Friday, July 20, 2012


I want to introduce you to Alison. She has written here before, a long time ago, actually Dec 12, 2010. It was a piece entitled "IN ALISON'S OWN WORDS / Part 396 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne 

Alison was not directly related to the case of Zabeth and Paul Bayne and their desperate but relentless endeavour to recover their four children so that they could live their lives as a family. Alison showed interest in the Baynes. Alison was completing her training to qualify as a social worker for the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the same Ministry that was holding the four Bayne children pending the outcome of a court case and then pending the cooperative interaction between MCFD and the Baynes as ordered by Judge Crabtree. Alison is one of numerous reasons why I hold a balanced approach to my assessment of this Ministry. As critical of the MCFD as I believe I have reason be, there is a need for vulnerable and helpless children to be protected from environments, conditions and people who threaten their safety and thriving survival. Alison affords the confidence that I require to know that there are dependable people who do work with parents for the best outcomes of children within the contexts of improved families. She restores my trust in a government agency being able to discern parental competency and integrity as opposed to genuine risk for children. 

She recently wrote a comment in response to a post that I put up on SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2012, entitled QUESTIONS CHILD PROTECTION WORKERS SHOULD ASK THEMSELVES

I read her words and I know that this deserves to be more widely read so I am placing it here as a post. 

She has written what follows. It is worth a careful read. Thank you Alison.
"Alison has left a new comment on your post "QUESTIONS CHILD PROTECTION WORKERS SHOULD ASK THEM...": 
Interesting list of questions, however they're not exactly the questions I consider when working with families in a protective capacity. My questions are informed by Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards' work, Signs of Safety ( I would edit your list of questions as follows:
1. What is my distinctive role in this child's life? In other words, why am I here?
What's the danger statement? What was the unsafe thing that happened that we don't want to see happen again? This is more about the caregiver than the child.
2. What am I observing and to what am I listening as I monitor this case, this family, and the interplay of family members? What can I smell or perceive that may call for a possible assessment and inform that assessment. What dangers are apparent or what hygiene issues meet my eye?
I'm done with danger & risks by now. Now I'm asking, what are the exceptions to risk in this family? What are the strengths, how do they already come up with solutions?
3. Are there other workers who have been involved in this case? If there were some others, what were their observations and what do the case files already indicate? Can other workers assist my understanding with relevant information?
Sure, past workers interpretations are important, but more important to me is, how did the family, the community experience those other workers? Did the caregivers find the other workers helpful? If not, maybe I want to form my own opinion, independently of past negative biases. Also, maybe the family doesn't have the same problem as in the past, or it's less severe. Maybe the children are older now.
4. If I decide that there is cause for concern in this case, what are the things that I believe require change in order to relieve the concern? What action plan transparent to all the adults involved, can result in the best outcome and what time frame is best?
This is a good premise for ongoing work with the family, but it's missing the family's input, other than it be transparent to them. What changes can we agree on? What actions does the family want to take? If the family doesn't agree, how could there possibly be lasting change? I think of this as aligning with the family.  
I did my Signs of Safety training with Ktunaxa Kinbasket CFSS, from the Cranbrook area ( 


  1. What is missing from this theory is details on how the danger aspect is identified.

    In Derek's case, the level of danger was assessed as being so high, that nothing short of removal would suffice to address the risk, and that this danger was so immediate that there was no time to obtain a warrant.

    As for point 2, addressing family strengths, we find that in the Baynes case, the page in the risk assessment to be used for this purpose was left blank. Not only that, the document presented in court was written only after the two boys were removed, which was many months after infant Bethany was removed.

    We as observers of this devastation to families are not interested in the theories and laws under which social workers are supposed to be operating, and stories of families that are well served, the questions center on why, for the families of interest, these ideals are not even remotely being followed.

    Why is this aspect of social work not consistent across the Province?

  2. Thanks Anon
    I concur with you that for us as readers, perhaps untrained to identify what qualifies as justifiable danger warranting an intervention is missing from Alison's synopsis. I must assume that her criteria will be sufficient reason for an action in the best interests of the child and hopefully with respect for the family from which the child comes. However, as you say, while I may have a high trust factor with Alison, why, is that same level of competence and care not consistent across the province so that we don't have to write material like this or express grace concern for a Ministry to which such incredible authority has been granted? Alison was not seeking to answer and may not even have one. Hon. Mary McNeil should have an answer.

  3. It's pretty clear from the cases covered by Ron that risk and justifiable danger are subjective. In my Signs of Safety training, we found that it's HARD to come up with a simple, clear understandable danger statement, and our trainers challenged us to spend time working on this (Signs of Safety is not a province-wide response. I serve Aboriginal families).

    I believe MCFD is working to standardize the assessment of risk through the assessments that are used, assessment tools that have been created and refined through actuarial research, are "reliable" and "valid" (these are specific research methods terms). In the past year, the BC Risk Assessment Model has been dropped in favour of Structured Decision Making tools from the University of Minnesota. (Lots of info available online)

    Still, practitioners will always rely on clinical judgment, and so anon's final question regarding two specific families goes unanswered. However, regarding the first question, "how the danger aspect is identified", often that is done by the reporter or the circumstances.


I encourage your comments using this filter.
1. Write politely with a sincere statement, valid question, justifiable comment.
2. Engage with the blog post or a previous comment whether you agree or disagree.
3. Avoid hate, profanity, name calling, character attack, slander and threats, particularly when using specific names.
4. Do not advertise