Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SOCIAL WORKER TOOLKIT SHOULD INCLUDE HUMILITY AND INQUIRY / Part 416 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne

If Victoria's head office of the Ministry of Children and Family Development truly wants to transform the Ministry as Leslie du Toit has projected, she must understand where her current transformation proposal breaks down. She too must work within the parameters of the CFCSA (Child and Family Community Services Act) or at least with those constants in mind. We have already heard from some of you what a horrid piece of work the CFCSA is. It is in the application of the content of the Act by Directors, Administrators, Team Leaders and finally by social workers that the ugliness of its provisions become reality. The Act has developed among MCFD an attitude that can best be described as follows.

I have been learning that what characterizes the work of so many social workers is a paternalistic presumption. They are professionals and they convey to parents and others that they are the experts with regard to situations in which parents and children find themselves. These professionals are the ones who know what the solutions are to family problems. The great debacle occurs for parents because MCFD caseworkers who are insuring the protection of a child are driven by the too frequent almost default solution of removal of the child even if temporarily. Nothing like taking one's child away to make him or her shape up, make changes, get better. Of course, nothing like taking the child, to mess up a child for a good long while, if not forever. Now granted, directors and social workers are under pressure to insure no mistakes are made, that is, a child left in a vulnerable or risky place. So with that imperative the social worker instinctively assumes a professional certitude. They can't be wrong. They become dismissive of other viewpoints, opinions, perspectives whether from family members or other professionals.

What du Toit and Polak must see for true transformation to be realized, is that social work in BC needs a good dose of Mother Teresa poured over the presumptive heads of MCFD SW’s. I believe newly trained social workers come with that anointing. Please don't lose it. Don't let the system smother the altruism to which you committed yourself. Please, please restore to acceptable social work practice the attitudes and spirit that can admit to being wrong, can with openness and vulnerability present to family members and other professionals all of your actions, assessments and authority. Be willing to dialogue. Maintain a spirit of inquiry. Please include humility among your tools. You will be so much more effective. You will make fewer mistakes and you will give families help and hope.
This Blog has been advocating the return of three children to their biological parents, Paul and Zabeth Bayne, for which a ruling is expected from Judge Crabtree within the next seven days. Stay posted.


  1. Hi Ron; Only one week to go before the Bayne judgement. (Or am I dreaming?)
    Your comments above about the the social workers arrogantly presuming expertise and running amok are well made. If they showed a high degree of professional competence, they would not need to deceive and spin and manipulate. Instead they would be able to convince any reasonable person and they would command respect. They should not be afraid to use their authority,but they should dread abusing it.
    If we look at the standards in the Bayne case, we can see a sad litany of ignorance, stupidity and incompetence. I know you do not like derogatory epithets, but I offer as evidence the fact that the Bayne kids have been in limbo for three and a half years, while the parents have been treated like dangerous criminals. The testimony given by the social workers made them look like blundering oafs. Whoever called the Hoffmans as witnesses made themselves look ridiculous. Etc. Etc. I believe most of these social workers had social work degrees. If I were a social work prof, or the registrar I would be really worried that a social work degree had so little worth in ensuring competence and ethical behaviour. These people are bad advertising. However, I have tried in vain to raise any concern among such influential people. Secure in their respective niches, they do not seem to want to ripple any waters.
    In my blog about the four year old boy injured in his foster home, I have the following after-comment. It might seem to pose a dilemma for the social workers. The four natural children now in care will require process. Will there be a risk assessmen? Will it be necessary to justify the removal by doing a Humeny style character assassination? If the risk assessment follows the usual method of digging up all possible dirt on the family and ignoring strengths,will it show that all the children are at risk? If this happens, how will it sit with the foster home placement department, who recommended the placement? How will they resolve this dilemma?
    Don't worry the ministry of doublethink is more than up to the task. Numerous foster homes have been abruptly closed after taking many children over the years. Like Mrs. W. H. who took 13 children over 9 years with high praise from social workers. Once the home was closed, the home was no good and never was any good and staff were not allowed to talk to them any more. Other foster homes have the same experience. Dilemma? What dilemma? Sorry cannot comment due to privacy regulations.

  2. I'd like to comment on the temporary removal of children. I can't speak in general terms, as I am a child protection worker in training, and thus I do not have a lot of experience. However, I do know of an example where the After Hours worker and the Intake and Investigation worker differed in their clinical judgment around immediate safety.

    My mentor (for my child protection practicum - I am a student) told me about a family where After Hours removed the child (about 1 and 1/2 yrs old) and my mentor returned the child within a week. My mentor felt that some safety planning could have covered the immediate safety concerns for this child, however, the After Hours social worker decided to err on the side of caution.

    As a student social worker, I can relate to wanting to play it safe. I would certainly not want to be responsible for leaving a child in a situation where he/she could be harmed. The responsibility is intimidating.

    However, I can also understand my mentor's point of view - we need to trust parents more than MCFD may have done in the past. We need to work collaboratively, with respect. We have a duty of care (ethical responsibility) not just to children, but to the entire public, including parents who are suspected of abuse. Humility would go a long way towards illustrating that duty of care.

  3. Very good comment Alison and I hasten to assure you that on the information available, would have done the same with the Bayne children and with the Saanich boy.
    However, that is not my main concern. My concern is that this sitation was entirely unnecessary and avoidable. The boy should never have been placed in that home in the first place. He had self-injurious behaviour aberrations and was obviously a special needs child. My best guess is foetal alcohol syndrome. No additional child should be placed in a low income home with four young children. They have enough to cope with. Never place a child older than the youingest sibling.
    Don't get me wrong, I have used some excellent low income homes and I would always pay the highest rates that I could. If the family was on income assistance, foster payments used to be exempt. Your mentor is absolutely right. First ensure the safety of the child. If it turns out that the situation is not as bad as it looked give the kids back. It is not necessarily traumatic. Often one can place with a beloved grandparent etc.
    As proven by your case example, there is no one right or wrong way, but like you I usually preferred to err on the side of caution. The main thing is not what you decide to do, but how you do it. It is important to discuss things respectfully with the parents and to try to involve them in the process. Show you can be trusted. Explain why you are concerned for the safety of the child. Try to involve them with the safety plan. Assure them of access and information. Go along with their plan. I seldom found it necessary to supervise access. Most of the time the foster parents were happy to have them visit in the foster home. Some of our wonderful foster homes gave great help to the parents. (The worst way to remove a child is to barge in with the police in the middle of a birthday party.)
    Stick with those principles Alison. Sometimes it is not easy to see how you can do it. It is hard to interview someone in the drunk tank and explain why the baby should not have been left alone. One cannot talk rationally with people when they are stoned and so on. One can only do the best at the time and keep on trying.

  4. Trusting SW? Never ever. Trusting them could get your children killed. If you find this radical, please watch:

    and numerous news footage on youtube. I have come across many oppressed parents who deeply regret trusting SW or calling MCFD for help.

    In view of the harm they have done to society and families, trusting them is improper and stupid.

    Erring on the side of caution is commonly used (or more precisely abused) by SW and judges. This seemingly valid excuse is often accepted by the naive public that this is the right thing to do when government fails to prove its case. The underlying assumption is the worst case scenario. If this holds, then every parent should lose their children to MCFD when a report of abuse is made. It is merely another way of saying I will remove your children assuming that you have abused them despite I can't find any provable incriminating evidence justifying my action. This is totally irresponsible and oppressive.

    In today's dialogue between an ex service provider and a to-be service provider in the "child protection" industry, they obviously think that it is morally correct to remove other's children and consider this a science and a profession (as evidenced by calling this oppressive act a clinical judgment). This is neither a science nor a profession, but a racket and scam to rip off taxpayers under the pretext of "child protection". For our children, this racket must be dismantled at all costs.

  5. If child protection workers or anyone else truly wanted to err on the side of caution, they would not put children in foster housing, as - statistics prove - they have a far greater chance of being abused or killed there. And I will never believe, because it goes against common sense, that it is not profoundly traumatic for a child to be separated from their parents.

    If people really want to protect children, they should let the world know what MCFD and other organizations like MCFD are doing to children and families.

  6. I know this post has been up for awhile, but I wanted to respond to the Anonymous commenter who posted a comment on January 12, 2011, at 4:05pm.

    This commenter wrote, "In today's dialogue between an ex service provider and a to-be service provider in the "child protection" industry, they obviously think that it is morally correct to remove other's children and consider this a science and a profession (as evidenced by calling this oppressive act a clinical judgment)."

    Firstly, it wasn't a dialogue - I responded to Ron's post before Ray's first comment had been published, and then Ray responded to my comment. I'm just seeing both of Ray's comments now.

    Secondly, I don't think it's "morally correct" to remove other's children. I actually think removing children from their parents is an ethical dilemma - children should be with their families, but children also deserve to be safe.

    When these two ethical imperatives contradict one another, what is society to do? For hundreds of years, we just abandoned children, who were, after all, the property of their fathers. Then we institutionalized them.

    I don't think there's a "right" answer here, other than advocacy and action to change society as a whole (structural change) so that people aren't socially or economically marginalized, and so that every family has the tools to provide safe, loving homes for their children

  7. @Alison, I agree with you about taking children being an ethical dilemma, HOWEVER,that being said more and more power is being taken from Parents as to what they are allowed and what they are not allowed to do with their children.There needs to be some balance. Furthermore, MCFD needs to stop using requests for services from parents against parents. All too often a parent requests assistance for whatever reason, and the Ministry in turn uses that against the parent. Its rediculous.


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