Monday, June 4, 2012
BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD
The concept of the ‘best interests of the child’ is a universal theme expressed in a variety of international and Canadian instruments of law and practice. But is it anything more than a theme? Does it actually have content? I am not certain that it does. It is cited with conviction in child protection care proceedings and custody battles but why? Such cases are never decided on the basis of that theme but rather the specific facts of the case. The concept of “best interests” is a part of the rhetoric of child protection agencies.
The deficit is that the modifier “best’ is not defined, in fact perhaps indefinable. Even the touted United National Committee on the Rights of a Child has not taken a position to define the term with precision. Without a definition, “best interests” has no constraints, and then while the trumpeted term sounds politically and morally correct, it can lead to wrong impressions, inaccurate assessments and unjust decisions.
Unless there are obvious and evidential reasons that children should be removed from their living situation it is agreed among the general public that any change to a child’s living situation is detrimental to their well-being. The Ministry of Children is continually proving that it no longer agrees with that opinion and is more inclined to believe that children are resilient. MCFD will deny this but my assessment of cases informs me differently.
At the time that Ayn was removed from her father, there was stability in her life and the lives of her two brothers. It was a happy family. that stability was disregarded. I can accept that MCFD needed to investigate a concern and I can even accept the time spent in doing investigation, but there was no evidence or accusation of neglect or abuse in Derek's care of Ayn. I don't have to agree with it but the local MCFD social workers may have been concern about whether Ayn was thriving, or whether Derek was overwhelmed with his parental responsibilities. The fact is however, that almost twelve months have passed and competent social workers could easily have drawn their conclusions by now and disclosed the results. Instead the entire case is cloaked in bureaucratic non disclosure for which they certainly do not need to continue to keep Ayn.
I cannot believe that the best interest of this child is any longer in view with Ministry people. I do believe she is the occupant of a case file and with changing case workers she is one more enigma to study. Common sense and clinical competence would say that Ayn's best interest cannot be interpreted any other way than by returning her to her dad. The continuation of this custody and care conflict borders on brutality for both parents and child. This is not in the best interests of Ayn Van Dyk.
We care for the best interests of baby seals, for other threatened animal species, and it is certainly proper and vital that we do what is right for children. Let this little girl go back home where her spirit and heart belong and where her potential has the greatest and most predictable prospect of being fulfilled.