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.


  1. Well done, Ron. It's part facscinating, part educational, part frustrating to attend these forums on practice development knowing front-line folks were never actually asked what practice development would "mean to them" or "how it should look".

  2. Quick question Ron - when is the next court date? Does this family have an idea how they will progress once re-united, if they are? I mean, what faith-based, or other services will they attend as a family to try and address a lot of the pain, grief and loss?


  3. The Baynes have a hearing at 1:30 PM this Friday May 28 at Chilliwack Court House to deal with their request for increased access.

    The finale of the Court case is set for August 9-13, 2010. It is a very long wait for those directly impacted by this separation.

    To my knowledge Paul and Zabeth have already made a faith community with whom they regularly meet and access to strong friendship support as well as counselling but I can ask further. They are fully prepared to welcome these children back into the family home. The waiting is difficult.

  4. This blog is already an idea factory with parents, social workers, activists and other interested parties that can all contribute. Such is the power of something like an internet blog where a front line worker can post an idea and a senior MCFD official can take that to heart and implement it.

    Does MCFD have such internet intranet services and can employees run blogs and wiki pages?

    In today's world, it would appear that leaders evolve and float to the top to make themselves known and people gather under these individuals, so I'm not sure if the suggested approach would fly with MCFD, as the current leadership might have to give up some of their control. A rigid hierarchy such as MCFD has does not seem conducive towards fostering problem-solving creativity.

    If you think of some of the biggest companies and entities and how they originated from individuals with a vision and passion and persistance, I think of Gates/Microsoft, Jobs/Apple, Nokia, Ikea, Google, they came from individuals that were not part of a major company, they came out of the blue with an idea and people flocked toward them.

    Think of other great leaders in their humble beginnings and how they evolved, Jesus, Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King. Where there is a problem and human suffering, a solution evolves and leader appears to fill the void. In the case of MCFD where there is opportunity to profit at the expense of others, hidden leaders in the negative sense also evolve and exist to quash challengers rather than foster leadership.


    My question would be regarding your comment with respect to improving service delivery. What services would be beneficial to the Baynes?

    Currently the only service I am aware of being provided free of charge to the Baynes is supervised access at a secure facility.

    As a parent, I can certainly suggest services that I know exist because they were offered to me, such as in-house supervisors that conduct visits in parents homes. The precident appears to exist for the Baynes situation they were allowed friends and family to attend their child's birthday party, and the event was very successful, well photographed and videotaped, so there should be no reason not to repeat this.

    Other services I know that exist is private counsellors where the Baynes could convey their challanges and difficulties encountered while their three children are in care. Such counsellors would be experience with other parents and be able to provide relief.

    CW and Ray Ferris are online and might also be able to suggest other appropriate services.

    The FDR / parenting improvement service I engaged it for nearly a year would be appropriate for the Baynes, if they were allowed to proceed on a 'without prejudice' basis in light of the current litigation.

    The counsellor involved would have to be strictly advised not to convey particulars of each session to social workers as occurred in my case, and not to try to elicit confessions or admissions of guilt, remorse or regret, as I experienced.

    With respect to services, it is my thought and my approch in my case, that any parent can benefit from courses that serve to improve parenting and life skills. This is free to parnets and exists at very low cost to the taxpayer.

    This does double duty towards pre-addressing Ministry concerns if a judge were to determine there was any basis for protection or ongoing Ministry involvment would be a good idea.

  5. What an interesting comment Anon above. I hope a few people respond with more ideas that prime the pumps all over the place.

  6. It is likely a naive and uninformed approach attempting to address leadership concerns within MCFD without irrefutable data to back up your ideas, or you are high up on the pecking order. A retired former director of MCFD might have better success with such high level suggestions.

    Honesty and truth is supposed to be a given. It is implied there exists checks and balances behind the scenes to avoid public embarrassment of being caught not telling the truth, or placing unwarranted trust in employees.

    When I fly an airplane, I don't want to hear assurances that today the airplane will not crash, and that yesterday was just a freak accident, and since then 'measures' were put into place to hopefully prevent a crash today. Instead, I change airlines and ask why preventative measures were not in place beforehand and give the airline a few years to restore credibility in my eyes.

    Having no choice in airlines is a bad thing.

    Restricting my ability to choose services for my children except if they are removed from my care, as CW suggests, is also a bad thing.

    I think MCFD maintains their status quo because they operate in a lockstep mode where it is under pressure from innumerable forces that all serve to prevent change. Children don't matter to people who do not personally encounter them on a daily basis.

    Think of the lost business to special interest groups if significant changes such as a focus on services occur instead of removals. A reduced budget due to fewer removed children is likely the biggest threat to MCFD the leadership would worry about.

    Add to MCFD's own self interest, the Health Ministry, legal services, supervision costs, judges and lawyers. However, counsellors and other service-related organizations might thrive in a service-oriented model. Social worker numbers could double if funds were saved from the other areas. (BCGEU unions take note.)

    Leaders already exist in MCFD, it just so happens these are long-time employees and beaurocrats that follow the beat of their own drum and they merely tolerate the current leader until a new one comes along for them to train.

    What can be offered to these people that they do not already have?

  7. Ron;today you deal with some of the issues of power. It is necessary for protection workers to have a lot of authority, but equally necessary for them to be accountable for it. In practice, the accountability devices often fail. To make the social worker accountable to the court, one needs lots of money for lawyers. Like the Baynes,who went broke paying lawyers and could no longer mount a defense. The internal accountability mechanisms are a joke. Most doors are shut when a case is before court. A director's review is useless when it is the director who is calling the shots. The director is in effect asked to examine himself---and guess what? He always comes out squeaky clean!! The thing about authority is that one should never be afraid to use it, but one should always be very careful not to abuse it. One needs intelligence and courage to use power properly and one need integrity and compassion to avoid abusing it. One also needs the wisdom to tell the difference. As in the Bayne case, nowhere is the abuse of power more apparent than during the mediation process. Mediation is to find a middle ground between disputing parties. Sometimes there can be no middle ground. The social worker said that the Baynes had deliberately hurt their daughter and they said emphatically that they did no such thing. The correct course is to say, very well go to court and put your evidence to the test of due process. There is no middle ground between such positions. This was proven in the mediation process. The ministry's position was that they should admit their guilt before anyone could move on. If you admit your guilt we will provide you with rehabilitation. If you do not admit your guilt, we will take your kids forever. If you can believe that this is mediation, then you can believe that the Spanish inquisition was also mediation.With such disparity in power, one may as well try mediating between the wolf and the lamb. Wolf "I want to eat you". Lamb "I would prefer not to be eaten thank you sir." Mediator. "Perhaps you could agree to the wolf just eating one leg?" For the Baynes, this useless mediation process was costly in many ways. Their lawyer (who should have known better) charged them a bundle for attending. They lost months of time instead of getting into court. It finished up prolonging the case for about a year and great stress and heartache. It also succeeded in depriving the children of parental care for a lot longer. Too bad that so few people in positions of power care. I am thankful that there is such a small and valiant band of supporters who do care.

  8. Excellent ideas Anon 12:21.

    FDR won't be offered to this family as it is only for pre-removal, but other services could certainly be offered if/as needed which would be of benefit and provide a similar service.

    I never once suggested "Restricting my ability to choose services for my children except if they are removed from my care, as CW suggests, is also a bad thing." Apologies if what I wrote came across as such. Any parent can access services as appropriate/requested any time - some may require SW referral.

    Finally - no matter what folks might think, removal of children has nothing to do with budgets. Length of time children are kept in care is dependent on (a) the judges decision and (b) the front-line sw and their immediate team leader. Neither of which have any say in budgets.


  9. Someone I know was reading this blog today and the statement "the 4 year old fell and hit heads with the 2 month old" struck them. They asked, "did the 4 year old have any bruising or marks on his head?" Such a simple question, which I never thought to ask because its so darn simple, it seems absurd to have overlooked it.

    So, I guess thats my question. It deserves a pretty simple answer, so as not to detract from a really good post and topic today.

  10. CW and others, it is a valid question. In the next few days I will release a Medical History, perhaps in segments, and this question will receive an answer.

  11. I take the liberty to add my personal experience that various public servants systematically and with impunity break laws and violate human and constitutional rights of children. The Knowing Elite does it to profit from exploiting, harming and destroying selected families. Generations of good and innocent (guilty only to be poor and native), children and families lost their health and lives directly from reputable providers of governmental and religious services. Thank you Mr. Unruh for not censoring my experience, and GOOD LUCK!!!

  12. A word about services. When you are a good parent and have been mistakenly accused, what services do you need? A good lawyer. A former children's minister said that 30% of cases are under-investigated and 30% are over-investigated. In other words he might just as well have said that his staff get it wrong 60% of the time. The Bayne case is typical of an over-investigated case. The hounds of hell are unleashed on doubtful, or invalid evidence and no expense is spared in persecuting the parents. The under-investigated cases are usually those where the parents are totally unfit to be parents and there is no known service that will do any good. Services are poured in and money is spent with abandon, while the children remain in severe risk situations. I have read the files on dozens of such cases. This is due to the mistaken belief that all people can be reached of only the right technique can be found. As one judge put it "the social workers wasted a great deal of public money in trying to teach a penguin to fly. Would you like to know what I found to be the most useful service to give to struggling parents? More money in their pockets. Oh, about head banging. Don't bang your head on that one. A four year old has a much harder head than a six week premmie has six weeks after birth. Tests have shown that slight bumps on the heads of new born children and especially premature children can cause a brain bleed. It takes a much harder knock to hurt the head of a four year old. Thanks for the space Ron.

  13. Hi ROn, I wasn't personally asking for a medical history (A massive undertaking on your part!) - I was just wondering if the older brother had a bruise. If he didn't it doesn't mean they didn't hit heads. Especially as 2 month olds have soft skulls still. I was just wondering.

    I realize a 4yr old would not bruise as easily or suffer bone damage as easily as a 2month old, all. Ie, if he had a bruise, it would certainly aid in the "children bumped heads" statement.

  14. CW,the child who fell wasnt 4 years old. He was a teeny little preemie boy and he was 2 years old. And no, there were no marks on his head or on Bethanys head either which points to internal injuries such as she suffered. It also doesnt explain her fractured arm and leg or the bruise on the left side of her brain. These are facts that are being ignored over and over on this blog. We have heard many excuses, Celiac disease, Glutaric Aciduria and Baden falling head to head on Bethany who was laying on the floor.You can read those blogs in newer posts where the Foster Moms involved have clarified tests that have been done and are negative. And there are comments also about how fragile Baden is because of his prematurity and that has been used to discount the good care he is receiving in Foster care but when it comes to him banging heads with his sister there was no marks. Too many discrepancies in this case. Thats why more people are becoming suspicious. Wouldnt he at least have a mark from his fall, even a small one?

  15. To readers of the Anon comment: By all means ask the hard questions. Listen for the truth. This blog itself makes an effort to accurately reference ages of the children consistent with the chronology of specific posts. It reflects awareness of the male toddler's fragility. It also explores fairly the potential medical explanations for the infant girl's injuries. At no time in exploring Glutaric Aciduria or Celiac, have these conditions been offered definitively as causes or contributors to the infant's injuries. Reference to fractures is made with an attempt not only to cite a reported finding but to state any disputing medical opinion. Comments to blog posts have abounded and in some cases, misinformation is posted inadvertently or gullibly. The 'above Anon's' comments must be filtered as well because the Anon writer is not a medical professional but rather a social worker or a caregiver, certainly someone with some proximity to Ministry case information even if third hand. I beg to differ. More people are not becoming suspicious of the Baynes but quite to the contrary are finding difficulty with the Ministry's information sources and case handling.


I encourage your comments using this filter.
1. Write politely with a sincere statement, valid question, justifiable comment.
2. Engage with the blog post or a previous comment whether you agree or disagree.
3. Avoid hate, profanity, name calling, character attack, slander and threats, particularly when using specific names.
4. Do not advertise