DOES THE GOVERNMENT REALLY WANT OUR INPUT?
by Ray Ferris
author of the book “The Art of Child Protection.”
You can purchase it from him by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
“Some time ago submissions were invited to the provincial standing interparty committee on the representative for children and youth. It is this committee which selected Ms. Turpel-Lafond and with whom she dialogues and to whom she reports. I made a fairly long submission and copied the minister, and deputy minister. In it I used the Bayne case to illustrate some of the serious flaws in the protection services and to suggest some remedies. I emphasized that I was not advocating for the Bayne case, but simply using the Baynes to illustrate some of the problems. Even before submissions had been invited, I had sent a similar letter to the minister and the deputy minister. I eventually got a reply.
For instance, I made the point that a family should not have to go bankrupt and to sell the family home in order to get back the children. I asked how this could be in the best interests of the children. I suggested contract defence counsels be installed to guarantee skilled advocacy. I noted that the over use of lawyers simply made for an adversarial system, which made negotiation and mediation difficult and elaborated the components of a core training programme, which would provide the social workers with the type of skills which could reduce the dependency on psychologists and lawyers.
I recommended increased powers for the Ms. Turpel-Lafond. I said she should not have to plead with the social worker to let a mother feed her child mother’s milk. She should be able to order it, or have a direct pipeline to someone who could. I suggested that mediation be taken out of the act, where it became part of the adversarial process and only derailed the time lines of the act. I recommended that the law be changed to forbid interim custody to exceed the time lines for temporary custody. The damage to the children is the same, regardless of how the time lag is termed. None of this is too highfalutin and readily understandable, even for the top brass of the ministry.
Well last week I got a response from the Minister, the Hon Stephen Brown. It was under his name, but sent out by the correspondence division. It was the standard form letter, with all the usual empty spin about the goals and objectives of the ministry and of course the usual “duty protection of privacy concerns etc., we cannot discuss anything. Never mind everything was public on the court record and the CBC covered the story on both regional and national television. Must protect privacy.
Nothing changes. Same old stonewall; same old spin same old circling the wagons. Anyway, this is what I wrote back. Dear Mr. Brown; thank you for your response, but I must admit that I was a little disappointed to receive only a form letter from you, which could have been sent by any clerical assistant. You see, with this response, I do not even know if you actually read my letter. I did not write to you to advocate for the Bayne family. All the damage to the children has already been done by your staff and they now all have severe attachment deficit disorders. Why I wrote to you was to draw to your attention the system failures that this case illustrates. I was hoping for some intelligent dialogue on these matters. For instance, are you actually saying that it is satisfactory to take over two years for a case to get into a hearing? Are you actually saying that you believe it is in the children’s best interests to keep them in limbo for nearly four years? Are you actually saying that it does not matter that it is impossible to keep to the time lines and vital guidelines of the CF&CSA? You could easily have addressed he matters of principle, without talking about confidential matters in the Bayne case. A form letter seems to give the message that you do not care. Incidentally the privacy and confidentiality card is hardly a trump card in this case. All the matters that I raised are a matter of public record in the court files and can be accessed by the public."
Ray Ferris is an occasional GPS post writer. Retired now, Ray speaks from 31 years in child welfare and protection as a social worker, district supervisor and family court coordinator. He cannot tolerate injustice imposed upon families by ineffectual case work.