Sunday, January 22, 2012


Preserving Family Autonomy

Is it important to you to protect family autonomy?

We live within a society that if not politically polarized is ideologically uninformed and confused. Some opinions express satisfaction at increased government control. Others, equally adamant, are horrified at the infringement upon family autonomy. Only two political parties are represented in the current Legislative Assembly of B.C., the British Columbia Liberal Party and the British Columbia New Democratic Party. There are several other parties that will nominate candidates, one of which, the British Columbia Conservative Party may be able to win seats in the next election. If your affiliation is with one these directions, do you understand to what degree your party of choice values family, family autonomy and parental rights with regard to children’s education and other aspects of child rearing? Do you know how important is parental choice with regard to tax-funded educational curriculum in your party of choice?

The party in power will make a difference. It is certain that family autonomy cannot be taken for granted.

The compromise of the value of family autonomy becomes apparent with the sweep of the Child, Family and Community Services Act which endows the Ministry of Children and Family Development with legislated muscle that cannot be challenged. Rescuing children from instantly recognizable abuse, neglect, abandonment, hunger or poverty without the impediment of time consuming court orders I understand. It is with cases which are not unmistakable or evidence-based that increasingly we take issue.

This blog focused two years of daily entries on one family whose ‘family life’ was dissected for FOUR years when a Ministry of Children and Family Development office based in Hope BC, removed the three children from the Bayne family. Yes there was suspicion of abuse, of physical injury to the youngest child which required investigation. Over the course of time, that office of MCFD social workers and supervisors and the regional director made it palpably clear that it was incapable of bringing this to a reasonable conclusion. Allegation, accusation, suspicion, intimidation were tools used during the four years but never mediation, conciliation, or negotiation. Instead, if Zabeth and Paul Bayne were ever to have their children returned to them, the condition was unambiguous. They must admit responsibility for harming the child. This couple maintained their innocence for four long years while displaying unimpeachable character and unwavering resolve to regain custody of their children. MCFD personnel paid no attention to the thousands of character reference sent on the parents’ behalf. MCFD resolutely relied on one doctor’s diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome and made no effort to inquire whether other medical explanations might account for the child’s injuries. It was left to the parents themselves to make this province aware that SBS was at best still a theory and was being contested universally as the definitive explanation for a triad of signs. They brought to their hearing the opinions of a dozen medical professionals whose testimonies took issue with the original diagnosis. It took a court case and a judge to finally declare that the MCFD had taken too long and the course of action sought, a Continuing Care Order leading in all probability to adoption, was unsuitable.

Now we have Derek Hoare, whose daughter Ayn has been for over seven months in foster care. His case appears to me to be an even more blatant violation of parental rights and an assault on one family’s autonomy. This case is simple enough. There is no abuse or neglect, negligence or anger issues to investigate or to discuss. This is the case of an autistic ten year old, who at age nine wandered from her home and required the Royal Mounted Police to locate her – not too far away at a neighbour’s home. Was it upsetting? Of course, Derek called the police for help when his frantic initial attempts proved futile. But we don’t remove everyone’s child when the child takes a leave of absence. Of course in this case there is the additional challenge of her erratic behaviour in school. She has been difficult there. Still no reason to remove her. Oh, but perhaps if Derek looked into appropriate drugs to subdue her, that could make it easier for teaching staff. Autonomy anyone? He handled Ayn with words, grace-filled words. Which do you think is in her best interests?

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