Thursday, December 9, 2010

TALKING POINTS / Part 393 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne


I noted several talking points scheduled for a conference of social workers in the U.S. and these impressed me yet cause me to question whether the points are valid when applied to the Ministry of Children and Family Development of B.C.

  1. Social Workers champion access, equality and fairness.
  2. Social Workers improve the fabric of society by being advocates for people who need help addressing serious life challenges and exploring their options.
  3. The Social Work profession was established more than 100 years ago to provide as many people as possible with the tools and support they need to overcome adversity (poverty, illness, addiction, abuse, discrimination, etc.) and reach their full potential.
  4. The Social Work profession also works to change systems and customs that limit the ability of vulnerable individuals and groups to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
  5. The nation’s Schools of Social Work promote social work education as a way for socially conscious people to make a significant difference in the world through service and leadership.
  6. Every day, Social Workers witness the best and worst of human nature. A Social Worker’s success is often defined by the opportunities people enjoy thanks to their intervention.
  7. Social Workers believe they have a responsibility to effect positive change for the future.

As a reader, why don't you choose a talking point and talk to it. Engage the rest of us. Tell the rest of us whether or not you agree with a point.


  1. There are social workers specializing in different fields, my remarks below that correspond to the points discussed today pertain only to those so-called "child protection" SW employed by MCFD.

    1. SW do not champion access, equality and fairness. They restrict access not only to children, but also to information. Parents who lose custody are even prohibited information on children own children. When media asks questions, they cannot comment on individual cases or the case is now in court and they cannot comment. All they will say is removal decision is not made lightly and they are working to reunite families.

    When law gives absolute power to a ministry with unlimited resources, there is little room for equality and fairness. CFCSA is designed to circumvent due process of law and charter right protection and permits special interests to define child abuse and control the demand of their services. Racketeering and profiteering are the inevitable outcome.

    2. SW weaken the fabric of society. They destroy the backbone of a nation - families. Most often, the option they offer is to remove your children or use removal as a threat to beat parents into submission.

    3. There is no such profession called "child protection" social work. SW are successful to profess themselves as professionals, hence acquiring undue power and trust, as people are indoctrinated to believe that they are professional. Ironically, they worsen poverty, addiction and abuse. Don't believe this. Go to Downtown Eastside and ask the homeless and junkies to find out how many of them come from a removal background.

    4. SW do change systems and customs. They lobby more power and money by way of changing legislation and influencing budget. They try to change the traditional values of family and society so that people believe that the barbaric act of removing children from their parents is an acceptable proposition, under the pretext of child protection of course.

    5. Through their service and leadership, SW indeed make a significant change to this world. They invent an absurd, oppressive, counter productive and grossly cost inefficient "child protection" methodology that reduce humanity to the level of brutes and create a god-like status for themselves.

    6. Through their behavior and modus operandi, we see the darkest side of human nature. The only relevant measure of a SW success is the remarks from the people they serve. Facts have spoken loud and clear for themselves. We, once again, insist abolition of child removal authority.

    7. SW have a responsibility to effect positive change only to their job security and financial wellbeing.

    This child removal business is an almighty calumny, a disgrace to our nation and an insult to the highest quality of humanity. It stands against everything that Canada ardently speaks of: human rights, civil liberty and justice.

  2. The following is in response to a few points made by "Anonymous" @ December 9, 2010 2:24 PM:

    "Anon" wrote "my remarks...pertain only to those so-called "child protection" SW employed by MCFD"

    Child protection workers can be social workers, but are not required to be social workers. Social work values apply to ALL social workers, even if they are employed by a state child protection agency. However, since not all child protection workers are social workers, social work values do not apply to all child protection workers. Confusing, no? This is partially why the BC Association of Social Workers are advocating that child protection workers should be registered social workers. For one thing, this would make them publicly accountable.

    "Anon" also wrote "[the] law gives absolute power to a ministry with unlimited resources"

    Unlimited resources? Wouldn't that be lovely. I don't think social services in Canada have ever had unlimited resources.

    One last thing "Anon" wrote was "4. SW do change systems and customs. They lobby more power and money by way of changing legislation and influencing budget."

    I would argue that the elected representatives who form our provincial government change legislation and influence budgets. As far as I've seen over the last 10 years of BC Liberals, there have been successive cuts to funding and jobs at the front line level, but increasing salaries for MLA's and increasing jobs in upper management in MCFD.

  3. As a social work student, I'd like to discuss "talking point" #2 - Social Workers improve the fabric of society by being advocates for people who need help addressing serious life challenges and exploring their options.

    However, first I'd like to quote a few relevant principles from the BCASW code of ethics:

    #1 A social worker shall maintain the best interest of the client as the primary professional obligation.

    #2 A social worker shall respect the intrinsic worth of the persons she or he serves in her or his professional relationships with them.

    #11 A social worker shall advocate change in the best interest of the client, and for the overall benefit of society.

    I think that "being advocates" speaks to improving the client's individual circumstances. But social workers need to go further, to advocate for entire groups and communities who are marginalized by society. I think my analysis also fits for "addressing serious life challenges" - again, easy to do for an individual, but harder to do for entire groups.

    A social worker has a dual role: as a social control agent, and as a social change agent. However, I have also been taught that the dual role is as control agent vs. helper/enabler. I myself am more inspired by 'social change agent' which implies changing the very fabric of society such that racism, poverty, abuse of vulnerable persons, etc, is no longer acceptable.

    The problem I have, as an anti-oppressive practitioner, is with helping individuals, with advocating for change for each client, rather than with taking on neo-liberal society and drastically altering the way we think of "freedom" and "equality". How can we be free if we only have political equality? Social and economic equality is just as crucial.

  4. Alison,

    Thank you for your input.

    First of all, can you please elaborate on what you mean by a "social control agent?" I'm not familiar with that term, and wonder about the meaning of it, and where it comes from.

    Also, I noted that you are home schooling one or more of your children. This is truly commendable; your children will benefit enormously, and know that you cared enough to spend the time with them. However, I am wondering if you are aware of the connotations that have been associated with home schooling, and the fact that home schoolers have specifically had their legal counsel deal, in the past, with the targeting of home schoolers by child protection authorities, who seem to like to pick on home schoolers.

    Finally, I would like to ask, respectfully, that if you were to discover that one or more people with whom you worked - your future colleagues, that is - turned out to possess some of the traits, or commit some of the acts, that parents here and elsewhere complain about (e.g., perjury, fabrication of evidence, lying, etc., etc.) would you become a whistle blower, or how would you conduct yourself? What would your response be in such a situation?

    I look forward to your response and thank you.

  5. Good to see you contributing Alison and I am sure you will practice with integrity if you become a child protection worker. The only problem it is that the workers with great intelligence, integrity and compassion are usually the first to quit and contribute to the massive turnover in the children's ministry. I was a registered social worker from the inception until 1999. I was very familiar with the BCASW code of ethics. I admitted hundreds of children into care while abiding by the code of ethics. In my book I advocate being a diligent advocate for both children in need of protection and their parents. I do not see the dichotomy here that many social workers do. I have always seen a distinct problem in the relatonship between the social work schools, the BCASW and the college. To start with the former board of registration and the college and the BCASW do not see themselves as setting any standards in child protection practice. For years they rejected my offers to set up standards. You see I do not think that the generalised standards in the code are adequate. When the registrar and the board of registration tried to skewer all the registered social workers who had been on the Matthew Vaudreuil case, they tried to make up standards retroactively and then charge them with breaches. I thought that the 20 or so workers, supervisors and managers were incredibly incompetent, but it was a dirty trick to try to thump the workers and ignore those who had failed to give them training and support. By the way, Judge Thomas Gove did meet with social work educators and said in his report that social work schools do not claim to teach child protection. Ministry short staffed? On a file obtained under FOI, I counted no fewer than 22 different ministry bureaucrats involved in the closure of one foster home. All writing emails back and forth and trying to control a piece of the action. To be quite frank with you I think they have a much bigger problem than shortage of resources. They squander a lot money by lack of focus in use of resources and lack of clear purpose. I can give you loads of examples, but the Bayne case is an outstanding one. Their lawyer told them in July 2008 to pack it in and return the boys. Now for two and a half years they have wasted foster resources,months of court time and years of draconian supervision from contract services. How many more cases are there like this? I do not want to make a cynic out of you Alison, butyour lack of experience is as obvious as your honesty and conviction. Often resources are recruited because the staff members simply do not have the skills that they should have. Do you know the laws of Parkinson? Maybe another reader can tell us.
    Tomorrow I am going to take some serious swipes at the office of Ms.Turpel-Lafonde. I know Ron has shown some nice pictures of her and we like to think of her as being on the side of the angels. Maybe she is and maybe she isn't. Don't forget to tune in.

  6. Alison, it appears you believe only a SW registered in BCASW can be rightfully called a SW? What of child protection social workers with a BCYC and child welfare specialization?

    BCASW has a good place in the world, but I urge you to think very critically about this organization - such as Ray noted.

  7. How can a protection social worker have the entire family as clients when the child is viewed as a victim and the parent(s) are the perpetrators by the same person who removed the children?

    What sort of social work ethics support this conflict of interest arrangement?

    My very sick-in-the-head 20-something SW fresh out of school with no life experience, no boyfriend and no kids stated the plummeting school grades of my kids were due to increased unsupervised access. My kids each brought home A-grades this term, returning to their original grades before removal.

    School theory is no substitute for life experience, being a parent, and knowing your own kids. Social workers who deny their own senses and instead search their school training for alternate explanations then utter gobbledy-gook explanations are examples of people having enough knowledge to be dangerous.

    Social workers deferring to court process must deny their training in order to win at court, so the lofty ideals for protection workers does not apply to them.

  8. I wanted to address the topic as presented today but I find myself unable to relate any of the values to Child Protection Workers. Perhaps this is why they do not want to be registered. On a side note, I must take exception to the assertion you made the other day Ron about the reason why people get into Social Work. While some may in fact get into this field out of a desire to help society, to say that all do so is naive. The reasons are in fact diverse and not always honourable.

    Recent blog posts have requested moderation in extreme views. While this seem to be the way to bring wider acceptance to the message, the reality is that one must negotiate from an extreme position in order to arrive at something close to the desired objective.
    Calling for the repeal of the CFSA seems extreme and critics will say children will be harmed by doing so. The very simple response to this critique is that children are being harmed right now.

    Ray has indicated that he will critique Turpel-Lafond tomorrow. While I am unsure if she should be put in charge of complaints and discipline at the MCFD, one thing is clear, MCFD is the last agency that should be doing this. I would love to see statistics on the number of employees disciplined for perjury or simply bad work practice. How about the number of people charged with making a false report. Better yet, has MCFD EVER apologized?

    I have rambled all over the place but I want to address one final thing. Why would MCFD reports contain inaccurate or false information? I cannot say what the exact reason is, but the reason for allowing them and perpetuating them seems obvious. All underlings are acting with the authority of their superiors. To correct them after things are set in motion would be committing career suicide. Why not issue a directive that demands accuracy? Past precedent has been set and it would open the Ministry to legal challenges.

  9. Hi Anonymous
    "Social control agent" comes from my theory and ethics class, probably from the Dolgoff text, which I lent to a friend, so I can't look up the exact reference for you at this time. I think it refers to enforcing society's moral codes and laws? Child protection would be an obvious example, but social workers also practice with many clients who have reduced capacity - mental health, cognitive defects, the elderly, people with disabilities, etc. It was interesting, when our prof brought it up, most of the class had a negative reaction - like, if we wanted to be 'social control agents' we would have become cops...
    If my future colleagues committed perjury, etc., I'm guessing I'd consult with my mentors, such as some of my profs who have worked in child protection but don't anymore, or with the shop steward, or with senior social workers whose integrity I respect, or with a lawyer, maybe one who acts for a different ministry office? It's hard to say for certain.
    And, yes, I am currently homeschooling my kids. My commitment to them is part of why I can see myself as a child protection worker despite the difficulties of the career. Kids deserve the absolute best that society has to offer.

    Ray, I agree, the College should have standards specific to child protection. They have specific standards for adoption and for child custody and access assessments. The Child Welfare Specialization was created as a result of Gove's Inquiry. And of course I have no experience, I'm a student. I'm also idealistic and naive :)
    And, no, I don't know the laws of Parkinson, but Google and Wikipedia tell me it's about expanding bureaucracies. Do you think that's the only way bureaucracies can be? And, is it inevitable that power will corrupt? I'd like to think otherwise.

    CW, I don't know anything about the CYC degree, I only know about social work education and values, so I can't speak to their values and their integrity as child protection workers. I don't think a BCYC should rightfully be called a SW, s/he is NOT a SW, s/he is a CYC.
    I was responding to the post, which referred to "talking points" from the upcoming NASW conference, thus to social work as a profession with a larger scope than child protection.

    To anyone reading this, I am not trying to defend anything that happened to the Baynes or in any other specific case. I'm just trying to represent another side of social work. Some of us chose this career because we are passionate about social justice; I am one of those.

  10. Alison, how can you judge CYC when you state you know nothing about it? Read the curriculum for both programs. Interview a BSW CP SW and a CYC CP SW - ask yourself what practicum a CYC CP SW does? Let me know what the differences are in their job, in their work, and their approach. Once you have actually educated yourself on a topic, then you can speak to that topic. Until then...Ray is quite right "your lack of experience is as obvious as your honesty and conviction."

    I have done what I've asked you to do. To be rather blunt, your statements makes you sound very narrow-minded and judgemental. Sheesh you've judged something openly which you admit you know nothing about. Do some research please.

  11. In response to CW's second comment:

    You wrote that I am judging CYC. I disagree. What I actually wrote was the following:

    "Child protection workers CAN be social workers, but are NOT required to be social workers. Social work values apply to ALL social workers, even if they are employed by a state child protection agency. However, since not all child protection workers are social workers, social work values do not apply to all child protection workers."

    Not once did I refer to CYC in that statement. Nor did I refer to the other professional qualifications which allow one to be employed as a child protection officer for MCFD.

    I was talking about general social work values being applied to social workers employed as child protection officers.

    Then you wrote:
    "Alison, it appears you believe only a SW registered in BCASW can be rightfully called a SW? What of child protection social workers with a BCYC and child welfare specialization?"

    I responded: "I can't speak to [a BCYC's] values and their integrity as child protection workers."

    Then you told me I was judging CYC and I should do my homework.

    I am sorry you find my comments narrow-minded and judgmental. They were not mean that way.

    However, they were meant to have a narrow focus, specifically to where the social work profession overlaps with child protection work.


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