Sunday, November 11, 2012


I am deeply concerned. I am also confounded. I have respect for all who opt to work for the welfare of children and families. I applaud all who do their work effectively. I am puzzled each time I become aware of cases that have been handled badly by administrators or social workers. I hear the voices of so many parents and advocates for parents and their children that I have come to the conclusion that our own British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development is damaged. 

Social workers take a licking in major news stories and private blogs and Facebook pages. Social workers and lawyers for the Ministry are challenged and fault is found unofficially every week in one case or another.  Social workers are faulted for failure to intervene and then for interfering unnecessarily. It’s seems at times like a no win career.

What concerns my I must admit is the scandal which goes largely unwritten and unpublished, specifically, the seizure of hundreds, perhaps thousands of children from loving homes for reasons that ate unsubstantial. If one apprehension of a child was conducted for no good reason that would be alarming enough, but from what I am learning, the typical operations of our system result in the removal of many children. Parents fall prey to the system through malicious hearsay and stepping out of line with the system. There is too often no reasonable evidence.  Parents shockingly find themselves treated like criminals. Social workers are able to enlist the unquestioned assistance of the police to remove children from parents’ arms and custody and place them into foster homes.   

Parents who diligently seek to recover their children and restore their families to normalcy are faced suddenly with courts of law with which they unfamiliar and in most cases unable to afford when it comes to representation. In these courts all normal principles and just values appear to be tossed out when a government agency wages legal war of parents it hasn’t done due diligence to know or understand. Parents are too often shut down, forbidden to cross-examine or refute. Legalities are employed like secrets to surprise parents. Parental right are ignored in favour of what appears a laudable concern for the best interests of a child.

Lawyers make an incredibly lucrative living off of the sorrows of parents and children who should never have been separated or who should have been reunited long before the case dragged family members into a court of law. Ministry lawyers reach for the support of well paid psychiatrists and pediatricians, many of whom repeatedly work for the Ministry to give testimony to support the removal and retention of children.  Parents attempts to invite their own independent experts to challenge the case are often beaten back or rejected. It is for this reason that rarely are social worker care orders refused when taken before the court.

And the children are housed with strangers at great cost to B.C. tax payers. Foster homes are often good places managed by well intentioned and well motivated people. Occasionally it has been discovered that social workers and foster parents have conspired to tell children that their parents can’t take care of them, don’t want to take care of them, and in some cases that they don’t love them.

Parents and children meeting for regular, sometimes weekly visitation are instructed against expressions of affection and discussion of reasons why they are separated and they are monitored by supervisors with the threats that sessions may be terminated or cancelled or denied in the future.  This is not hypothetical. I know this to be true.

I have heard it referred to as a vast industry and have always moved away from such characterization, but one only has to follow the money to realize there are hundreds of thousands of public dollars changing hands and the children in care are generally doing much worse in health, and in education while in care than when at home. The system is so secret, so unaccountable that even the watch dog has limited access to vital information. It is difficult not to conclude that we have an unkind, untruthful and amoral system at work.

The only ones who are in a position to reform this system are the politicians who established the ACT that governs this Ministry or now monitors it.  Only they can help terribly mistreated families who are struggling so long and so hard to overcome scandalous case management. 


  1. I can't honestly say I disagree with your characterization of MCFD, Ron.

    I can say that most practitioners DO try hard to connect with clients, to understand what services would be most helpful for each individual in working to resolve the protection concerns. Practitioners also have out of care options, which avoid the court system, or foster care, or both (placements with extended family).

    Despite the vastness of the bureaucracy or "industry", that doesn't parse out to a lot of extra financial support for families, which, in many cases, is what might truly make a difference to a child's wellbeing in his/her parents care.

    I do feel that the child protection consultants who work with the bureaucrats to interpret policy and practice direction are working hard to improve MCFD's practice, so I do have some hope for the system. They did scrap the BC Risk Assessment model.

    However, I absolutely agree that only politicians can reform the system, but there hasn't ever been the political will to carry any reform past the immediate crisis (usually the death of a child). Pipelines and trade agreements are politically important, not children.

  2. Alison, thank you for writing. I knew that by now you would have a reasonable assessment of the work involved in child welfare/child protection. Furthermore it is healthy for me and others to hear from someone who actively seeks to serve children and families within the parameters of the MCFD mandate. Your sense that there are ongoing efforts to improve the practice is an encouragement. Some readers will most definitely feel that any effort is too little too late. Thank you for taking time to write. All the best to you for the sake of others as you serve the public.

    PS to readers: Alison was completing her training for social work when I met her some years earlier within the context of the Paul and Zabeth Bayne campaign to return their children. I highly respect her compassion and purpose.


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