Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WADDIFS AND HOWELLS / Part 253 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

I believe that there are social workers who have been connected with the Bayne case who have at times wondered whether they might have handled aspects of this case differently than they did. At the start their office was given a call from the child protection unit of the Children's Hospital. There was an infant girl whose injuries were severe and it was suspected that they were caused by shaking – not may have been caused by shaking but were unmistakably caused by shaking. The social workers responded as they should by going to investigate and then by making a speedy decision to protect the child from the risk of further injury. It was customary to also remove two siblings under the age of five because if one was at risk from one or the other of the two parents, the two other children might also be in jeopardy.

Yet that was only the beginning. There followed mediation meetings when progress seemed negligible because parents would not admit to harming their child and no questioning or coercion could extract that admission. The RCMP dismissed the adequacy of evidence sufficient to proceed with a charge of assault or abuse. The social workers committed themselves to gaining that admission and without that admission no kind of plan or help was forthcoming. Social workers and parents became adversaries. Altruistic spirit, compassion, concern for what the parents were experiencing did not occur at the time. The parents were, or at least one of them was viewed by MCFD as perpetrators responsible for injuring a child. Certainly MCFD had come under fire in recent reviews because ministry responses had come too late to save some children from harm that proved fatal. It is understandable that the Director did not want to repeat such a debacle in his region.

Yet as these months and now years have passed by, as media coverage from time to time has dramatized the claims of the parents that their infant was misdiagnosed and they have been placed falsely under suspicion as abusers, there has been increasing reason for many hundreds of people to believe that this is a miscarriage of justice. The Ministry however was committed initially to the medical diagnosis by a doctor from Children's Hospital and has staunchly maintained that position which means that the Baynes can never deliver themselves from the blacklist of parents who do not deserve their parents. There is a great deal of evidence now that the Ministry has made every effort to cast the parents in the worst possible light by the reports that describe them. That's the way it appears to some of us who observe from outside the system.

I think however that there are social workers who have been second guessing their involvement in this family story. They have followed the directives of their Director in the interpretation of observations and reports and writing of affidavits. I believe there are social workers who wonder even now What If (Waddif) we had done things differently, and How Will (Howell) we make this right? I think consciences are working overtime with regret.

Oh of course there are myriad waddifs and howells now.
Waddif the children are awarded to Paul and Zabeth and they must be returned immediately?
Howell the Director and our lawyer respond?
Waddif the Judge castigates the way MCFD handled our case with the Baynes and mentions specific people by name?<
Howell my peers, friends and family respond to this?
Waddif the censure by the Judge is so pronounced that a recommendation for overhauling the Fraser Region of MCFD is made as part of the ruling?
Howell this affect my job?
Waddif the law permits the Baynes to sue the Ministry and sue individuals into oblivion?
Howell I defend myself and how will I come out of this?

9 comments:

  1. Ron;Today I would like to finish a few more comments on assessment. I guess I took a pause to use the Bayne risk assessment to demonstrate what an assessment should not be.
    As with everything, one needs to remind oneself occasionally what is the basic purpose. Why do we do assessments at all? We do assessments to tell us what is the best way to deal with a situation, so that our work can be more purposive. In child protection work the mandate is to make sure that children can be made safe, either at home or in alternative care. In new cases we start with a personal history. Apart from factual matters like names, addresses and ages, one does not need to record everything in detail. Most people are willing to talk about themselves and to give honest answers. I did not say that all the answers are accurate, but they are honest within the perception of the person. You start at the beginning with basic facts.How many in the family, School achievement, graduation, further training and employment history. Income, debts, family stability ie. how many marriages or cohabitaitions. You will already know most of what you need to know.As they talk,any inconsistencies or perceptual distortions will become apparent.
    It does not matter what sort of case it is, mental and emotional breakdown, adolescent conflict, or substance abuse, one is looking for any strengths that can be used for problem resolution. Problems are only too easy to see, but solutions take a lot more skill. What one looks for are specific and definable lifeskills. If one cannot find any, the prospect of problem resolution is very poor and one may have to consider other courses of action.
    Sometimes people can become so consumed with their problems that they can completely forget the many positives in the family. As the worker systematically uncovers and reveals the many lifeskills, the family members can see themselves afresh. With adolescent clashes, the situation can be far too heated to think straight and a period of separation for cooling off may be needed.
    These same principles apply in looking at child injuries. Adults frequently suffer injuries and they are nearly always accidental. The same is true for children. Doctors usually assume that an injury is accidental unless there is very good reason to believe otherwise. If there is a history of family violence, or if injuries to children are frequent and badly explained, then the profile would give grounds for concern. So what does a doctor immediately do? They look at this family, which has given good child care. The parents behaviour is appropriate and congruent and the doctor immediately assumes that a deliberate injury would be quite inconsistent with the family profile. The doctor does not do a lengthy assessment. The family doctor usually knows the family well enough to make an instant judgement.
    When an injury is reported to a social worker,the same question must be asked. What is the family profile and is the injury consistent or inconsistent with deliberate injury. Determination of causation is a legal matter and not a medical matter, as has been pointed out by various judges.
    One of the first things that I could see about the Baynes was that their profile was completely inconsistent with a family who would cause deliberate injury.
    Social workers who have assessment skills do not need to run off to other perceived sources of expertise to make an assessment. In the case of the G family I blogged earlier, they started spending lots of money on psychological counsellling for the adolescents. The psychologist did not do an assessment and was oblivious to the drug dependency of the kids and the fact that they came to all sessions stoned or drunk. Lesson--assessment first, plan later.

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  2. Some bloggers are of the opinion that CP SW are immune from liability. MCFD had tried but failed to obtain such immunity per C.H. v. British Columbia, 2004 BCCA 385 found at:

    http://www.canlii.org/en/bc/bcca/doc/2004/2004bcca385/2004bcca385.html

    That said, SW are indemnified by the government, namely taxpayers, and it is extremely difficult to successfully sue and hold them accountable of tort, even when removed children suffered sexual abuse in foster homes.

    Today's post mentioned a number of potential ramifications to the SW in charge of the Bayne's case. If events unfold as Mr. Unruh would hope, this will be a earthshaking landmark case.

    It is interesting to read service providers discussing what the “best practice” of removing children should be. This is a pseudo profession supported by junk science practiced by some god-like creatures who can act above law without being held accountable.

    Relevant questions to ask are:

    1. Should a civilized society allows its government to conduct such oppressive and counter productive activity and expose taxpayers to such contingent liability at such high social and monetary costs?

    2. Are there better ways to protect children other than removing them from their parents?

    3. Will society be better off if resources wasted in this counter productive activity are used to build more social housing for the homeless, build more hospitals, schools and roads, ... etc.?

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  3. I can answer #2 - YES!

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  4. Please spell that out CW. Give us some of your ideas about better ways to protect children other than removing them from parents. Thanks.

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  5. Keeping in mind some children/youth cannot live with their parents for a variety of reasons. It is inevitable.

    Can I expand, Ron? At your request...

    Option other than removal? I had a REALLY long response, but have since deleted it. I went into risk assessments, parental involvement, extended family program, collaborative practice etc.

    But what it truly comes down to is, NO MATTER WHAT the situation, the parents must ALWAYS be involved in decision-making. EVEN if the parent is not acting protectively. They can still be involved in what the social worker may believe is the best interest of child. Parental involvement/respect is ABSOLUTE MUST.

    But, unless totally unavoidable child with parent is always the best option.

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  6. That certainly sounds like a fundamental principle CW. The Parents and social workers may never regard each other as colleagues but for parents to be permitted to be engaged in a plan to affect outcomes that ultimately restore a family to wholeness is something we must all welcome.

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  7. Various "what if" scenarios are important to consider for court preparation. Judge Crabtree, Finn Jensen, the Baynes, Mr. Doug Christie are all hopefully preparing to respond dynamically to any situation that arises.

    To me, the surprising thing about all of this is the absence of the voice of the children, who are now old enough to articulate. What are they thinking and feeling? I put little youtube video of my kids for others to see, and this really shows their personality.

    In a past FRA action, I made a video for the judge to view, 2 hours long. It had a positive effect in my favour. The Baynes, I understand, also have a video prepared.

    When a judge actually sees the child and their personality and they make a decision about these children, it helps the parents to know that judge sees their children in his mind when making a decision about their future.

    I know little about judge Crabtree as a family man. Does he have grandkids yet? What are his political views? What sort history does he have handling various cases such as FRA, MCFD etc. What about his future ambitions, does he want to be a BC Supreme Court judge or be an Appeal judge? Who else was considered as chief justice besides him?

    I would imagine there would be consequences that follow the case long after the outcome is decided. The written reasons for judgment will no doubt be a popular read, and will be scrutinized for many years to come.

    ------

    There is a fascinating story in the U.S. written by a journalist who's family was suspected and investigated with respect to child pornography, after his instant-camera film was reported by a photo mart operator.

    This is similar to a story from Walmart some time back where there was massive public outrage over removed children after a photo processing employee reported photo of naked bathtime images to child protection authorities.

    http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2006/07/18/photos

    This is quite tame compared to the Baynes story, but it illustrates the invasive level of scrutiny than just about any family can face after a complaint is made to police or child protection authorities.

    Included in the lengthy write up are some interesting statistics. There are 3-million calls to child protection yearly (in B.C. 30,000), 7 out of 10 of these calls are bogus. So for B.C. 21,000 calls are potentially wasting significant social worker time. The author reports records on adults are kept for 3 years. Kids records are kept until they turn 21.

    In BC, I was not aware MCFD records "expired." It costs nothing to store digital records these days. Insurance records are kept for far longer than say, the seven years financial records are kept.

    The interviews of the children in this story was not recorded, something the author wanted to happen (and something I made very clear in my very first contact with MCFD).

    The author points out the lack of definitions of abuse and thresholds of what constitutes pornography with respect to children. I asked each of the social workers in my case in B.C. Supreme Court as well as privately what their definition of abuse was. A unkempt home was one example given. Of unreasonable expectations: if a parent is upset when their children are silly. Of abuse: spanking is ok, pulling a child's ear is abuse.

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  8. Anon 11:41 - Can you explain the "Expired" comments further? The way you commented is not accurate, so I think I misunderstand.

    An unkempt home is only "abuse" if it can harm the child - ie, infestation of bugs, or an infant crawling around swallowing something, serious mold issue, ... things that can cause an actual injury or illness. Although some might suggest emotional harm can occur if a child is raised in a very messy/untidy home.

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  9. Here's the kind of place that children who are "protected" end up:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VEhdOOOzZg

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMndS9ZBokY&feature=related

    And after you watch the second video, which will blow your mind, take a look at the Youtube channel of this video maker, and you'll get a very good idea of what "child protection" does to destroy children.

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