Saturday, February 18, 2012


Random Child shot-photo John Millar
Most children who do come to the attention of child welfare or child protective services, do so because of one or more of the following issues categorized as child abuse, child sexual abuse, neglect, physical abuse, and psychological abuse. When Ayn Van Dyk was taken from her father Derek’s home since he was the custodial and primary caregiver/parent there was no suggestion of either sexual, physical or psychological abuse. Neglect includes failure to take adequate measures to safeguard a child from harm and/or gross negligence in providing for a child’s basic needs. Cause for removing Ayn had to fall in the area of neglect. The Ministry presented a list of reasons commensurate with a neglect allegation but unproven and it doesn’t have to be proven in our system. The parent does not get his day in court to disprove the allegation(s) unless he has resisted all mediation attempts by the Ministry in which case he is deemed uncooperative and that further damages his case. The mediation attempts, the meetings, the consultations, the timing for all of it is contingent upon the will and whims of the Ministry, so a child’s life and mind and family is interrupted for instance, for going on eight months for Ayn and Derek and he mom Amie and her two brothers.

I disagree with many angry critics of child protection services who tar all CPS social workers and the entire Ministry of Children in British Columbia with the same acrimonious brush. I am convinced that child welfare should be viewed generally in a positive light. I know that there are numerous instances when a child is removed from a family home to save that child from injury, negligent care and possibly death. The concern to which I frequently speak is that despite the benefits of these services over the past several decades, CPS has come under public scrutiny several times and passionate private inquiry as an institution that causes great harm to families and children. Harm which is caused in the name of protection. Harm which suggests that the Ministry oversteps its mandate, is casual with time and relationships, is reactive, unprofessional, and it may be argued is sometimes vindictive. Many cases give the appearance that child protective services is out of control.

Public and media research often demonstrate that CPS has too much immediate power which leaves parents angry, confused and helpless. There are frequent accusations that CPS prejudges parents prior to appropriate investigations. There are unsatisfactory checks and balances with the result that parents are not helped and children are not protected within their homes. Rather, removal of a child in too many cases creates an impression that this action is the first response rather than a last resort.

One wonders how many cases in the past decade might have been filed against the Ministry of Children and its social workers alleging that they had acted without due process and without exigency (emergency conditions). It is essential that lawyers sympathize with the injustice within this system and step forward to offer services either gratis or at a reduced cost to parents whose children have been removed. These parents typically are working class citizens with few financial resources. This ministry and its employees should not be impervious to legal responsibility when citizens’ rights are trampled upon under the pretext of provincial regulations.

Our child protective services must be overhauled.

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