Monday, November 22, 2010

A SOCIAL WORKER'S CHALLENGE / Part 375 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne

Identifying abuse and assessing risk is a complex process. Seldom can social workers establish child abuse based upon a single call-in or information item. Serious injuries to a child do arouse suspicion yet the injuries may be the result of accident or illness. Further even when injuries are non accidental, the offender may not be clearly identifiable. Typically social workers must assemble a picture of the family as well as an account of the incident by fitting together conversations and information from many sources such as relatives, friends and neighbours and professionals. The information with which they deal possesses variable degrees of reliability but social workers must act and make judgements concerning the safety of children in a case. Moreover they must act quickly.

Michael Taylor, leather mask

There is a need for haste if danger is real and also because the governing act has time constraints. So social workers form rapid opinions about parents and often upon limited evidence. It would be reasonable and wise therefore that such opinions would be considered provisional and open to revision. There should always be a willingness to consider many sources of new information that may challenge the initial opinions. In this difficult area of child protection work, social workers are fallible. They cannot make the 'right' decision in any absolute sense. Judgements and decisions can only be deemed the 'best' based on the available evidence. As the case progresses and new information and ideas are received, judgements have to be reviewed and sometimes changed. Social workers therefore often have to recognize, that although their former views were reasonable at the time they were made, they were nonetheless, wrong. They were mistaken. One might even safely say that mistakes are an inevitable part of practice and a preparedness to recognize them as mistakes is an essential element of good practice.

The tension created for social workers is constantly reflected on this blog because on one hand we, the public, want to insure the protection of children against parental abuse and on the other hand we want to champion the family as the citadel of democratic freedom with which no one, including governments should interfere.

Therefore, it is imperative that initial information be checked thoroughly for accuracy of reliability since child abuse is so emotive and reports can be exaggerated or false. Certainly the social workers must make rapid judgements about the character of people, parents and informants but all these should be checked and rechecked for a thorough investigation. Properly following investigative procedure can result in further details that revise the initial case assessment and there must be a willingness to change the opinion. Further, a social worker may find that given some reflective time away from the child and the parents, and in collaboration with others such as a supervisor, the facts produce a different picture of the case.

I have listened to the divergent opinions of a Ministry lawyer and a parent/defendant lawyer, one arguing that the investigation was thorough and all pieces of the puzzle fit together to portray the truth that one or both parents injured an infant, and the other counselor arguing that the investigation was a cursory, inferior narrative to substantiate a medical report and placement of blame to which the social workers had committed themselves early, and that the truth lies in their innocence and in a mistaken diagnosis and blame assessment. I accept the latter position and I am confident so will Judge Thomas Crabtree.


  1. Child protection agencies all over the world are taking children from good parents, often for no other reason than the possibility of harm in the future. The damage this does to individual families, and to society, cannot be calculated.

  2. Social workers are trained in determining how to best mitigate risk. The reality is that social workers use their skills to manufacture an adversarial situation for the purpose of increasing risk, so the family involved unwittingly increases their "risk" score until there it is high enough to justify removal and convince a presentation hearing judge the action is justified.

    You may be forgiven for making some assumptions about how child protection SHOULD be working, as opposed to how it ACTUALLY works, because you have not had children removed from your care, and have not had personal contact with dozens of other of parents besides the Baynes.

    If you examine any risk assessment, you will see that not only is there a section to record the strengths of a family, there is also a section to list a plan to mitigate risk.

    Practice Standards can be found, for example, see

    If these pages are blank, you know something is seriously wrong with the assessment.

    Opponents of child protection should have a risk assessment that allows evaluation of the social workers, that looks for improperly and abbreviated following of procedures.

    If social workers are acting in a manner that suggest their actions lead to a removal as opposed to mitigation of risk, a watchdog service (such as RCY should be) would be notified on behalf of the children to intervene.

  3. Good heavens Ron; What on earth are you talking about in today's blog. Are you actually suggesting that social workers should be properly trained? Are you saying that they should practice with skills, integrity and intelligence? What a silly idea. There is nobody around capable of planning such a service and hardly anyone who would know how to teach those skills. You would actually need strong leadership. The present system is far more satisfactory. It employs far more people and keeps lots of lawyers, judges, psychologists and contract workers busy. Please stop rocking the boat.
    Now a word in response to anonymous on Sunday, posted at 6.52AM Monday. You make many good points and present some challenging ideas. Should the Baynes accept services from the ministry on their expected child or not. If they do, will this be tantamount to an acknowledgement that the child is at risk? On the other hand will offers of help be withdrawn if the judge returns the children home? I think that the whole matter once more centres on that important issue of trust. Can you trust this director and what is his track record.
    The stark truth is that for over three years he has mercilessly persecuted the Bayne family against the advice of his lawyer and had perversely ignored the lack of evidence found by the police. He was probably confident that he could get away with everything unscathed because the Baynes were without legal resources and he had unlimited funds. When the valiant Doug Christie destroyed the ministry's case, he still clung to the vain hope that Finn Jensen could somehow rescue him. Is this director capable of showing integrity and compassion? Trust in the evidence and in the predictability of human behaviour. Take no chances.
    Never mind the evidence of the last three years, just look at the last few weeks. The ministry is offering helpful services with the Baynes pregnancy. Of course they are careful not to specify what they mean by this. On the other hand they have dragged out the final summary for three days and have guaranteed prolonging the care for at least from October 6th to Feb 8th next, another four montbs. (A temp order cannot be made for more than three months at a time.) At the same time they have restated and reinforced the draconian rules of supervision for the six hour visitations in the family home. Concilatory? I don,t think so. Be not deceived by the wolf in sheep's clothing. Follow the advice of the boxing referee. "Touch gloves and protect yourself at all times."

  4. Someone should do a Risk Assessment of children in foster situations. I bet that would show a much higher risk to children than even the supposed risk of leaving them with supposedly troubled families. Oh wait, someone already did:

    "Children whose families are investigated for abuse or neglect are likely to do better in life if they stay with their families than if they go into foster care, according to a pioneering study.

    The findings intensify a vigorous debate in child welfare: whether children are better served with their families or away from them.

    Kids who stayed with their families were less likely to become juvenile delinquents or teen mothers and more likely to hold jobs as young adults, says the study by Joseph Doyle, an economics professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management who studies social policy.

    "The size of the effects surprised me, because all the children come from tough families," Doyle says. The National Science Foundation funded the study.

    Doyle says his research, which tracked at least 15,000 kids from 1990 to 2002, is the largest study to look at the effects of foster care. He studied kids in Illinois because of a database there that links abuse investigations to other government records."

  5. By the way, who exactly is this Director? What is his name - he is, after all, a "public servant," so, at the very least, his name should be public.

  6. Ron; I want to give you another case from my advocacy files. It is in two parts.
    Mrs K. had a daughter who developed a severe thyroid disease in adolescence. The disease affected her behaviour so badly that she had to be placed in a mental hospital. The disease was rare and it took the endocrinologist a long time to find a corrective medication. Eventually she improved to the point where she could be placed in a mental health boarding home. The facility had a consultant psychologist, who declared that the girl had no thyroid illness and did not need to take her medication. She declared the girl to be suffering from repressed memories of satanic ritual abuse, which could only be cured by recovering the memories. Of course when taken off her medication, the girl deteriorated once more. Eventually the girl got pregnant and the child had to be taken into care, because the mother was too ill to keep it. Mrs. K. did not learn that she was a grandmother until the child was much older. She immediately wanted to see the child and be a grandmother to her. She found that she was being denied access on the grounds that she was a dangerous satanic ritual abuser, who killed babies in bizarre rituals etc. When she found that she was being denied access, she found that the only thing she could do was to go to court and ask for custody. The social workers kept the case bouncing along in court and a hearing under the family and child service act did not take place until the child was nearly four years old. A distinct abuse of the Act. There was a lengthy hearing of about two weeks. One would never have guessed that the object of the hearing was supposed to be about determining whether the mother was competent to care for a child or not. The focus appeared to be calling witness after witness, who said that Mrs. K. was a dangerous satanic ritual abuser. Hours of hearsay evidence all originating from the same psychologist.

  7. K case continued.
    The psychologist testified at length about all the different personalities that she had called forth and exorcised and the terrible memories the girl had of being abused in several satanic cults where she was forced to kill babies. The psychologist also declared that because of all her therapy, the girl was now cured and fit to care for a child. Mrs. K had a lawyer who was very badly prepared and had failed to plan an adequate defence. All she could do was to get the Psychologist to elaborate in cross-examination in order to make herself look ridiculous. This certainly succeeded. Astoundingly the judge seemed to believe all this garbage and returned the child to the mother, who promptly disappeared with it. Not only that, she strongly suggested that the social workers remove Mrs. K's seventeen year old son from her. The boy and his mother promptly fled and went into hiding. Shortly after this the extreme stress caused Mrs. K. to have a serious health breakdown. A good lawyer armed with a transcript of the testimony would have had no trouble in getting a large sum from the psychologist's insurance company, because they no longer try to defend these cases. in court. Unfortunately, the grandmother had rather a poor lawyer. The protection supervisor in the case had just taken over the office and tried to put a stop to the nonsense, but was overruled by the manager, who felt they would look bad if they backtracked. He told me that nobody believed the nonsense, but no one had the courage to say so.

  8. Can anyone give us the name of this Director / "public servant?"

  9. The system is like the criminal justice system. I went to see my advocate and I was very disappointed. THey get so upset, evn the ones who are there to help the parents, if you try to say you are innocent. It is like with David Milgaard. He stayed in prison 25 years because he is innocent. MCFD wants to move everyone through redemptive services like anger management, therapy, parenting classes, etc. under supervision and with a weekly check-in like a parole officer. If you say you are innocent, there is not place for you to move ahead in the system and they keep your kids. If you agree to what is not true, they try to use it against you too.

  10. Anon 3:33 Pm and 10:52 AM
    Bruce McNeill is one of several MCFD directors and is the person identified with this case. His name is identified in court documents. As an example of references made to him in this blog, see Post #180

  11. Jenny, your descriptions do confirm what I have heard from many sources.

  12. There is a Bayne Trust Account and donations can be made in one of two ways: either by cheque or by donation directly to account as cited below.

    A cheque may be made payable to:
    Lau, Chiu, Hunt in trust for Bayne
    and Mail it to: Bayne Trust, 9406 Pauleshin Cres, Richmond, BC V7E 6P2

    Donations will be accepted by deposit to this trust account at any branch of TD Canada Trust. TD Canada Trust [bank # 004] Continental Centre Branch [branch # 9713]
    Account Number [6415554]

    Please be assured that three trustees, Mr. Charter Lau, Mr. Kenny Chiu, and Mr. Marvin Hunt are the only ones who supervise this account and each is a respected and contributing member of our Greater Vancouver community.

    Thank you for asking about this...

  13. Thank you for that information regarding where and how to make donations for the Baynes.

    And I trust the trustees 100%.

  14. I am a 4th year social work student with a child welfare specialization, meaning I'm training specifically to work for MCFD. I am also a mom; I have an 8 year old son and an almost 8 year old stepson in my care. I stumbled across this blog while doing some research for a paper about CAPP and Risk Assessment for my child welfare class, and I've been reading, fascinated, for almost an hour.

    I'm choosing to leave a comment on this specific post because it really speaks to my own ethical concerns about the work I will very soon be doing.

    My father is a social worker with MCFD, and has been for about 20 years, since I was a secondary school student. When he first worked in child protection, he told me it was a job with a high attrition rate (a term I'd only ever heard applied to the number of soldiers who had died in the trenches during WWI).

    15 years later, as the single mother of a 2 year old, I chose child protection as a career. Child protection still has a high attrition rate. A Ministry social worker was a guest speaker in my child welfare class this past week. She has worked in BC for 12 years, and is so disappointed and jaded by the Deputy Minister's changes that she is returning to New Brunswick.

    Child protection is not easy work (but I think it is honourable work). There are no black and white cases, they are all painted in shades of gray. However, I chose this work because I believe that someone has to stand for children. I think that, sometimes, standing for children means standing for their parents, supporting their parents, developing their parents. (After all, what is the full name of MCFD? The Ministry for children and family DEVELOPMENT.)

    From a(n almost) social worker, thank you for advocating for this family, and thank you for acknowledging the complexities of the process of keeping children safe. I will endeavour to live up to the challenge you describe in this post, to be willing to admit when I have made the wrong decision.

    I think I'm not the only social worker out there willing to take up this challenge; while being interviewed for my 4th year practicum, and while discussing Risk Assessment, the social worker said that strengths can be worked into the entire discussion of risk, not just in the solitary page dedicated to a discussion of the family's strengths.

  15. Alison 10:45 PM November 26th

    Thank you for leaving your comment. It will be an encouragement to many for different reasons. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to hear from you. The spirit that you have expressed is precisely what will insure that you are an effective, compassionate, clear thinking social worker who diligently explores evidences in order to do that which is right. Yes, indeed, social work defined as you intend it, as a service to children and to families is honourable work. I am pleased that you recognized I seek to present that on my blog site even while I point out what I observe as weaknesses. The attrition rate is substantially higher for social workers than other careers, and there is something systemically problematic or at least missing in MCFD as illustrated by the social worker that you know who is bailing out here to return to another province where perhaps there is a greater stability or sensitivity or objectivity. I trust that there are many like you who enter not merely with ideals but determination to make changes and to stick to your resolves. And I do trust that you will not become discouraged or defeated. You have at least, in your father, a model and mentor and a listening ear.

  16. Alison, consider this please. you have left your comment in an archived article. Yours is a significant comment. Many readers have anj understandably jaded impression of social workers and not just of MCFD. Would you permit me to take your comment as it is, and place it as my centre piece in an upcoming blog post. I want people to be encouraged for the future.

    And by the way, tell me where you are receiving your social work training please.

  17. Better yet Alison, I would like you to drop me a hello at my email,

    I toggled your name, found your profile, found your blogs and found you to be a fascinating person with a fascinating family, and great stories, congrats!


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