Sunday, June 27, 2010

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COMPLIANCE AND ASSESSMENT / Part 236 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

A child unwell. Many medical opinions sought. Indecisive. One doctor. A diagnosis. A liability implied and assumed. Alleged abuse. A necessary call to MCFD and RCMP. A nightmare begun. An apprehension of three children. Investigation. Insufficient evidence RCMP conclude. A parental explanation rejected. MCFD suspicion continues. Risk assessment. Compliance refused. MCFD case closed. The Bayne Saga. The Bayne Campaign for Justice.

Assessment is a core methodology in child protection. Assessment is fundamental to the child protection model practiced in British Columbia. Assessment is at the heart of intake and investigation processes. The dominance of assessment within the MCFD child protection model is very significant because the way in which it is implemented places the compliance of parents at centre stage, eg. my Bayne illustration above. Child protection agencies need to identify which families require investigation and how quickly and then determine whether children are at risk. Risk assessment is a means to prioritize which cases will receive attention. Assessment defines which issues should be addressed with the parents in order to determine whether the level of risk is acceptable or not. Assessment provides the defense for workers' actions.

A key function of assessment is the evaluation of parents' willingness to cooperate with professionals. Therefore protection social workers form judgements about risk by requiring parents/families to submit to several processes such as interviews, observations, assessment by specialists and participating in specific programs. The theory is that compliance or non compliance will enable the worker to form a judgment about the level of risk that is posed to a child. Children who are considered at risk can only remain in the home of parents who are suspected of abusing the children, if the parents are willing to accept intervention, surveillance and help. This is never explicitly stated but both MCFD and parents know this.

Compliance is central to the development of that risk assessment. In fact, whether child protection is sought and when it is introduced into the life of a child and the duration of it will rest upon compliance. MCFD is preoccupied with the administration and management of compliance. Compliance is integral to MCFD's assessment process. It can rightly be labelled 'assessment compliance'. At a minimum the MCFD desires a compliance from parents that is an admission of at least partial responsibility for the issue(s) that prompted the child protection alert. In all of the meetings between the Baynes and MCFD personnel during the first two years, the recurring agenda was MCFD's pressure for Baynes to admit abuse of their child. Discussions never moved past that. Assessment is strongly influenced by the cooperativeness of parents. Because the Baynes insisted upon their innocence they were deemed uncooperative and therefore always a risk to their child – oh no, to their children, all three. That's how compliance and assessment relate in the MCFD. You didn't comply. You are guilty.


  1. Parents who submit to the MCFD's requests or demands for assessment, will find that those assessments are used against them. The social workers may act as if they completely trust the parents, and that there is nothing to worry about, and that services or assessments are no big deal, or that they are required by law, when they may in fact not be. All these "services" are usually merely meant to make money for the industry, and / or make it look like the social worker is doing something. They are not intended to provide service to parents or children. That's why you'll see, time after time, parents complying with all of MCFD's wishes and demands, and their children get adopted out anyway. And it's not just MCFD that operates this way.

    If parents are guilty of abuse, and if we really consider abuse a serious crime, then it should be treated as a crime. If there isn't enough evidence or if there is no evidence, then MCFD should close their file, forever and leave the family alone. But this Ministry has such power that even when there is no evidence of abuse, the file never gets wiped out - it's there, forever, to haunt the family.

    If a person only knew about the Bayne case and nothing else, that would be enough to deduce that MCFD is corrupt. What has happened in the Bayne case could never, ever have happened if the entire Ministry wasn't deeply, deeply flawed. The thing we have to understand is that what has happened to the Baynes is in no way unique. It happens all the time. Everywhere in BC. And all over the world.

  2. Good topic today Ron and one which merits much more coverage. Assessment and evaluation need advanced skills. The risk assessment used by the ministry is deeply flawed and the one produced in the Bayne case is an example of exactly how not to do an assessment.
    Enough on that topic, because I want to continue with the topic of those who aid and abet directors who abuse authority. Starting with those responsible for internal review systems.
    In looking at hierarchical appeals, it is first necessary to know how decisions are made. Social workers seldom make decisions. Even relatively simple matters are taken to team meetings for discussion. Supervisors are now called team leaders.This system has many advantages. No individual can be held responsible for blunders. Each decision takes up more staff time, so that one can claim being overworked and needing more staff. Complaining to the supervisor about a social worker is complaining to the person who shared the decision and you are wasting your time.
    Then there is the assistant director and the director. Unless it is a minor matter, they have already been a party to the decision. If it is a substantive matter,it is most likely that everything has been done on the instructions of the director. He/she has all the statutory power and can only be overruled by a judge. In the Draayer foster home case (Made public by the former children's commissioner) Premier Dosanjh had to use an order in council to overrule a director. Ask for a director's review and you will most likely get one. The director will assign a fairly senior staff member to do it. The report is made to the director who made the decision in the first place and who is the boss of the reviewer.So the result is always the same.The social worker is right and you are wrong. The goat has been set to guard the cabbage.
    The Baynes got a director's review, which concluded that the staff had followed all the proper processes. All this means is that they filled out all the right forms and checked off all the boxes. They were not allowed to see the review, because it is confidential. Protection of privacy don't you know. Oh they could request to see their files under freedom of information. I advised them against this course, because in every previous case I have seen, it took over a year and large sections were whited out.
    Before going further, I should mention process. All these bodies are process driven. There are numerous set processes for various civil servants to follow. In theory,correct process will produce correct outcomes. In practice all the outcomes are the same; the social worker is right and you are wrong. Look at the practice audit I mentioned in the case of the G family. Leslie Dutoit was kind enough to suggest to the Baynes that they take advantage of the dispute resolution process in her region. There was one little snag.The dispute resolution officer had already refused to take her case two months earlier, because it was before court. In fact everyone in the system uses that escape route. It is before court and we must not influence the court. Or it is before court, so take your arguments to the judge who has all the power anyway.Too bad if you have no lawyer.

  3. To Ray Ferris:

    Ray, do you have or know of a publication (created by you or anyone else) that is available to parents, advising them on how to deal with the Ministry at every step of the way (i.e., before, during and after their children are apprehended)? If you don't, is there anywhere parents can get good advice? I have read the publication put out by (I believe) Pivot, but I disagree with its contents in terms of the legal powers it claims the MCFD possesses. I therefore do not trust this publication.

    Thanks in advance.

  4. Continuing with those who aid and abet directors who abuse authority. Internal review systems part two.
    It is an old tradition that politicians should keep their noses out of court, but the same does not apply to senior bureaucrats. For all those ministry functionaries who claim they can do nothing because a case is before court, this is diingenuous dissembling. Judges decide cases on what is brought before them and what is brought before them is decided by social workers, supervisors, directors and others. What is brought before a court depends on the standards of social work practice and everyone from the ground up is responsible for this and this can also be modified any time the director wishes.Nor does being before court absolve the director from the obligation to exercise a duty of care. Duty of care is an important topic which I will cover separately. In the Bayne case the director was derelict in his duty of care. The deputy minister does not have the power to overrule the director, but she does have powers of persuasion and she must authorise excessive legal expenditures. In short, I have never known anything being changed as a result of an internal review process.
    In spite of all this, there are quite a lot of civil servants in the central bureaucracy. They have interesting sounding titles and they work away in their little cubicles, believing that what they do might benefit a family or a child somewhere. They are not sure how, but they believe sincerely in what they do. One senior policy analyst works at producing mediatin guidelines. Sounds fine if you don't think about it too much. Again,let us look at the Bayne case. Mediation followed the usual assumption. "You are either guilty, or else you are in denial. If you admit your guilt, you might just get your children back. If you do not admit your guilt we will get a CCO and place them for adoption." That is exactly how the Spanish Inquisition worked. "If you deny your heresy, we will torture you until you confess. Then we will imprison you for a long time. If you continue to deny your heresy, you will be tried and burned at the stake."
    One cannot mediate when there is a huge power imbalance. This is like trying to mediate between the wolf and the lamb. It simply cannot be done. The usual experience with internal reviews is that one is taken on a circular tour while being fed a diet of cliches and platitudes. Stonewalling has been developed into a fine art. Remember my story about the regional head? When I asked him if he had read the interministry guidelines for interviewing children, he replied. "That is a procedural question, I suggest that you address it to the Ombudsman." All the people that one meets are nice, sincere sympathetic people, who get you nowhere. In the appeal of one foster home closure, no fewer than 25 middle level ministry functionaries each had a finger in the pie.
    Next time I will write about external review bodies.
    Meantime to Anon 3,03 pm. You raise a very good question. What publications are there to guide people who tangle with the MCF before and after apprehension. I would like to think that the CF&CSA is the appropriate guide, but it is never followed in the way it is meant to be. I think that such a booklet is needed and perhaps this blog good be the instrument for getting attention for such. This would be a very good project for a number of people. The law society, the Victoria law centre, Ms.Turpel-Lafonde, BC Civil liberties society, or Maurine Karagianis and the NDP caucus. If a publication does exist, can readere let you know? You know this might be a good project for Leslie Dutoit, if she wants to win back a bit of credibility.

  5. To anon 5:01, you ask if there is a publication designed to assist parents every step of the way with MCFD. Have you thought of going to the support group available? You could contact one of the people who run the support group and if you aren't in the same city or can't actually show up, they can communicate with you via email, telephone, skype or whatever is most convenient. They can help you to educate yourself.

  6. I have lost my kids for 19 days now. There was no real reason and it should never have happened. It is crazy what they are trying to get away with here in B.C.

  7. To anon 6.32, PM
    Mail me at and I will see if I can help.

  8. Anon, at 8:31 PM,

    I am very sorry to hear this. Please try to stay strong, I know it must be so hard. Keep up your spirits however you can. Stay healthy, try to get exercise every day, and lean on whoever you can - get help however you can. Don't be afraid to ask for help from whomever you think might be able to help you.

    Document everything. You have the right to record and take notes and tape record telephone conversations as long as you or one of the parties gives consent (the other party doesn't have to know, or give consent). Invest in a tape recorder asap, preferably digital. Be super organized. Use binders and tabs, and construct a chronology in a table format.

    Remember, MCFD will use anything and everything against you. For example, don't expect any sympathy if you have been in an abusive relationship or anyone you know has - they will only use this against you. You don't have to tell them anything. This is still a free country.

    Also, I would try to stay anonymous, so don't give anyone details that can expose you. And - some people might try to pretend they are your friend, and offer help, or to exchange email addresses - just be careful, because this could be someone working under cover, trying to get evidence against you.

    There is some excellent information on this blog, and you may even get some advice on your situation from somewhere here. But please be careful, as many have found that you cannot trust anything the MCFD says or does.

    Take care, and I hope you get your precious children back very soon.

  9. Anon 8:31 who has lost your children recently:
    Paul and Zabeth have expressed interest in assisting you and encouraging you. Write to me at and identify yourself and I will give you their email address.

  10. I am somewhat confused as to the relevance of 'compliance' in the Baynes case, especially the time leading up to the removal. What specifically did they not comply with?

    Leading up to the return of the boys, I would expect the agreement was as a result of cooperation and successful negotiation.

    After going public, most definitely MCFD would view anything the Baynes said or did was non-compliant.

    The Baynes would be in a worse position that they are in now had they agreed to a ministry-assigned psychologist to do a parental capacity assessment, or "services" that employ counsellors who are thinly disguised investigators that provide "background" that explains the root causes of abuse, and also reports on admissions of remorse, guilt, regret and that all-importance level of cooperation.

  11. Here's what happens to children in foster care:

    Manitoba Foster Deaths

    June 18, 2010

    Last week Manitoba's acting children's advocate, Bonnie Kocsis, issued a confidential report to the legislature on the provincial child welfare system. The ensuing controversy has led to the publication by the CBC of a chart giving the death rate of Manitoba foster children over thirteen years. The chart shows 154 deaths in 80060 child-years, a death rate of 192 per 100 thousand child years, 6.9 times deadlier than in parental care."



    Deaths in Foster Care

    The most reliable data sources show that the ratio of deaths in foster care to deaths in parental care is 5.25 in Arizona, 9.5 in Saskatchewan, 6.9 in Manitoba, 11.9 in Britain and in Ontario 17 or ten, depending on whose side you take in a controversy. An overall round number of ten to one seems reasonable.

    Projected over Americas 550,000 foster children, there should be 1540 deaths per year. Our list of foster deaths from news sources shows less than a hundred annually. A reasonable guess is that only one foster death out of twenty makes it into the press.


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