Tuesday, July 6, 2010

EFFECTIVE ACTIVISM / Part 241 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Effective activism is a long term process. There have been individuals and organizations at work doing commentaries about child protection in British Columbia for some time. Perhaps we are at the intersection now at which our collective concerns can merge into a movement for change. Citizen engagement has been effective in the past and it can be again. Uncovering the principles that produce effective activism is the need right now. Inspired by an excerpt from environmentalist Paul Rogat Loeb's Soul of a Citizen, I wish to suggest some principles which work for people who speak to numerous challenges including keeping a local school open to aggressive cleanup of the Gulf oil spill.

We want to do something to change the way child protection work is prescribed and practiced in British Columbia. If you live elsewhere the suggestions below can similarly apply.

Suggestion #1: Begin where you are. You don't need to have all the answers or information and you don't have to be perfect at expressing the need.
 Suggestion #2: Approach this action in steps. Set your own level of involvement so you are not submerged in the work load.
 Suggestion #3: Build a supportive community. Much more is accomplished when a group of good people come together online or in person.
 Suggestion #4: Be strategic. Determine what it is that you are agreed you should accomplish. Find allies and together decide how you can best communicate the urgency you have identified.
 Suggestion #5: Enlist those who are uninvolved. Volunteerism is not common, so many people with their own concerns, fears and doubts must be encouraged to participate and when they become active they are capable of great achievements.
 Suggestion #6: Look for improbable allies. The wider you spread the circle of interest and involvement, the greater becomes the probability of breakthrough to change.
 Suggestion #7: Persevere. Continue. The longer you work at advocating change the greater the measure of change and the likelihood of accomplishing that change.
 Suggestion #8: Enjoy the journey. Changing an aspect of our world for the better should not be gloomy work. Savor the company of good people and other assorted soul lifting activities.
 Suggestion #9: Dream big and think large. Jettison the fear of taking on the most egregious injustices, and tackling them on a provincial, national and even global scale. Small actions have a history of shifting the course of history.
 Suggestion #10: Listen to your heart.  Your heart has dictated your involvement from the start and it will fuel your continued engagement.


  1. Individuals and organizations can doing commentaries about child protection in British Columbia all they want. Special interests simply laugh at them if they only talk and don't have a big stick behind. Your big stick is political power.

    Politicians are making laws and granting funds based on reports produced by special interests. Parents have no representation whatsoever.

    "The punishment which the wise suffer, who refuse to take part in government, is to live under the government of worse men." (Plato)

  2. You have said so much here.
    Could we categorize parents and advocates and friends in favour of change as a SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP?
    If political power is the essential big stick, what can this SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP do about that?
    We appear to have disconnected groups with special interests, each speaking to issues of concern. What would it take to have an HSG, a Harmonized Special-Interests Group? That's cute actually. That warrants a blog post one day.
    What if this HSG could provide reports that resulted in politicians making laws and granting funds based upon those reports. Parents would have some representation.
    Nothing has ever been accomplished by saying, We can't.
    Plato was right on! so now what, people of the HSG?

  3. Great suggestions Ron! Being who I am, some are inapplicable to my case. When I was 17, I was brainwashed and trained, and for years then brainwashed and trained young men that sacrificing own life to achieve victory is the most honorable thing a man can do for his country. I will gladly do that. Soon after public servants finally fulfill their multiple threats to terminate the last remains of mostly one way communication.

  4. It is very difficult to get other people to help when it comes to child services. No one believes people who have had their children taken away so no one want to get involved. I have tried different tactics and spoken to thousands of different people over the years but if they haven't experienced the oppressive behaviors of MCFD, they don't believe it. I have devoted my life to advocating and trying to raise public awareness but aside from a few people here and there, most people cannot be convinced that change is necessary. Even the people who do believe it usually say there's nothing that can be done. It's going to take a huge movement and a lot of televised coverage to get people to listen.

  5. 11. It's important to communicate to others your personal experience suchas wins, losses in a place such as this blog where the information can later be searched and collated by others skilled in this task.

    The concept of crowdsourcing is used by many companies to solve problem and make improvements (ie. Windows 7 TV ads state this). The concept is equally valid here.

    As you point out, there are a lot of people "watching" and not commenting. Each person has something to offer. The best place to see this is the comments section on news stories.

    A well written story is posted, then hundreds, if not thousands of people read it, comment on it and publicize it further.

    12. If you note an injustice, report it. The problem is some may not realize that they may have experienced a major injustice and not know how to effectively communicate it (the residential schools problem and abuses by the Catholic Church priests are another example) CBC's

    Go Public is one avenue (although you have to identify yourself). Or, you can stay anonymous and report it here, although this has much less effect and is lost in the noise of the many other anonymous submissions.

    Why MCFD is so successful and duplicating the same sort of harm the Baynes and many other families experience is precisely the process is so exquisitely painful and hidden, and it imposes a huge burden on others close to you that listen and are not able to comprehend the magnitude of the issue, and are not able to help.

    MCFD hates publicity with a passion. It is their biggest single fear that one day a parent will successfully post a youtube video of an atrocity committed by this government agency that fully communicates this to the public.

    In the same manner as the airport taser cell cell phone video, and the video of the police beating innocent citizens. It is such clear and simple communication that has universal impact and evokes the disgust of the system responsible and change then happens as a result.

    What would be useful is hidden videos and audio of social workers declaring they lied in court, are deliberately attempting to break bonds between you and your child, knowingly hide harm the comes to your child while in care, finanial kickbacks that proves social workers do benefit from removals, examples of clear outright fraud, physicians and health care professionals who make reports to spec, service professionals who plot with social workers to villify parents -- you name it.

    It is on thing to read rants of people who say they have experienced an atrocity at the hands of the government, it is quite another for the experience to speak for itself in the form of a video.

    The higher the level of official you get on hidden video the greater the effect. Imagine, if here was a video or audio of Gordon Campbell giving instructions to MCFD to drag the Baynes through the mud of full "due process" in retaliation for their many protests in front of his office.

    People will recall the universal outrage that was expressed by the public of a photo processing facility employee reporting naked pictures to child protection that resulted in the removal of children. This sort of thing is perfect for exposing the risk to anyone's children that the child protection system represents, and this STILL is not yet widely understood, and there is insufficient protection from.

  6. There are plenty of individual "activists" already, but not a lot of cohesive enterprises and lobbyists that tackle such problems on a larger scale. Some existing activists that have been around for a while already have significant experience and have accumulated significant materials, so consideration for ientifying and mentioning those and supporting them is warranted.

    A Canda Post article was well written, encourage these writers to continue and support them to write more such articles.

    There are activits with unfortunate monikers, CPS Destroys Families, CPS Sucks who are prolific posters and rank high on searches. They are on the same page as most of us, but the abrasive surface presentation limits a wider audience.

    A previous posting of a comment from Canada Court Watch springs to mind as a useful site. The papa.ca website is another. These larger sites represents focal points that collates like-minded stories that are for the most point, fairly well written.

    The government is the government, it takes a very practiced eye to dissemble the doublespeak presented and to unravel hidden information. It all looks great though, very official looking and enourmous, and convey openness and helpfullness.

    Part of the problem that exists when one speaks of activism is everyone has their own idea of exactly how to pursue a subject, and they quickly put up a website, blog, wiki page or twitter account because is free and the mechanics of doing this takes very little skill.

    Georgia senator Nancy Schaefer was an activist. A very effective one with impeccable credentials.

    In a lot of cases it is important to first identify the most significant noise makers and align with them and follow and seek direction so that their voice can be better heard.

    Yes, you can submit one letter to several news agencies, and one person can blast out letters to hundreds of MLA's, but that is part of the problem too. An unskilled letter may have the opposite effect. The recipients are often flooded with information, and it ends up quickly being categorized as junk mail or "read later".

    On the internet, how you float to the top is how well other's regard your website, blog or wikipage or twitter account. Many external references to that site builds it's rank in the search engine. That is one way to find the better sites, and you can start supporting those and contributing instead of starting your own.

    Activits in support of parents "fighting" CPS or MCFD are also easily and erroneously labelled "against child protection." Radical language and taking yourself too seriously in trying to "convince" others of the evils of the child protection industry turns off mainstream media and the mainstream public.

    The unending horror stories also turn off people, they can take only so much -- especially if they don't have personal involvment.

    The best viral videos or memorable court case have a short lifespan, but can often live in the memories of people for years. This is what to shoot for. I am often very suprised at the low view counts for many child protection related videos.

    You can have a 10-year old kid doing silly tricks and this will get tens of thousands, and occassionally millions of view hits. There is something to learn from this when thinking of how to get the message across.

  7. Here is a good quote:

    “The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.”

    – Albert Camus

  8. Ron; I continue today with the topic of assessment. To recap; assessment needs integrity, skills and knowledge in knowing valid evidence. Assessment also needs experience, because one must know what types of case bring most children into care. One must have good listening and communication skills and one must know which kind of cases are likely to lend themselves to remediation and those which are not. I have started by covering the chronic neglect and the chronic borderline neglect and the families in temporary difficulties. Also children and adolescents with handicaps or behaviour problems and the many families with alcohol and other drug problems.
    Abandoned babies are the easiest to assess. Mind you, one only gets a few in a long career. When one does not know who the parents are, there is only one thing to do. Look after them and try to provide them with a future. The legal process of freeing them for adoption may take a few months, depending on what efforts the judge requires for locating the parents. The work is in obtaining a continuing care order and the delay is useful so that there can be thorough medical assessments and the adoptive parents have a full picture of any special health care required. When a parent relinquishes a child for adoption, the process is much simpler and much quicker.
    Failure to thrive cases are not common, but they do happen from time to time and they are easy to mishandle. The assessment of failure to thrive is simple, but it can be overlooked. There is a reliable rule of thumb. Failure to thrive is nearly always because of failure to feed. Doctors use a simple device.They admit the child to hospital and make sure it is fed. If the child gains weight normally, then the parents are counselled. These may be young and inexperienced parents. If the child fails to thrive under proper care, then a medical cause is sought. Very few of these cases are due to a medical problem. The most common mistake is to seek a medical cause first.
    I will give a couple of examples. A doctor contacted me because two babies, a year apart were underweight, but gained normally when admitted to hospital. He wanted the young parents to bring the children in to his low-income clinic every day in order to be weighed.They were not coming and he wanted me to persuade them. I did not really agree that this would work, but I would see what I could do. I went to see them, but I had difficulty gaining access, because they did not want to get up.They had no money for formula, so I gave them a cheque and called again the next day. There was much evidence of beer, but no sign of formula. I gave them a voucher for formula and again called the following day. Again there was no formula and they said it was because they did not have a ride to the store and a relative would take them in a few days. In spite of the father's belligerence and curses, I insisted that he come with me right away to pick up the baby food. A few days later the maternal grandmother came to visit and she told me that she did all the feeding and the father got very nasty if she tried to push the parents to do more of the child care. I apprehended, got a permanent order and placed with the grandmother on special foster home rates. She lived in a distant aboriginal community. The parents were welcome to go there and they could have virtually unlimited access, but could not remove the children. Continued

  9. Anon 7:36 AM I want to hear more from you. I understand your efforts and the futility you may sense. If you have worked for years advocating then some of the rest of us need to listen more intently. What did you try? Whom did you contact?

  10. Ron, I am anon 7:36 a.m.: I have been advocating for years and educating myself as I go along. I can't answer the questions you ask as it would be too lengthy. I have tried many different tactics and spoken to such a wide variety of different people on this subject from professionals to everyday parents to street people and much more. I have heard so many stories and met with so many people who've had their children taken away. I have sat through hearing after hearing. I've spent hours and hours listening to strangers tell me whole stories over the phone. I've read through hundreds of risk assessment. I've spend all my spare time working towards what ever tiny bit of change one person can create. I try to be an emotional support for parents who have lost or may lose their children to child services. In appropriate cases and I assist parents to educate themselves so they can exercise their rights. I sit in on meetings between parents and social workers and other involved professionals and support parents in court.
    I have collected a lot of thoughts and opinions based on everything I've seen, read and heard. Not a day goes by for me that I don't engage in a conversation about child protection and the reason for that is I believe we all have a responsibility to the children of BC (and Canada) and we need to find a way to uphold that responsibility.

  11. Ron, just to answer your question about who I've tried speaking to about child protection: it is very difficult to get any people in government to listen but I did make myself well known at the local MLA office. I tried to meet with the NDP critic who never returned my messages. I did meet with Lesley du Toit twice. I spoke with the supervisor at the Ombudsman office, I have had several meetings and conversations with a professor of social work from the local university and spoken to several lawyers and social workers of course. Through the videos that we have on youtube, many people contact us from all over and I have connected with many people with many different backgrounds who have either worked in the system or had dealings with child services somehow. I used to volunteer at a foodbank/streetchurch where I heard literally hundreds of horror stories that I would love to share with anyone who would listen because the public needs to know what's happening to families. We need to voice our concerns so loudly that it couldn't be ignored. Parents have rights, children have rights but people are prevented from accessing their rights by a very faulty system. Children are paying a very heavy price for our ignorance in the matter of protection.

  12. Anon: you who are 7:36 AM and 9:37 PM
    I am in awe at what you tell me.
    In all your volunteer efforts which is what I assume you are telling me, have you been gratified by what you were able to do for people as you encouraged them and did you see a good percentage of families come together happily?
    There may be more that I wish to inquire.

  13. Ron: yes, all the work I do advocating for parents is volunteer and sometimes it is gratifying, other times it not so much. Parents do thank us for our support (my husband and I both advocate). Of course it is great when parents get their children back but the majority of people we help do not get their kids back. We spend alot of energy supporting parents in getting an acceptable amount of access to their children. We help everyone except those who admit to harming their children. I believe all parents and children have a right to know each other and maintain a relationship. The bond between parents and children is the grounding point for children. We have noticed that MCFD imposes supervised access in almost every case whether it is warranted or not and it isn't healthy access.


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