with the MCFD, so why aren`t there whistleblowers coming forward. All we get is social workers and foster workers who complain about not getting enough praise.

  7. Community WorkerMay 23, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    oh, CPS. 1 - why not become a social worker then? Fix things from the inside? 2. Why can't someone rebuke a criticism? 3. Yep, as I said quite clearly, not all SW's are following the FDR approach. 4. Lack of info on google saying SW's are doing good jobs is not evidence there are no social workers doing good jobs.

    Also, CPS, how do you know MCFD and social workers aren't doing whatever they can to make the very best situation for families? I can tell you for a fact this is a weekly topic.

  8. Community Worker, tell me more about this "weekly topic," where social workers discuss how to make things better for families, because all I hear and see is how they are making things worse. Why don't some of you talk to the media; I'm sure you could do that if you had concerns about how families and parents are treated. Talk is cheap. We need action. We need parents to be helped instead of ripped apart and facing the horrific power of the state and lengthy court battles just to get back what is rightfully theirs.

    And the reason why I object to your rebuke of criticism is because it should be (should be, mind you) blatantly obvious that the MCFD desperately needs criticism, and to act on that criticism. I'll praise a social worker when one - just ONE - steps up to the plate and does the right thing and says to the world, Stop treating parents so badly, stop shuffling children from uncaring foster house to uncaring foster house, stop pretending that more money and more social workers will solve the problem.

    If the government, and MCFD in particular, was doing such a wonderful job of being a parent to these stolen children, then these stolen children wouldn't be ending up homeless, addicated to drugs, incarcerated, and dead, in such record numbers.

    There is a problem, and a big problem, with child protection, and giving you and the MCFD praise is not the solution. It may make you feel better, but this is not about making you feel better. It's about keeping families together. Please tell me what you and other social workers are doing in that regard. Not what the law says you should be doing, not what your policies say, but what you are actually doing, and please back it up with hard, provable facts.

  9. To CPS DF
    I publish your comments but I have to say that you have a penchant for overstatement. I want to identify with your issues with MCFD or any child protective agency but you push me off with your rhetoric. I should expect this when you have deliberately selected a screen name like CPS Destroys Families. That in itself is over the top but it does gain attention. My struggle with the way you express yourself is that exaggerated statement that sounds irrational doesn't persuade me. You will praise an MCFD social worker if there is even ONE. What's that? It is generality at an extreme. Further, not all social workers treat parents badly. Generalities underscore your prose so that logic vanishes and that's unfortunate because not only do you strike at other commentators whom you know nothing about, you lose credibility with those who want to agree with you about the important issues.

  10. Hello, I fully agree with Mr. CPS destroys Families. It is perfectly chosen nick and a clear Statement. I worked with tens of SW a few were excellently caring, a few had good intentions, most of them absolutely incompetent liars. Ruined life of my child and family is the evidence. CPS has either own personal experience, or someone very close to him bears illegal horrible consequences of typical SWs doing whatever they can to make the very worst situation for families, as in my case. Thank you Mr. Unruh for not censoring your readers!

  11. Community WorkerMay 23, 2010 at 10:10 PM

    Cheers, Ron. You've responded more eloquently than I would have otherwise. You are quite correct; there are many truths in what CPS DF has to say. Unfortunately, those truths are obscured by exaggeration and loss of credibility due to delivery.

    I will point out - I never said, "don't criticize MCFD."

    All of this is taking away, however, from the topic at hand - the Baynes children. I do not envy the judge who has to decide what is in their best interest. There are clearly two very polar cases being presented.

  12. Black understands the problem, yet at the same time, greatly understates it. This is understandable given the space limitations in the comments section.

    As for the comment from Community Worker, all of the six to eight social workers I’ve encountered over the years have initially been smooth talking, even toned, assuring, and self assured. Over time, however, all but one revealed themselves to be completely without redeeming qualities and are a clear liability to their profession and the health of my and my children, and I fear for other parents who encounter them.

    The Pivot report is incomplete and one-sided. There are innumerable numbers of social workers with 15 or more years of experience, so clearly there is a large segment inside MCFD with stable employment who are happy with their job, so these people should have been questioned as to why they stay.

    MCFD is a highly efficient and lean organization. It just so happens their product is not protecting children, but instead, ensuring and endless supply of “product” to feed the highly efficient engine that serves to fleece taxpayers of their hard-earned dollars.

    Consider: a 1.4 billion dollar budget, round up the number of social workers to 1,400, that is 1 million expenditure per worker. If there is 14,000 children in care, that is $100,000 per head cost to process per year. A parent raising a child might spend that over the life of the child, let alone in the space of a year. Services that address “concerns” cost $1,000 to $2,000 and can be completed by parents and children in less than 30 hours total. These are very simple, yet revealing figures that to me, proves child protection is simply a financial scam first, and child protection a far distant concern.

    No social worker-centric reports that I’ve seen examine anything beyond their sphere, so the total cost of intervention must include legal costs, embedded specialists in the Health Ministry and resources impacted outside MCFD – all of these are typically overlooked. Cutting legal and foster care costs, supervision, and expensive psychologists for example, would likely allow the numbers of social workers to double.

    Social workers: simply stop playing games by offering said FDR services BEFORE removing children, not after. And use supervision orders first, not as a consolation prize when children are returned. Also, you damn social workers stop using foster parents and services providers as negative-information gathering mechanisms in ongoing attempts to justify the original removal of children and preparing for court.

    Get out of your offices, and personally visit kids at their foster homes, with the parents, and be trained to conduct services yourselves, taper off costly supervision in the space of weeks, not years.

    In my opinion, social workers who do not have children and stable families should not be acting as parents for multiple families of removed children, and are spending all their time processing derogatory information rather than physically interacting with their clients.

    I’ve spent more time than I care, listening to other parents, matching up their experiences with mine, looking at raw intake reports, assessments, supervision reports, MCFD website data, and my conclusion is the system is not redeemable, and the will does not exist to fix it, even if it were possible.

    When I listen to RCY staff cite the limits of their authority to help children, I sense a very long time before a correction is obtained.

  13. Community WorkerMay 24, 2010 at 12:38 AM

    Anon 11:21 - Sw's don't receive any sort of financial incentive to remove children, and foster parents don't make the removal decision, so I am not sure where you are going with the whole financial argument.

    2. FDR program is only for families who acknowledge a child protection risk and are able to identify means to "solve" the problem themselves or with some guidance. ie, lower-risk child protection reports in which families meet a number of criteria - and the criteria is reasonable. FDR approach is for ALL families. FDR outreach/program would never be offered post-removal. I would hope the approach of FDR would always apply - this would require a skilled social worker, and a parent willing to discuss the issues openly (whether they agree or disagree is inconsequential in using such an approach).

    SW's are required to visit the children they have removed. Does it happen as it should? No. Are SW's trained to offer the services themselves? Yes. Does it happen? No. The reason? Saving money! It's cheaper to send an outreach worker to do the work than it is a social worker. (there's the cost-savings you were wanting). And, this makes SW's more able to attend to families.

  14. Ron, how is this overstatement?:

    "I'll praise a social worker when one - just ONE - steps up to the plate and does the right thing and says to the world, Stop treating parents so badly, stop shuffling children from uncaring foster house to uncaring foster house, stop pretending that more money and more social workers will solve the problem."

    All I have said here is that if anyone can show me a social worker who has done the above I will praise that social worker. I think you might have misread or miscontrued my post.

    As far as my screen name goes, it's perfectly true. Social workers are of course free to make up their own flattering screen names such as "community worker," and in fact they have an entire organization which exists all over the world that makes what I consider an exaggerated (and offensively exaggerated) claim, that being:

    "Child Protective Services"

    Once again, I find myself vaguely threatened with censorship. Maybe we should call in Mr. Christie! (I'm joking, at least about calling in Mr. Christie).

  15. Community WorkerMay 24, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    CPS -

    The problem some might have with your posts are the broad-sweeping generalizations. It is a travesty what has happened to you - I wish I could explore it with you. Not analyze, not "psychologize"! But just discuss it.

    You are absolutely correct in the fact there have been horrific child protection worker abuses throughout the history of Canadian and International child protection. There have also been many more cases of brilliant, empathetic social work which most will never hear of. Just as Social Workers cant speak to media about contentious cases, they can't speak about the good ones either (or any for that matter).

    The simple matter of the fact is even if social workers could announce such instances, the very nature of social workers would mean they would never announce the good work they've done to the public. You better believe many argue with their supervisors about good and bad practice. You'll just never hear about it.


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