Saturday, January 7, 2012


Natural parents have full rights over their child unless mitigated by an agreement or court order to the contrary. These rights, known as parental rights are also referred to as custody or guardianship.

Occasionally a parent is unable to cope with parental responsibility and voluntarily turns a child over to the government. By law, in all jurisdictions of Canada there are child protection services, sometimes called child welfare services.  The term 'apprehension' is applied to the government intervention by which a child is removed from the natural parent(s) care, and this is affected by the extraction of all or most of the parental rights from the natural parents, through a quick confirmation by the Court. On this blog we tend to highlight the cases in which the government has taken initiative for a child protection order by which parental rights are set aside temporarily. I cannot underscore boldly enough my objection to the too frequent occurrence of temporary care that ignores court orders and time parameters.

British Columbia's legislation is entitled Child, Family and Community Service Act. In Ontario, the related legislation is the Child and Family Services Act, and, in Alberta, the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. The BC CFCSA is unique in that it personifies the role of the government in child protection cases by a reference to the Director who is a senior public servant in one of the five provincial regions who interestingly seldom becomes involved in individual cases and never appears in court. So in fact, 'Director' means the child protection office or social worker responsible for the file.

In theory and by law this is how it should work.

In BC a child apprehension is followed promptly by a presentation hearing where in court the social worker discloses the facts for the apprehension and also provides a plan and the court makes an interim ruling. Much angst and criticism from parents and lawyers results from the brusque and summary process of this presentation hearing. The threshold for custody rationale by the Director is startlingly but predictably very low because the system is designed for the parent's challenge to be deferred until a later date, the later protection hearing. It is profoundly crushing for parents to know that their child will remain with a stranger while false suspicion or anonymous allegations of abuse are investigated.

In some cases the Director and the court may consider a supervision order which returns the child to the parents subject to the Director’s terms and conditions. Sometimes, the Director will come to agreement with the parents as to what should happen next. Other times mediation or judge-presided conferencing is scheduled. Nevertheless, for parents who have mistakenly or unjustifiably lost the care of their child, compromise or negotiating becomes an extremely difficult proposition, specially if admission to abuse is pressured upon or required from a parent who is innocent. (MCFD will object to the descriptors, 'mistakenly' and 'unjustifiably' as inaccurate.)

The protection hearing is a more substantial hearing that may result when the Court endorsement of the Director's opinion that the child needs protection. This can then proceed to the Continuing Care Order and once a child is engaged in the cycle of protection hearings, the child may remain in the custody of the Director until the age of majority. Well intentioned parents may not survive and some will acquiesce to litigation fatigue or impoverishment due to legal costs. That attrition is predictable for all but the extremely hardy or well supported because the government has limitless resources and a bottomless bank account.Paul and Zabeth Bayne were two of the strong and determined parents recently features on CBC's Go Public and on January 13th, 2012 at 9 PM on CBC TV to be part of the Fifth Estate's Documentary called 'Diagnosis Murder' on the questionable science of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

It is apparent by now in the posts I have written and in the unsolicited comments subsumed under them, that the office of social worker in child protection proceedings is a very challenging and thankless job. Given the demand to respond to every report concerning a child, opportunities abound for error and misjudgment. We are told by the government that in the vast majority of cases, apprehension decisions are not made lightly and are submitted to thorough and careful analysis and ruling of an interested and unbiased judge. There are many who read this blog who do not agree and refuse to see anything inherently good within the present Ministry of Children and CFCSA. Personal pain and loss when wed to helplessness against what appears to be authorized brutality does not readily result in forgiveness.

Advocating for the return of Ayn Van Dyk, ten year old Autistic daughter of Derek Hoarne. In care since June 16, 2011. She should not still be there. Nothing is being gained. Incredible emotional harm is being imposed upon her and her mom and dad and brothers. 

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