Monday, June 4, 2012


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.


  1. The best interest of the child is almost always to be with their loving family(unless they really are abusive that is, but most of them are not) and not snatched by Child Welfare. Being in foster care destroys a child and family( emotional scars that can never heal) and can never be considered in the "best interest" of the child. I think they have it confused with the "best way to destroy a child."

  2. "Best Interest" is unquestionably a subjective term. It is a large grey area, largely dependant on the power imbalance of the decision makers.

    It is where you have decision makers giving their opinion more weight than anyone elses that creates the problem. No criteria or measurement process means it is just someone's uninformed opinion dressed up nicely to make it appear informed.

    The problem is decision makers do not know their boundaries, and the continually seek to expand them.

    Outfits such as MCFD have successfully expanded the boundaries of children beyond the influence and control of their parents, into their domain where they have assigned themselves over-riding rights to act.

    Church and state are not supposed to mix, government and interference with the family should similarly be respected. This is what battles.

    In Derek's case, MCFD says it is Ayn's best interest to be in the care of the government (actually, another family with a bigger, nicer house, higher income and access to more resources than Derek), solely because they can do a better job, they have more money and resources, a nicer home, and willingness to administer medication (regardless of long-term impact on the child). Well, that stupid logic applies to a large majority of children in the Province, so why are they not receiving this "help"?

    If a rich family breaks up, the child that goes with the 'poorer' parent must have their standards equalized by the other half without the child, who presumably has more resources and less responsibility raising the child. This is of the highest priority of the court. While it is unthinkable a court would allow to allow a child to experience a reduced level of care than what they are accustomed to, children in care are routinely returned to "deficient" families and there is no attempt to maintain a standard of care equal to what the government provided.

    You don't use the justification as MCFD has with Ayn, that she deserves a 'better family'.

    While parents have finite resources, governments do also, so they can only supply those greater resources to smaller numbers of people while the rest of use pay for those decisions (and we really don't know those details due to the difficulty of deciphering the information that is available.)

    I was watching a movie the other day called Project Nim. It is about an experiment involving raising a chimpanzee as a normal child in a human household. The researchers learned a great deal, however a few were attacked and severely injuried by this powerful animal when he grew up.

    The end conclusion I came to is that there are natural boundaries that should not be tampered with. Leave children (and chimpanzees) with the parents they originated with as nature intended.

    In Derek's case, his argument would be, how can it be possible to be accused of substandard parenting for just one child, when he is deemed fine by the powers that be than he is fine with the other two?

    The issue is that boundaries are not being respected. Pay attention to those issues first before outsiders have any say as to what is best for children.

  3. Ron; I think that there is no doubt that the ministry just stumbled into this case by reacting to a short term episode. They had no assessment and no plan when they took the child on. They had no idea what the parents' reaction would be, what order they would seek, or what evidence they would present to court. They had no idea how stable a placment they could find. They just hoped that they could stumble into a position, without once more painting themselves into a corner by finding that they had the child for a year or two and realising that they had no plan.
    They can scream "best interests" to the house tops,but they will not really believe it themselves. Somewhere down the line they will have to present something to court.
    Your readers seem to be searching for something rational in all this. Well I have news for them. The world does not run on rational. Just look at the mess in the banks, the public deficits that keep on racking up, the stupid unwinnable wars and the endless religious strife. Europe is in a mess, because the monetary union without fiscal union was irrational. They knew it at the start, but too keen for union, they let it all slip away. Rational. Irrational politicians and financiers run everything in an irrational way, so why should the children's ministry become rational?
    There are a few rights built into the law and the court system, but you will not get them without knowledge, skills and an excellent lawyer who does not charge. I fear Derek did not get his rights advocated soon enough. Disclosure should have been demanded and procured a year ago. Instead he entered that quagmire of case conferencing and mediation from which there is little escape. How did the pilgrim escape the slough of despond?


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