Saturday, December 11, 2010

CHILD WELFARE STUDENT'S VIEW / Part 395 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne

On November 22nd, Alison wrote a comment on the blog post #375 entitled, A Social Worker's Challenge. There she introduced herself. Following from that on November 27th, Ray Ferris responded to Alison.There were a few others who engaged her that day on Blog #380. Since then for the past several days she and others have continued to interact.

Alison told us that she is a mother and that she is a fourth year student with a child welfare specialization at University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford. She happened upon my blog while researching CAPP and Risk Assessment for her class work. She left her informative comment after browsing and reading blog content for an hour. She has chosen child protection as her career track. She knows this is not easy work but she believes that it is honourable work. Very openly and honestly she spoke of her own ethical concerns about aspects of the work in which she will be engaged. She told us that she has received good counsel from her father who is himself a social worker with MCFD with a twenty year service record. She knows that there is a high attrition rate among social workers. Child protection certainly has a high attrition rate as attested by a social worker who as a guest instructor in one of Alison's recent classes stated that she has chosen to move to another province because of disappointment with Ministry changes over the past few years. When speaking of the challenges of the work in which she will be employed, Alison wrote, “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.)

She thanked me for acknowledging the complexities of the process for keeping children safe in that day's blog entitled 'A Social Worker's Challenge' and then she said, “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...”

I believed hers was a significant comment and because I wanted people with a jaded impression of all social workers to be encouraged, I invited Alison to write to me personally and she did that. I asked for and received her permission to write this information as a blog post. In that exchange she wrote, “It is difficult to not be discouraged after reading some of the comments placed on your blog, it seems that many people lump social workers and child protection workers and politicians and MCFD into one category. I personally see many competent child protection workers, some of whom are trained as social workers, some of whom are not, and I see a few poor practitioners. I also see that many good workers are constrained by the ministry, by their managers (who are no longer protected by a union, and can be fired for not following the 'party line'), and forced to do things they don't want to do.

Tomorrow I will publish another post that features Alison's thoughts. She represents people who are our best hope for family development within MCFD and responsible child welfare.

She writes a blog called random musings...


  1. I have read serveral of Alison's posts, and they certainly are encouraging.

    I believe the starting salary of an MCFD guarantees a good wage. An entry level wage of $23.00/hr was reported by our MCFD in-house supervision worker, for example. It would appear the salary of social workers does not go over $75,000 unless you go into management and you are there for more than 10 years.

    Commenters on this blog, myself included don't have visibility with many social workers within MCFD that provide enough information to provide a positive picture of the person as opposed to the role. Alison's blog does provide very important information that would permit a parent to immediately assess whether or not they are worthy of their trust.

    Trust is what it is all about. If parents get their hackles up and are only worried about the person they are facing can remove their children virtually at will, there will never be much trust.

    If Alison becomes a member of the college, always uses a warrant prior to removal, and first uses all possible avenues (services / supervision order) before removal, she may quickly gain respect from parents. Social worker track records, unfortunately is something parents never get to see.

    Ray Ferris has posted a number of stories that should be required reading for new social workers and those studying the field. There are a number of important nuances there that I suspect would be missed in academic training. What to do when encountering people trying to use MCFD reporting as a weapon, for example.

    As part of a social worker's practicum, I would include a year of advocacy work, standing by parents who are going through 'intervention' to permit the experience of the full gamut of what child protection looks like from the parents view. This is something one can volunteer for, it cannot be a paying job because of liability issues.

    I would also recommend to you Ron, that you experience at least one advocacy experience with parents undergoing removal and intervention and compare it with the Baynes.

    As Alison's blog is very interesting and useful look at protection work training social workers receive.

    MCFD's comprehensive risk assessment, for example, obviously has potential for providing an accurate snapshot into a family for any given point in time. Actual risk assessments as they are being filled out (the Baynes, mine, a supervision order CRA etc) would provide some enlightenment as to how these tools are actually being used as opposed to what theory dictates.

    It would be highly useful for us parents to know what the child protection course curriculum consists of and what these schools are teaching so they could know how a particular aspect of a social worker's job is SUPPOSED to be done.

    Supervision is another important subject for study. Parents will tell you this is THE primary weapon of choice by social workers who rarely see parents and children together. In my experience, the only view by social workers of family interactions are through the eyes of a lowly paid worker who requires only one day of training to learn how to write notes.

    If there are social workers who are parents who fully understands the challenges of day to day parenting, daycare, working, partner relationships, and can apply this perspective to the job at hand, this would provide hope for the field that so many of us are currently criticizing.

  2. Anon 7:33 AM
    Sensible wishes, suggestions and advice here, thanks.

  3. The McNeil letter is a classical subtle blackmail to compel parents to consent to their demands. It is a double edge sword that puts the Bayne in a catch 22 situation. If they consent to "service", it allows MCFD to continue its unwanted involvement even if the CCO is denied. If they refuse, MCFD will certainly remove the new born if the CCO or a lesser order is allowed. Read the fine tune of the letter, it is a threat and an ultimatum.

    Few parents truly want their "service". Consent is most often obtained when children are used as pawn. It is like pointing a gun to your head to force you to sign a consent and shovel crap down your throat. Despite who actually wrote this letter, one thing is certain that a high profile case like this would not have gone this far without approval all the way from the top. It is beyond McNeil's pay grade to make a decision like this and he is certainly not prepared to be left alone without a chair when the music stops.

    This is not the Air India trial. Why it takes so long to make a decision? Crabtress is allowing time for the two parties to negotiate a deal before he makes a decision. Most likely, top dogs from MCFD have spoken to the judiciary (not necessarily Crabtree per se) attempting to exert influence. While access to the judiciary outside the courtroom is unavailable to most parents, communications within government are common. Judges are not allowed to have contact with litigants outside courtroom when their case is still open. But government does enjoy such privilege.

    "Child protection" is an eye opening opportunity for Canadians and to social work students to see the true nature of government and the real face of MCFD. I also hope that people will wake up and discover that there is no way out unless child removal authority is revoked.

  4. Anon 10:51 AM and everyone else,
    I will say again, the public has almost no exposure to the information to which readers of this blog regularly share and read. So to that I encourage once more, invite your friends to learn.

  5. Ron; just a short comment today.
    First. Thank you for the kind comments about my stories. Some are from my post-retirement advocacy files and some from my book. When I produced the first draft of my book "The Art of Child Protection", the social service ministry had its own library. They bought a copy of my book and soon after ordered several more copies as there was so much demand for it from field staff. (Probably because it was filed under A came high on the list!)If you want to make my stories mandatory reading for new social workers, just provide them with my book. Can you see Bruce McNeill giving it to all his staff as a Christmas present? Ho,ho, ho!!!
    Alison, I am afraid I must correct you. There are only too many black and white cases among the shades of grey. Of course even colour blind people can see black and white, but not if they shut their eyes tight. I would consider Matthew Vaudreuil and absolutely black and white case and you know what happened to him.
    Secondly the risk assessment is a very flawed concept and should be banned. The most important thing for child protection workers and the whole organisation is a moral compass. Practice within a code of ethics. Without it, every tool becomes a weapon. We see this illustrated time and again. We saw in the Bayne case how the risk assessment became dross. Filled in by an adversary, it became a nasty piece of character assassination. People need to learn simply to do an unbiased assessment. If you have good factual evidence, the risk assessment is in the evidence and you don't need a concocted device. Too dangerous to leave in the hands of untrained clots.
    My most recent experience in a joint interview was a very unpleasant one. A woman had asked me for help. She had some problems to be sure, but it was not clear that she was a real risk to her child. She asked me to attend an interview with her and her social worker and ministry counsel. It was obvious that the lawyer was in charge. The level of hostility shown to both me and the client was shocking. I opened my mouth to ask a question and they immediately asked me to leave. "Shut up, or get out" At the end I remarked "You know a little kindness wouldn't hurt." The social worker actually screamed at me "well she isn't kind to me." I found it very depressing. I could mediate nothing because they had all degenerated into a state of total hostility.
    The most important tool the social worker can use is the self. Only people with integrity, compassion, intelligence and courage can successfully do protection work. People like Alison. These are also the ones that quit, rather than compromise their ethics. Even these workers need at least two or three years training under good mentorship to develop real skills. A pipe dream? No I and other supervisor's did a reasonably good job at it. We were in a minority.

  6. December 11, 2010 10:51 AM writes:

    "'Child protection' is an eye opening opportunity for Canadians and to social work students to see the true nature of government and the real face of MCFD. I also hope that people will wake up and discover that there is no way out unless child removal authority is revoked."

    I agree. The injustice of MCFD, and child protection agencies around the world, is the result of the virtually unlimited (relative to the individual) power of government.

    Until we understand the true nature of government as it exists now - and quit seeing government as our saviour or salvation - we will be forever trying to fix child protection.

    "... From the banking crisis to Baby P, Labour had introduced elaborate new systems of governance which, far from preventing disaster, appears to have contributed... "

  7. When social workers are receiving an education that includes the use of such terms as "social control agent" to describe a social worker, you know we have a problem. And even the future social workers know this, as evidenced by Alison's observations about her fellow classmates when the instructor used this term. However, I suspect that by the time they graduate, this and other terms will be far less offensive to them.

  8. Alison's contributions to this blog are extremely interesting and valuable. I hope she keeps posting.

  9. I was told about Gerry Fewster by another mom. He is in the system but is of the belief that it is wrong to take babies from mothers. He does back that up with an opinion that intervention should start in pregnancy, which I do not agree with as I think less intervention is needed unless it is a serious case.
    I feel the problem lies in that SWs write things that are exaggerated (happened to me), then a new person opening the file does not know it the stuff is serious, exaggerated, or what. They then take the child for the possibility there is abuse.
    It is good to see that justice eventually prevails as I was exonerated and got my kids back, but we had to go through a lot and the idea of any intervention for anyone seems too much to me atm. But good for Dr. Fewster for trying to fight to keep moms with their babies.

  10. It is good to gather names of local individuals who can make a difference.

    I gather Dr. Fewste is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience, and the one who authored the book "Don't Let Children be Normal"


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